Rediscovering Lost Mayan Text

Researchers regularly make discoveries in the reading rooms of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Curators, catalogers, and conservators can make their own discoveries when describing and preparing materials for research use. A case in point is the recent recovery of Mayan textual fragments during conservation treatment of an eighteenth-century Latin American manuscript in the Garrett-Gates Collection of Mesoamerican Manuscripts (C0744.01, no. 177), gift of Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897. It was written in 1759 by a scribe named Tomás Ossorio, at San Sebastián Lemoa, Guatemala, and is one of nearly 300 Mesoamerican manuscripts, documents, and related items in the Manuscripts Division, each written in whole or part in one of the indigenous languages of the Americas. Garrett acquired most of his Mesoamerican manuscripts from the collection of William Gates (1863-1940).

This Mesoamerican manuscript contains a single text: Domingo de Vico (1485-1555), Teologia indorum, translated from Latin into K’iche’ (or Quiché), a Mayan language spoken by the people of central Guatemala. It was written in the Roman alphabet and disseminated by scribal copying during the Contact Period. Vico was a Dominican friar, who left his native Spain for the Kingdom of New Spain. He prepared this treatise in Chiapas, Mexico, for the use of Dominicans at the parish level to interact with the indigenous populations and their ancestral religious beliefs, which Spanish conquerors and missionaries viewed as a form of “idolatry.” The Teologia indorum is filled with brief Christian lessons drawn from the New Testament and lives of the saints, with explanations of basic Christian concepts. Vico’s text was translated by native speakers into the Mesoamerican languages of K’iche’, Kaqchikel, and Tzutuhil between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. The present manuscript includes pen-and-ink drawings, perhaps the work of the scribe himself, depicting the Cross with the Virgin Mary and St. John (fol. 1 v); and the Virgin Mary and Christ Child (fol. 113v). In total, there are at least a dozen extant manuscripts of Vico’s text in translation, of which Princeton has seven (C0744.01, nos. 175-180, 227) and the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Paris) has five.

When the manuscript arrived in the Library in 1949, it was in a crudely made, repeatedly repaired one-piece animal-hide cover or wrapper, not a contemporary binding. The binding was dysfunctional and was damaging the fragile paper leaves. Whoever was responsible for this later binding had ignored original folio numbers and bound the manuscript out of order. Moreover, one could see portions of five leaves of unrelated contemporary K’iche’ text, written in different hands. These leaves were upside down relative to the Vico text and lined the inside of the animal-hide cover that wrapped around the text block The lining was possibly an attempt to stiffen the wrapper. Mick LeTourneaux, Book Conservator in the Library’s Preservation Office, disbound the manuscript, cleaned and mended the text leaves, reassembled them in the correct order, and rebound the manuscript in a conservation binding employing long-stitch sewing for flexibility. LeTourneaux was able to recover the unrelated text leaves from inside the cover. These leaves were then separated, mended, encapsulated, and rehoused in a custom drop-spine box, along with the rebound manuscript and animal-hide cover.

Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, sent digital images of the recovered leaves to Matthew Restall, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Latin American History and Anthropology, and Director of Latin American Studies, at Pennsylvania State University. Restall has been a frequent research visitor to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. He reads several Mayan languages and does research on the ethnohistory of the Yucatan and Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. Scott Cave and Megan McDonie, two of Restall’s graduate students, studied the digital images and were able to identify three folios of prayers and other liturgical text, written in K’iche’ with some crossover into Kaqchikel. Like most Mesoamerican religious texts of this era, the text incorporates Christian sacred names and other loan words in Spanish and Latin. The remaining two folios are in K’iche’ and may deal with church business. The texts did not precisely match any known texts and will require more study.

The Manuscripts Division has been working with the Preservation Office for years to conserve scores of Mesoamerican manuscripts that came to the Library in poor condition nearly seventy years ago. Several of the manuscripts have also been digitized in the Library’s Digital Studio and added to “Treasures of the Manuscripts Division,” in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL). For more information about the collection, contact Public Services, at

no 177  opening 2
Rebound manuscript, fols. 1v-2r

no 177 fragment
Recovered text leaf

Aubrey Beardsley: A British Artist for the 1890s

The Manuscripts Division has particularly rich holdings on Aubrey Beardsley (1872-98), the celebrated fin-de-siècle artist, who is best known for his exquisite black-and-white book illustrations. Beardsley’s books, posters, bookplates, and magazine contributions—most notably Oscar Wilde’s Salome and The Yellow Book—brought him international celebrity before his untimely death from tuberculosis at age 25. Through his art, Beardsley became the leading exponent of a British movement referred to by its detractors as “decadent,” as was Wilde in literature. He completed nearly 1100 drawings in just six years. Beardsley absorbed the Pre-Raphaelites, the Aesthetic movement, Japanese woodblock prints, Greek vases, and eighteenth-century engravings to produce the bold, instantly recognizable “Beardsley style.” Then as now, Beardsley’s artistic vision can be seen as as amusing, grotesque, decadent, perverse, liberating, erotic, or even obscene. But it is always original, unique, and arresting.

Yet while Beardsley’s art has been much admired since his own time, the daunting task of identifying and locating all of his illustrations would have to wait more than a century after his death. The scholarly world is fortunate that a comprehensive catalogue has finally been published. Professor Linda G. Zatlin, Department of English, Morehouse College, spent three decades preparing a Beardsley catalogue raisonné, including innumerable research trips and photography orders to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Zatlin has carefully identified, described, studied, and reproduced nearly 1100 extant Beardsley illustrations, whether they survive only in printed editions or also in drawings and sketches preserved in libraries and museums worldwide. The result is an indispensable catalogue, both handsome and learned, which will long remain the standard guide to Beardsley’s work.

Linda G. Zatlin, Aubrey Beardsley: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven: Yale University Press for the The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016), a two-volume boxed set, with 75 color and 1145 black-and-white illustrations. Available from Yale University Press, the catalogue provides a full record for each work, with a provenance note and exhibition history; and discusses themes, motifs, symbolism, and critical reception, with an up-to-date bibliography. Among those to whom the catalogue is dedicated is Mark Samuels Lasner, who co-curated the Library’s Beardsley centennial exhibition (1998-99) with Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts.

More than 100 of the original Beardsley drawings and sketches cataloged and reproduced by Zatlin are in the Manuscript’s Division’s Aubrey Beardsley Collection (C0056). Most of these were donated to Princeton in 1948 by the American artist and art collector A. E [Alfred Eugene] Gallatin (1881-1952). The collection was one of the earliest exhibitions in Firestone Library, curated by Alexander D. Wainwright, Class of 1939. Additions have been made to this collection in the decades since the Gallatin gift. The drawings and sketches were done for book illustrations, borders, chapter headings, title pages, and posters, and book plates.

These are complemented by selected correspondence and manuscripts. Among Beardsley’s major correspondents are Edmund Gosse, Robert Underwood Johnson, and Leonard Smithers. In addition, there is correspondence from Douglas Ainslie, Joseph M. Dent, John Lane, and Beardsley’s mother and sister, as well as photographs of Beardsley and family members. His own literary manuscripts include “The Art of Hoarding,” “Under the Hill,” and “The Ivory Piece.” The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections also has printed editions of all works illustrated by Beardsley.

For information about Beardsley holdings in the Manuscripts Division, including several recent acquisitions, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts,

Beardsley catalogue for blog post

The Criminal Adventures of Jack Sheppard

The latest additions to the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists (C0171) include two volumes of manuscripts by William H. Ainsworth (1805-82), chiefly for his novel Jack Sheppard: A Romance. This lurid Newgate School novel was serialized in Bentley’s Miscellany (1839-40) and published by Richard Bentley (1839) as a “triple-decker” (3-volume novel). The novel was published with a series of 27 etchings by the eminent British illustrator George Cruikshank, a large collection of whose papers (C0256) is also in the Manuscripts Division. The novel’s protagonist is Jack Sheppard (1702-23), a London apprentice carpenter, who turned to a life of crime and in the course of just two years achieved notoriety as a housebreaker, pick-pocket, and outlaw, until he was executed at the Tyburn gallows. Sheppard’s audacious prison escapes made him an appealing “low-society” anti-hero for the novel, which became a bestseller and outsold Oliver Twist, also published around that time. Yet the novel’s popularity displeased many critics, who considered it unseemly for the publisher and author to profit from a sensationalized life of an unrepentant criminal.

A contemporary of Charles Dickens, Ainsworth was the author of 39 novels, mostly on historical themes, and some of his novels (including Jack Sheppard) were adapted to the stage. Ainsworth began researching the novel in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne. He drew on eighteenth-century press accounts and on popular literature about Sheppard’s criminal career, daring escapes, and ultimate punishment. The author made many revisions and corrections in his autograph manuscript, entitled “True Account of Jack Sheppard the Housebreaker,” in part at Bentley’s insistence. The text often differs from the published novel. Also included in the two volumes are Ainsworth’s research notes about Sheppard, a synopsis and early drafts of the novel, a letter of 1838 to Charles Ollier about Bentley and publication, portraits of Ainsworth and Sheppard, and fragments from the manuscript of the author’s later novel Old St. Paul’s (1841).

The Jack Sheppard manuscript has been added to the Manuscripts Division’s portion of the Parrish Collection. Ainsworth was one of the British authors comprehensively collected by Morris Longstreth Parrish (1867-1944), Class of 1888, a respected Philadelphia businessman, who bequeathed his extraordinary library of Victorian novelists to Princeton. Parrish’s library was at Dormy House, his residence in Pine Valley, New Jersey. In addition to Ainsworth, Parrish collected Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Charles Reade, Charles Kingsley, Dinah Craik, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Hughes, Charles Lever, George Meredith, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Lewis Carroll, and other Victorian authors.

In the many decades since the Parrish bequest, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has continued to add to enrich Parrish holdings by gift and purchase. Alexander D. Wainwright, Class of 1939, a life-long curator and administrator at the Princeton University Library, played an instrumental role in this acquisitions effort. While the original Parrish bequest included only one Ainsworth letter, the holdings have grown to nearly 300 Ainsworth letters, including the author’s correspondence with Richard Bentley and 18 letters received from other people. The Parrish Collection includes major parts of the autograph manuscripts of Chetwynd Calverley (1876) and Beatrice Tyldesley (1878); and leaves of other manuscripts. The Rare Books portion of the Parrish Collection has editions of all Ainsworth’s novels. The Graphic Arts Collection has Daniel Maclise’s oil portrait of Ainsworth and 3 volumes with Cruikshank’s etchings for Jack Sheppard, with additional pencil drawings.

Other recent additions to manuscript holdings for Parrish authors include selected correspondence of Anthony Trollope, autograph manuscripts by Charles Lever and Wilkie Collins, and a large number of sermons by Charles Kingsley.

For more information about the holdings of the Parrish Collection, contact Public Services,

Ainsworth MS Draft
Manuscript draft of Jack Sheppard

David K. Lewis and Analytical Philosophy

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce that the correspondence, manuscripts, and other papers of the philosopher David K. Lewis (1941-2001) have been donated to the Princeton University Library by his widow Stephanie Lewis and are now available for study in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. The finding aid for the David K. Lewis Papers (C1520) is available online. Lewis is widely regarded as one of the most important analytic philosophers of the twentieth century. He is the author of Convention (1969), Counterfactuals (1973), On the Plurality of Worlds (1986), Parts of Classes (1991), and over 110 articles. He also published five volumes of collected articles: Philosophical Papers I (1983), Philosophical Papers II (1986), Papers in Philosophical Logic (1998), Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology (1999), and Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy (2000). Lewis’s work was highly influential and affected most areas of analytic philosophy. He made significant contributions to philosophy of mind, philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, and metaphysics. His impact and influence was due not merely to the doctrines he defended, but also to the way he framed the philosophical debates in which he engaged. Lewis’s work continues to be widely discussed and remains a central part of contemporary philosophy.

Lewis was a graduate student in philosophy at Harvard University (PhD, 1967), where he studied under Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) and met Stephanie Robinson, Lewis’s future wife and the present donor of the papers. They met in a philosophy of science course taught by J.J.C. Smart, who at the time was visiting Harvard from Australia. In 1966, Lewis accepted an Assistant Professorship at UCLA. In 1970, Lewis became an Associate Professor at Princeton University. He was named Stuart Professor of Philosophy in 1995, and three years later was appointed Class of 1943 University Professor of Philosophy. Lewis and his wife made annual summer trips to Australia from 1971 until his death. Australia became a second home to Lewis, and he became an integral part of the philosophical culture of Australia. Along with the Australian philosopher D. M. Armstrong, Lewis played an important role in reviving metaphysics in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The David K. Lewis Papers include his extensive correspondence with other philosophers and scholars. There are approximately sixteen thousand pages of Lewis’s correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. There is significant volume of correspondence with David Armstrong, J.J.C. Smart, Frank Jackson, Willard Van Orman Quine, Hugh Mellor, Max Cresswell, Allen Hazen, and John Bigelow; as well as smaller amounts of correspondence with R. B. Braithwaite, Peter van Inwagen, Paul Benacerraf, William Alston, Iris Murdoch, Jonathan Bennett, Anthony Appiah, J. Peter Burgess, Paul Churchland, D. C. Dennett, Gareth Evans, Philippa Foot, Margaret Gilbert, Sally Haslanger, Jaakko Hintikka, David Kaplan, Saul A. Kripke, Colin McGinn, Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, Steven Pinker, Alvin Plantinga, and many others. Lewis’s letters are often very detailed, as he maintained ongoing conversations regarding many philosophical topics with his colleagues through regular correspondence. Lewis’s writings include drafts of published articles and books, often along with publishing correspondence, reviews, and notes related to each publication. A smaller amount of reviews and unpublished or posthumously published writings are also present, as well as some of Lewis’s undergraduate and graduate student writings, course materials, and notes, including notes from graduate seminars with Donald Williams and others at Harvard and elsewhere, and research files and reports from Lewis’s time as a researcher at the Hudson Institute in the 1960s.

Two research projects now underway make extensive use of the David K. Lewis Papers. The first project is organized by Professor Peter Anstey of the University of Sydney and Stephanie Lewis. They aim to publish the correspondence between Lewis and Armstrong. The second project is The Age of Metaphysical Revolution: David Lewis and His Place in the History of Analytic Philosophy, which is headed by Professor Helen Beebee of the University of Manchester and is funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project includes Professor Fraser MacBride of the University of Glasgow as co-investigator, and two postdoctoral researchers: Anthony Fisher, University of Manchester, who provided the biographical information for this blog-post; and Frederique Janssen-Lauret, University of Glasgow. The latter project has the goal of publishing several volumes of Lewis’s correspondence and unpublished papers, as well as a monograph on Lewis and his place in the history of analytic philosophy.

The Manuscripts Division also holds the extensive papers of the eminent mathematical logicians Kurt Gödel (1906-78), C0282, on deposit from the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; and Alonzo Church (1903-95), C0948, Department of Mathematics. The division also has manuscripts and selected other papers of Princeton philosophy professors Charles Woodruff Shields (1825-1904), C0343; George Tapney Whitney (1871-1938), C0448); and Walter Kaufmann (1921-80), C0469. For information about the David K. Lewis Papers, consult the finding aid. For more information about the holdings of the Manuscripts Division, contact Public Services at

David K. Lewis in Cambridge, June 2001,
where he received an honorary D. Litt.
degree from the University of Cambridge.
© Hugh Mellor

A Founding Father in Revolutionary Paris

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the acquisition of a letter book of James Monroe (1758-1831), the most recent addition to its substantial Franco-American holdings. Monroe kept the letter book during the first part of his term as American Minister to France, 1794-96. The volume includes 112 letters, probably in the hand of Monroe’s secretary and fellow Virginian Fulwar Skipwith (1765-1838). Many letters have minor textual differences from published versions, including a dozen with previously unrecorded corrections and revisions in Monroe’s own hand, such as his Circular to Consuls and Agents, 25 September 1794 (see below). Eighteen of the letters are unknown and unpublished, including six about American repayment of a loan from the Dutch financiers Willink, Van Staphorst & Hubbard. Monroe was posted to Paris at the height of the French Revolution, only days after the Reign of Terror had ended with the execution of Maximilien Robespierre, Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just, and others. On Sunday, 10 August 1794, Monroe penned his first official letter as U.S. Minister to France, sending political news to Secretary of State Edmund Randolph, a fellow Virginian.

Monroe served with distinction during the Revolutionary War. He crossed the Delaware River with General George Washington on Christmas Day 1776 and a week later was seriously wounded at the Battle of Trenton (2 January 1777). We remember Monroe today for his lifetime of public service, including a term as Senator from Virginia to the U.S. Congress (1790-94); multiple terms as governor of Virginia; Secretary of State (1811-17) and Secretary of War (1814-15) under President James Madison (Princeton Class of 1771); and finally the fifth American President (1817-25). Although a slaveholder, Monroe supported African colonization for free African Americans in the geographical area that eventually became Liberia, for which reason its capital was named Monrovia in his honor. In the Early Republic, he played a major role in U.S. territorial expansion and foreign policy and is best remembered for his promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine (1823).

The Monroe letter book is a large volume with 324 numbered pages. A stationer’s label on front paste down identifies the shop as “À L’Espérance,” located on Rue Neuve des Petits-Champs, facing the French Ministry of Finance. There one could buy quills, ink, paper, sealing wax, and other writing materials, as well as blank volumes like the present letter book. It was a difficult time for Monroe and for Franco-American relations. He found his own position in France undermined by the American adoption of Jay’s Treaty, which the French Directory viewed with suspicion. Among Monroe’s other challenges were the intrigues of “Citizen” Edmond Charles Genêt (1763-1834), the French minister to the United States. Monroe defended his conduct as Minister to France in A View of the Conduct of the Executive in the Foreign Affairs of the United States, Connected with the Mission to the French Republic, during the years 1794, 5, & 6 (Philadelphia: Printed by and for Benjamin Franklin Bache, 1797).

One of Monroe’s principal diplomatic initiatives was securing freedom for American prisoners, the most famous being Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of Common Sense and The American Crisis. A letter of 1 November 1794 to the French Committee of General Surety was part of Monroe’s successful effort to secure the Paine’s release from Luxembourg prison in Paris, where he worked on The Age of Reason. American citizenship was presented as a reason for Paine’s release. Indeed, he owned a house in Bordentown, New Jersey, and a farm in New Rochelle, New York. Monroe wrote, “The citizens of the United States can never look back to the era of their own revolution without recollecting among the names of their most distinguished patriots that of Thomas Payne. The services that he rendered them in their struggle for liberty have made an impression of gratitude which will never be erased, whilst they continue to merit the character of a just and generous people.”

The oldest of the Manuscripts Division’s substantial Franco-American holdings is the correspondence of Raymond de Fourquevaux (1508-1574), French ambassador to Spain, concerning colonization of Florida and the West Indies, 1565-71. This is part of the extensive Americana collection of André De Coppet, Class of 1915 (C0063), who was also the donor of the extensive archives of Eugène de Beauharnais (1781-1824), Napoleon’s step-son and French viceroy in Italy, 1805-14 (C0645). The best-known collection is that of Louis-Alexander Berthier (1753-1815), containing more than a hundred hand-colored, manuscript maps, one of which includes Nassau Hall (C0022). Berthier was an officer on General Rochambeau’s staff and traced the historic overland march of the French and American forces from Philipsburg, New York, to Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, and then their return march to Boston in 1782. Accompanying these maps is Berthier’s journal in French. Donated by Harry C. Black, Class of 1909, the Berthier maps and journals have been digitized and are available online.

The Manuscripts Division also holds other individual manuscripts and small collections, such as Joachim du Perron, comte de Revel (1756-1814),”Brouillon du journal de ma campagne sur le Languedoc,” 1780-82; Charles Henri d’Estaing (1729-94), “Relation de la compagne navale … en Amérique,” 1778-89; [Comtes de Forbach de Deux-Ponts], “Suite de journal des campagnes 1780, 1781, 1782: dans l’Amérique septentrionale,” 1782; Henri Jean Baptiste de Pontevès-Gien, comte de Pontevès-Gien (1738-90), a journal kept by him as commander of the French naval vessel l’Illustre, 1788-90; Louis-Guillaume Otto, comte de Mosloy, letters to the marquis de Moustier, 1789-91; and Charles Balthazar Julien Frevret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852), “Gagne-pain d’un exilé aux États-Unis d’Amérique de 1793 à 1814.” Also dating from this period is a portion of the correspondence of John Lewis [Jean-Louis] Guillemard, 1787-1844, an English aristocrat of French Huguenot ancestry, who lived in Philadelphia in the late 1790s and corresponded with his family and friends about American politics and foreign relations, the British Empire, and the French Revolution (C1492).

Holdings for the nineteenth century include the recently acquired manuscripts of French journalist Frédéric Gaillardet (1808-82), including a partial draft of L’Aristocratie en Amérique and other materials relating to his travels and observations in Louisiana, Mississippi, and other southern states, as well as in Canada and Cuba, 1837-48 (C01519). French interest in the peoples of North America can also be seen in the photographs of Northern Plains Indians in the “Collection Anthropologique” of Prince Roland Bonaparte (C1177). Relevant holdings on Franco-American historical subjects can be found in the Gilbert Chinard Papers (C0671) and Gilbert Chinard Collection of French Historical Material (C0428). The latter includes letters written by the French Consul to Maryland, 1788-1797; and three untitled and undated 18th-century manuscript documents concerning French governance of Louisiana, its cession to Spain in 1762, and subsequent administration by Spain. Chinard was a Franco-American scholar who was Pyne Professor of French at Princeton University, 1937-50, and was also associated with the Institut Français de Washington.

For more information about the James Monroe letter book, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at Concerning manuscript and archival holdings relating to Franco-American historical, diplomatic, and cultural relations, search the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections finding aids website

Monroe letter book
James Monroe’s Letter Book (detail)

T. A. Barron: Author and Conservationist

The Princeton University Library is delighted to announce that the award-winning American author and conservationist Thomas A. Barron ’74 has donated his literary papers to the Library. The T. A. Barron Papers (C1522) are in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Barron is the author of more than thirty books, including many well-known mythic-quest and fantasy novels, published in series such as The Great Tree of Avalon, which is a New York Times bestselling trilogy; The Atlantis Saga; The Adventures of Kate trilogy; and The Merlin Saga, currently being adapted for film by Disney.

Barron’s writing has been compared to that of authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle. Barron has said of his writing, “My first priority is to craft enjoyable stories. Beyond that, I hope to create characters, plots, and themes that raise the big questions of life. Good fantasy isn’t an escape from reality, but rather an alternate, deeper view of reality.”

The T. A. Barron Papers include more than twenty linear feet of files about this popular author’s life and work. His papers provide full documentation for his novels, children’s books, nature books, and other published work since 1990, including outlines, concept summaries, original maps, and editorial correspondence; handwritten drafts, usually on legal pads, as well as corrected typescripts and proofs, and bound galleys; hardback and paperback editions; translations into German, Chinese, French, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages; audio books by Listening Library; and publishers’ promotional materials. In addition, the papers include articles, speeches, interviews, videos, unpublished writings, fan mail, and correspondence with other authors.

The papers are a welcome addition to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, which already has strong holdings in the area of children’s and young adult literature, especially printed books and original artwork in the Cotsen Children’s Library. The Manuscripts Division holds the archives of many other authors, including several who also wrote for young audiences, such as Mary Mapes Dodge, best known for the novel Hans Brinker, or, The Silver Skates (1866) and as editor of St. Nicholas magazine; and Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886) and The Secret Garden (1911).

Barron’s youth was on a ranch near Colorado Springs, Colorado, close to Pikes Peak. As a Princeton undergraduate, he majored in history and politics and wrote his senior thesis on U.S. Presidential elections. He was awarded the prestigious Pyne Prize as well as the Class of 1901 Medal. In addition, Barron was named a Rhodes Scholar, which enabled him to attend Balliol College at Oxford University. After extensive travels in Europe, Asia, and Africa, he went on to receive JD and MBA degrees from Harvard University. Barron had a successful business career in New York City but then in 1989 decided to focus on writing, his passion since childhood. Since returning to Colorado in 1990 with his wife Currie and family, he has been a full-time author and conservationist. His first published novel was Heartlight (1990), the first volume in The Adventures of Kate trilogy, published by Philomel Books and Puffin Books, imprints of Penguin Books USA.

Barron has received many writing honors and awards, such as the de Grummond Medallion (2011) for “lifetime contribution to the field of children’s and young adult literature.” He has also written the nonfiction book The Hero’s Trail, which profiles diverse young people who have shown exceptional courage, perseverance, and compassion. In addition, he has written several illustrated children’s books including Where Is Grandpa? and High as a Hawk: A Brave Girl’s Historic Climb. His conservationist’s reverence for the natural world is present in much of his writing, including his two nature books about Rocky Mountains wilderness.

The Barrons have provided generous support to the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI), which made possible creation of the Thomas A. and Currie C. Barron Visiting Professorship in Humanities and the Environment; the Barron Family Fund for Innovations in Environmental Studies, which supports efforts by students and faculty to make connections between humanities and the environment; the T. A. Barron Prize for Environmental Leadership, awarded annually to a student who shows extraordinary leadership in environmental issues in any field; and the Henry David Thoreau Freshman Seminar in Environmental Writing. Barron is a former Princeton charter trustee and alumni trustee, and serves on PEI’s advisory board. He has also been very active with conservation organizations such as EarthJustice, The Nature Conservancy, and The Wilderness Society, which honored him with the Robert Marshall Award (1997), its highest award to a citizen conservationist. In 2000, he founded the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, which honors outstanding young people from diverse backgrounds who have made significant positive impacts on their communities and the environment.

The T. A. Barron Papers are now available for research. A finding aid is available. For information about using the Barron Papers and other collection, please contact Public Services,

Barron portrait
T. A. Barron. Photo by Aimee Giese.

Barron Great Tree of Avalon
Courtesy of Penguin Publishing

JTS Geniza Collection on Deposit at Princeton

The Princeton University Library is very pleased to announce that The Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS), located in New York City, has placed its renowned Geniza Collection on deposit in the Library. The collection will be housed at Princeton until fall 2019 in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, and will accessible for scholarly purposes. It will then return to the new Rare Book Room of an entirely rebuilt JTS Library. The Geniza Collection contains some 40,000 handwritten text leaves and documents, chiefly on paper and fragmentary. These have been conserved and mounted in 1024 bound volumes. The individual items are written in Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, and Judeo-Persian (the latter two terms respectively referring to Arabic or Persian written in Hebrew script). The JTS Geniza Collection represents a substantial portion of some 300,000 items “discovered” in the late nineteenth century in the Cairo Geniza (a Hebrew word meaning “storeroom”) of the Ben Ezra Synagogue, in the old city of Cairo (Al-Fusṭāṭ). The Cairo Geniza fragments were consigned to the storeroom over the course of a millennium because damaged or worn-out religious texts and unneeded old documents could not be thrown away if they contained the name of God.

Over a century ago, western scholars began using the Cairo Geniza to study the religious, social, economic, and cultural life of Jews in Egypt from the Umayyad Caliphate until the nineteenth century. The Geniza fragment seen below is from the oldest extant Passover Haggadah (ca. 1000 CE), inexpertly written with a spelling error that reflects the influence of oral tradition. Someone also practiced writing the alphabet on the right side. Found among the preponderance of religious texts are legal and economic documents that offer unparalleled insight into the everyday lives of Jews in medieval Egypt and beyond, in a sense like the documentary papyri of Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic Egypt, as well as Arabic paper documents of Egyptian Muslims during the Middle Ages. A significant portion of the Manuscripts Division’s holdings of documents from ancient and medieval Egypt have been digitized in the Princeton University Digital Library (PUDL) in the Princeton Papyri Collections and Michaelides Collection of Letters and Documents (1106-1497).

Princeton scholars have long been interested in Geniza studies. The historian S. D. Goitein (1900-85) began working with Geniza documents in 1948, and in 1970 he was appointed to the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. There he completed his monumental 6-volume work, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza (1967-1993). Since 1985, Princeton University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies has been the home of the Princeton Geniza Lab, beginning under Professor Mark R. Cohen, Near Eastern Studies, with Goitein’s working files and copies of Geniza documents. The Geniza Lab is a collaborative space devoted to making Cairo Geniza documents accessible to the scholarly world and the general public. It hosts the Princeton Geniza Project, a searchable database of Geniza texts transcribed from the originals. Since fall 2015, the Geniza Lab has been headed by Professor Marina Rustow, Khedouri A. Zilka Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, and Professor of Near Eastern Studies and History. She is also a MacArthur Fellow (2015). Others who will be using the JTS Geniza Collection in the next few years include Professor Eve Krakowski, Near Eastern Studies, as well as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

The JTS Geniza Collection is the world’s second largest such collection, after the Cambridge University Library’s Taylor-Schechter Genizah Collection. Smaller numbers of Cairo Geniza fragments are found in more than sixty other libraries and private collections worldwide. Recent digital initiatives have been used to reunite the dispersed Cairo Geniza holdings. The JTS Geniza Collection has been largely digitized with funding support from the Friedberg Geniza Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and is now almost entirely available online through The Friedberg Genizah Project. Prior to visiting the Princeton University Library, researchers can find digital images, make preliminary identifications, and obtain other pertinent information by accessing the Friedberg site and following the link to the Cairo Geniza. Users must register to use the Friedberg site. Researchers wishing to visit the Princeton University Library in order to consult the original items in the JTS Geniza Collection should first determine the specific volume and folio numbers of the items in which they are interested. This will allow them to select the exact volume(s) in the JTS Geniza Collection (JTS001) finding aid. Then researchers must register as readers in order to use the Library. No fee is required either to access the Friedberg site or register as a Princeton reader.

For visiting hours and registration information, please go to the website of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. For information about using the JTS Geniza Collection, contact For information about the Geniza Collection, including cataloging, photoduplication, and publication, please contact David C. Kraemer at, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian at the JTS Library and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics.

JTS Geniza for blog-post
Reproduced courtesy of the Jewish
Theological Seminary of America.

Lives in Letters: The Correspondence of Professor Joseph Frank

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of a significant group of correspondence and related papers of the American literary scholar Joseph Frank (1918-2013). He is best known for his five-volume biography of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which he began in the early 1970s and completed in 2002. The collection consists of Frank’s personal and professional correspondence dating from the 1940s through the early 2000s, though primarily from the 1950s through the 1980s. Correspondents include Hannah Arendt, Elizabeth Bishop, Yves Bonnefoy, Pierre Bourdieu, Ralph Ellison, Carlos Fuentes, Irving Howe, James Laughlin, Richard W. B. Lewis, Mary McCarthy, Allen Tate, and many other poets, writers, artists, and academics. A small amount of family correspondence, personal documents, and printed materials, including inscribed reprints and chapbooks, are also present. The collection is the generous gift of Joseph Frank’s daughter Isabelle Frank and complements the Manuscripts Division’s extensive holdings of 20th-century literary correspondence.

Born in New York City as Joseph Nathaniel Glassman, Frank adopted his stepfather’s surname when his mother, Jennifer Garlick, remarried following his father’s early death. Although he never formally earned a bachelor’s degree, Frank studied briefly at New York University and the University of Wisconsin. Prior to beginning his Dostoyevsky biography, he published essays and criticism in literary journals, including “Spatial Form in Modern Literature,” which appeared in The Sewanee Review in 1945 and set the stage for his career as a critic and lecturer on 20th century literature. After working at the Bureau of National Affairs in Washington, D.C., in the 1940s, Frank left for Paris on a Fulbright scholarship in 1950, where he met his wife, the mathematician Marguerite Straus Frank. He earned his PhD from the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 1960 and taught at the University of Wisconsin and Rutgers University before arriving at Princeton. Frank was named the Class of 1926 Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University, where he taught from 1966 until 1985, and he taught afterward at Stanford University until his retirement. At Princeton, Frank also served as the Director of the Gauss Seminars in Criticism, which brought many international critics, artists, poets, and scholars to the university for lectures and discussions exploring the theory and practice of criticism in the humanities and sciences.

Much of Frank’s correspondence with noted literary critics and scholars is the result of his involvement with the Gauss Seminars. He also maintained close personal friendships with several major poets and authors, as reflected by significant groups of letters from the French poet Yves Bonnefoy, the American poet Allen Tate, and others. A particularly rich group of 25 letters from the American poet Elizabeth Bishop is also present, dating to the 1950s and early 1960s when Bishop was living in Brazil with her partner, Lota de Macedo Soares. Bishop discusses the intimate details of her daily life, her reading and writing habits, and her general impressions of living as an American expatriate in Brazil. A typescript of Bishop’s poem “View of the Capitol from the Library of Congress” is also included as an enclosure with an October 29, 1950, letter to Frank. The letter indicates that she wrote the poem the day before, and this draft appears in the same form in which the poem was published the following year in The New Yorker on July 7, 1951.

Also notable is a three-page letter (23 November 1964) from the celebrated African American novelist Ralph Ellison, who explains the obscurity of the “pink hospital scene” in his novel Invisible Man by describing how he cut out a 225-page section from the middle of book. Incoming letters such as these indicate that Frank was a close reader and valued critic of works by contemporary authors he knew, and his correspondence with them often contains authors’ responses to Frank’s comments and questions on their work.

Researchers interested in learning more about the Joseph Frank Correspondence (C1515) should consult the finding aid. For information about using the papers, contact
joseph_frank (2)

Seals of Authenticity

The Manuscript Division has had several discoveries as a result of the relocation of on-site collections from myriad Firestone Library storage locations to newly constructed, state-of-the-art vaults. In the process of planning and moving, staff members have occasionally found stray items or collections that had been stored away long ago and forgotten. A case in point are two small collections of Papal lead seals (bullae) donated to the Library between 1898 and 1918. The donors of the two collections were no less than two of the Library’s storied early administrators: Ernest Cushing Richardson (1860-1939), University Librarian and later Director of the Princeton University Library, 1890-1925; and Junius Spencer Morgan (1867-1932), Class of 1888, the Library’s Associate Librarian, 1898-1909. Both were private collectors and donors to the Library. Unfortunately, when these two collections arrived, the seals were merely accessioned as “museum objects” and stored away otherwise uncataloged. At the time, the future Department of Rare Books and Special Collections was a small holdings unit in Pyne Library, the central Princeton campus library before Firestone Library opened its doors in the late 1940s. Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen (1885-1965), who became the Library’s first Curator of Manuscripts in 1913, worked most closely with Princeton’s growing papyri collections and had other administrative duties and teaching responsibilities in the Classics Department.

Among the more than two dozen Papal lead seals recently rediscovered, none still attached to documents, is a 500 year-old bulla of Pope Leo X (r. 1513-21). It was among those donated by Junius Spencer Morgan in 1898. Pope Leo X was born Giovanni Romolo de’ Medici. He was the son of Lorenzo de’ Medici (1449-1492), the Florentine statesman and Renaissance patron of the arts. Leo X is better known today for commissioning works by Raphael (who painted his portrait) and by Michelangelo, than for having excommunicated Martin Luther and conferred on King Henry VIII of England the title “Defender of the Faith.” The lead seal is approximately 40 mm in diameter and weighs about 45 grams. On the seal’s obverse, reproduced below, we see the bearded faces of the Apostles Paul and Peter, a traditional design. They are portrayed in high relief, and they are identified in accompanying inscriptions (S[anctus] PA[lus]; S[anctus] PE[trus]). Pope Leo X’s name and title are on the reverse. Papal seals of this sort guaranteed the authenticity and integrity of official documents or letters to which they were attached by means of a silk cord, traces of which are still evident on Leo X’s bulla.

The Manuscripts Division has significant holdings of ancient, medieval, and modern seals, seal matrices, and seal impressions. In addition, collections of historical documents often include examples of individual document with intact pendant seals or impressed wax seals. The earliest seal collections are several hundred stone cylinder and stamp seals from the ancient Mesopotamia, used to seal clay tablets written in cuneiform. Some of the clay tablets bear the impressions made by such stone seals. The John Hinsdale Scheide Collection, donated by the late William H. Scheide (Class of 1936), includes some English, French, and Papal documents with intact seals. Seals are also found in documentary collections assembled and donated by Thomas Shields Clarke, Charles Carroll Marden, Albert T. Reyburn, Chalfant Robinson, and Ernest Cushing Richardson. Over the past two decades, Bruce C. Willsie, Class of 1986, has assembled a fine British sigillography collection, including medieval and modern English royal charters with wax pendant seals, as well as seal matrices and wax seals without accompanying documents. He continues to add to the collection. Finally, the Manuscripts Division recently created a Byzantine seal collection with six lead seals donated by Michael Padgett.

For more information, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts:
Bulla Leo X front
Bulla Leo X back
Bulla of Pope Leo X

Persian Lacquer Bindings

The Peck Shahnamah, on display in the exhibition “Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings,” at the Princeton University Art Museum (October 3, 2015-January 24, 2016), is among the most treasured books in the Manuscripts Division. But the Manuscripts Division holds five additional illuminated Shahnamah manuscripts and hundreds of other Persian and Mughal illustrated manuscripts and miniatures, among nearly ten thousand Islamic manuscripts. Approximately two-thirds of these were part of the 1942 donation of Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897. One aspect of Persian book arts that has not previously received much attention, at least with regard to Princeton’s extensive collections of Islamic manuscripts, is the Persian lacquer binding. The Manuscripts Division holds dozens of examples, several of which are featured in a recent article by Lindsey Hobbs, Collections Conservator, Preservation Office: “Persian Lacquer Bindings,” The New Bookbinder: Journal of Designer Bookbinders, vol. 35 (2015), pp. 49-56.

Persian lacquer bindings first developed in the fifteenth century and reached their height of popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These bindings most commonly feature elaborate floral designs, like the upper cover of the Qur’an illustrated below. But examples at Princeton also feature animals, birds, braid patterns, mandalas, ringlets, rosettes, and fleurons. Their inclusion was the result of the influence of cultural contact as Islam spread east and west from the seventh century. The first step in producing a lacquer binding, typically, is to prepare the pasteboard covers for painting by applying a layer of gesso; that is, a white mixture of a binder and chalk, gypsum, pigment, or a combination of these ingredients. After this application comes an initial coat of varnish. Water-based paint is used to create a painting or design, which is coated with several additional layers of varnish. The surfaces are then smoothed and polished. In some cases powdered mother-of-pearl, gold particles, or other inlay materials are added to the varnish before drying. There are also lavish early examples that combine decorated leather with lacquer painting. The result is a brilliant sheen that gives Persian lacquer bindings a distinctive character.

One of the more notable examples at Princeton dates to 1520 CE. The Dīvān-i Hāfiz, a well-known anthology of Persian classical poetry, features a symmetrical array of flowers, birds, and animal heads surrounding a central eight-pointed star. The cover design reveals inspiration from the Far East, possibly a vestige of the Mongol invasions from earlier centuries. The book has orange leather doublures, highly decorated with gilt. The richly illuminated text is written in Nasta’līq, a calligraphic script often used for deluxe Persian manuscripts, and contains six full-page miniatures. While the manuscript was likely resewn and given a new spine at some point in its history, this is one of very few examples of lacquer bindings that seems likely to have retained its original covers.

For more about Persian lacquer bindings, see Lindsey Hobbs’s article in The New Bookbinder, a journal in the Firestone Library’s circulating collections. There are Voyager bibliographic records for each of the manuscripts illustrated in her article. For information about Islamic holdings in the Manuscripts Division, contact Public Services.
Persian lacquered Qur'an
Qur’an (upper cover),
Islamic Manuscripts,
New Series, no. 1984,
Manuscripts Division.