The Hollis Owl

Hollis OwlThe owl represented here[1] is based on an ink-and-wash drawing that Thomas Hollis V (1720-1774) commissioned from the Italian artist Giovanni Baptiste Cipriani, c.1760. Hollis used the Cipriani drawing to create a gold imprint for the red leather bindings of books that Hollis contributed to the Harvard University library. Today, the main University library computer system is named HOLLIS (Harvard OnLine Library Information System) in honor of Thomas Hollis V, and many of the books that he donated to the College are still here, almost three centuries later, in the collections of Houghton Library -- with the owl clearly stamped on their bindings.

The owl is Glaucus, the Owl of Minerva. Minerva was the Roman name of a goddess known in many early Western cultures as the goddess of wisdom. She was also known in her various forms as the goddess of learning, medicine, science, magic, poetry, craftsmanship, weaving, art, commerce, and sometimes war. The owl was her constant companion, which is why today we still associate the owl with wisdom.

In using the Hollis owl as a logo for the Reading Course, we hope to honor what it means to be a wise reader; to seek and find wisdom through reading as well as to approach our reading wisely, with a mindfulness, purpose, and active engagement.

[1] Design by Joe Morris, JOEM Design. All rights reserved by President and Fellows of Harvard College.