Online Cataloging for the New Series of Islamic Manuscripts at Princeton

Cataloging is now available online for the entire collection of the nearly 2200 manuscripts comprising the New Series of Islamic Manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. The New Series constitutes the premier collection of predominantly Shi`ite manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. The online records have been created as part of the Islamic Manuscripts Cataloging and Digitization Project, to improve access to these rich collections and share them worldwide through digital technology. Generous support from the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project has funded this ongoing effort. Researchers can now locate Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog.

Over the past two years, the Princeton University Library has created online biblio­graphic records covering over 800 Persian and Ottoman Turkish manuscripts in the New Series. Most of these had previously been described only in abbreviated format in the Preliminary Checklist of Uncataloged Islamic Manuscripts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library, while approximately 200 of them were completely undocumented. Each manuscript was given a full catalog record that includes an authorized name, title and title variations where appropriate, dating in both Hijri and Gregorian formats, incipit, physical description of the entire manuscript, description of the text, references, and appropriate subject headings.

The newly cataloged manuscripts largely reflect the core topical focus of the New Series, namely the rich intellectual and spiritual tradition of Shi`ite Islam. In Persian this tradition is represented mainly by works on doctrine, prayer, and the lives of the Imams, composed after the rise of the Safavids down to the early 20th century. Noteworthy are three manuscripts purporting to be in the handwriting of the prolific Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi: `Ayn al-hayat (no. 775), Zad al-ma`ad (no. 1495), and Ziyarat-i `Ashura (no. 1450). Of the more unusual manuscripts are two volumes of a four-volume work on doctrine, likely Shaykhi, the Bahjat al-arwah by Nasir al-Islam, an autograph manuscript written in the 1920s (no. 190 and no. 470); as well as the second volume of Bahr al-masa’ib by Muhammad Riza Parvin, an autograph manuscript dated 1862 which recounts the martyrdoms of the Prophet’s family (no. 471).

New Series also contains numerous collections of poetry by both famous and lesser known poets in Persian. The entire works of Tughra-yi Mashhadi are collected in a two-volume manuscript dated 1696 (no. 372-373), and there is an autograph collection of the poems of Musahibi Na’ini, written in 1893-1902 (no. 132). While there is ample representation of poets hailing from Persia, there are also manuscripts of Persian poetry by Indian poets, such as Ghanimat (no. 2065) and Ghaws (no. 2068). Also worth mentioning is the small collection of Ottoman Turkish poetry, which includes the Tale of Seyfülmülûk by an unknown author (no. 1558).

While the bulk of the series is comprised of Shi`ite works and Persian poetry, there are substantial holdings in medicine, history, grammar, lexicology, astronomy, astrology, occultism, Sufism, and Sunni law. For example, Bektashi Sufi doctrine and practice is addressed by a collection of Ottoman Turkish texts which includes the Fakrname attributed to Ja`far al-Sadiq (no. 2043), and in Persian of Indian origin are several commentaries by Parvanah Shah on the Siraj-i anjan, a Sufi treatise written by Muḥammad Siraj Allah and `Abd Siraj al-Raḥman (no. 1794, no. 1812, and no. 1853). The tradition of illumination is well-attested in the series, a striking example being a richly illuminated copy of the Mi’at kalimah with interlinear Persian translation (no. 710). Additionally, a few manuscripts contain miniatures, such as Layla va Majnun by Hatifi (no. 1585) and a Persian translation of the Ramayana (no. 1751).

For more information about the cataloging, contact Denise L. Soufi, Islamic Manuscripts Cataloger, at; for information about the overall project, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mi’at kalimah, 15--?, fol. 1b-2a (no. 710). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Ali ibn Abi Talib, Mi’at kalimah, 15–?, fol. 1b-2a (no. 710). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Zad al-ma`ad, 1696, fol. 199b (no. 1495). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi, Zad al-ma`ad, 1696, fol. 199b (no. 1495). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.


A Federal Tax Collector in the Early Republic

It is April 15, “Tax Day,” and in the spirit of tax days past and present, we can look at a group of extraordinary documents relating to the 1798 Direct Federal Tax in the recently reprocessed and expanded Ebenezer Foote Papers (C0430), Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare books and Special Collections.

Ebenezer Foote (1756–1829), born in Connecticut, fought in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He was at the Battle of Bunker Hill, wintered at Valley Forge, and was taken prisoner during the disastrous Battle of Fort Washington.  In December 1777 he escaped from Bridewell Prison in New York City by swimming across the Hudson River to New Jersey.  It is not surprising that his health suffered from this event, but desiring to continue serving his country, he became an inspector of cattle in the Continental  Army’s Commissary Department, moving cattle from the countryside to West Point so that the beef could be distributed to sometimes starving troops.

After the American Revolution, Foote was given land in Delhi, New York, as partial compensation for his military service.  Soon after, Delaware County, in which Delhi was located, was formed and Foote became an influential citizen there, as politician, county clerk, land agent, and judge.  In 1798 he was assigned to be principal assessor of the first assessment district in the eighth division of the state of New York for the 1798 Direct Federal Tax.

The 1798 Direct Federal Tax resulted from the Quasi-War with France and the United States’ need to develop its military.  Thus, Congress placed into effect a two million dollar direct tax for property (and that includes slaves) for the sixteen states in the United States.  Foote and other assessors all across the new nation traveled throughout their districts assessing the dwelling houses, land, and slaves, and recording their information on eleven forms.

Among the most interesting items in the Ebenezer Foote Papers are these eleven forms, in varying degrees of completeness.  These are clearly not the official records submitted to the presidentially appointed Board of Commissioners, but since those records were not systematically collected or preserved, these may be the only such records for Delhi, New York.  In fact, according to the National Archives, only a few of the enormous number of official assessments are located and available for research.

Included among these assessments in the Ebenezer Foote Papers are the “Particular List or Description of each Dwelling-house,” the “Particular List or Description of all Lands, Lots, Buildings, and Wharves, owned, possessed, or occupied,” and the “Particular List of Slaves, owned or superintended.”  The houses are described best, with name of occupant, owner, situation, dimensions, windows, materials, quantity of land, age and state of repair of structure, and valuation of the property.  It is the slave lists, however, that are most disturbing. The names of the slaves are not recorded. We are only told who owned and superintended them, the town in which they were employed, the number of and genders of slaves owned, and, most important, the number of slaves above the age of 12 and under the age of 50 who were subject to taxation.  Slave owners were taxed fifty cents for each slave between the ages of 12 and 50 who was not precluded from working as a result of permanent illness or disability.  The assessments reveal that five of the thirteen slaves within the first assessment district of the eighth division of New Yorkwere subject to taxation.

Along with these tax documents, the Ebenezer Foote Papers is filled with official correspondence and business, legal, and financial records, which shed light on life the Early National Period.  For information about using these or any other collections in research, contact

Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts Catalogue

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce the long-awaited publication of its two-volume catalogue, Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, by Don C. Skemer; incorporating contributions by Adelaide Bennett, Jean F. Preston, William P. Stoneman and the Index of Christian Art (Princeton, N.J.: Department of Art and Archaeology and the Princeton University Library, in association with Princeton University Press, 2013), vol. I: xxv, 483 pages, 88 pages of plates; vol. II: xix, 558 pages, 40 pages of plates): color illustrations; 30 cm. The catalogue is available from Princeton University Press. This illustrated catalogue, with nearly 400 color illustrations, provides full textual and codicological descriptions of upwards of 450 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Most of the manuscripts are in the Manuscripts Division, in the Robert Garrett (Class of 1897), Grenville Kane, Robert Taylor (Class of 1930), and Princeton series. Also found in these collections are more than 250 separate miniatures, leaves, and cuttings. The catalogue also covers a number of manuscripts in the Cotsen Children’s Library, the gift of Lloyd E. Cotsen (Class of 1950); and a small number of other manuscripts in other manuscript series or bound with printed books.

The Library has one of the finest collections of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in North America, chiefly in the Manuscripts Division, but complemented by the holdings of the Scheide Library. The manuscripts range in date from the 8th to 16th centuries. About a third of the manuscripts in the catalogue are illuminated or illustrated. While Latin texts are predominant, Princeton has excellent holdings of vernacular manuscripts in Middle English, as well as in French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch or Flemish, and other languages. Byzantine and post-Byzantine Greek manuscripts are described in a separate catalogue, Greek Manuscripts at Princeton, Sixth to Nineteenth Century: A Descriptive Catalogue, by Sofia Kotzabassi and Nancy Patterson Ševčenko; with the collaboration of Don C. Skemer (Princeton, N.J.: Department of Art and Archaeology and Program in Hellenic Studies, Princeton University, in association with Princeton University Press, 2010), xxix, 304 p., [174] p. of plates of color and black-and-white plates; 31 cm. This catalog covers the holdings of the Manuscripts Division, The Scheide Library, the Princeton University Art Museum, and the Princeton Theological Seminary. It is also available from Princeton University Press.

Publication of the new catalogue will be celebrated in an international conference organized by the Index of Christian Art: “Manuscripta Illuminata: Approaches to Understanding Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts.” The conference will be held at Princeton University on October 25–26, 2013. For information about the conference and its speakers, go to

For information about Princeton manuscripts, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Jean de Meun as author. Garrett Ms. 126, fol. 29v. Gift of Robert Garrett, Class of 1897. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.














St. Luke painting the Virgin Mary. Princeton Ms. 87, fol. 17r. Gift of Edna Reed, from the collection of David Aiken Reed, Class of 1900. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.


A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox

“In the fullness of time,” declared the American historian George Bancroft in 1866, summarizing the nation’s previous 250 years, “a republic rose up in the wilderness of America.” The current exhibition in the Main Gallery at Firestone Library, “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox,” takes its title from Bancroft’s speech. The exhibition begins with early English settlement and contact with the native peoples, and then traces the growth of the American nation to the end of the Civil War, against a background of evolving natural and built environments. The treasures on display bear witness to the people and events that created an enduring political union and shaped the American experience.

On view are some of Princeton’s finest holdings of American historical manuscripts, autograph letters, rare books, maps, broadsides, prints, photographs, and other original materials preserved in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections and the Scheide Library. Among them are William Strachey’s extra-illustrated eyewitness account of the Jamestown Colony, John Eliot’s Indian Bible, George Washington’s land surveys, John Trumbull’s final sketch for his painting of the Battle of Princeton, Alexandre Berthier’s map of Princeton in 1783, leaves from Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book, views of landscapes and wildlife by John James Audubon and George Catlin, a letter by Frederick Douglass on slavery, first editions of The Book of Mormon and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Abraham Lincoln’s manuscript draft of a speech on sectionalism, and General George B. McClellan’s collection of Civil War photographs. An accompanying online exhibition, featuring selected items on display, is available at

This exhibition was made possible through the generosity of Princeton alumni and their families, past and present; particularly, the late Margaret P. Nuttle, a descendant of Patrick Henry and mother of Philip E. Nuttle, Jr. (Class of 1963). The Barksdale-Dabney-Henry Fund that she created supports the important work of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on documenting and celebrating early American history. Major Princeton collectors whose gifts of Americana are on display include Sinclair Hamilton (Class of 1906), André de Coppet (Class of 1915), William H. Scheide (Class of 1936), Lloyd E. Cotsen (Class of 1950), Leonard L. Milberg (Class of 1953), J. Dennis Delafield (Class of 1957) and Penelope Johnson, and Sidney Lapidus (Class of 1959). The Library thanks William H. Scheide and Paul Needham (Scheide Librarian) for permission to exhibit some of the Scheide Library’s greatest treasures.

The exhibition is free and open to the public, and is on view in the Main Gallery of Firestone Library from February 22 through August 4, 2013, week­days from 9 am to 4:45 pm, and week­ends from noon to 5 pm.

The Friends of the Library are sponsoring two events in conjunction with the exhibition. James McPherson, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, Emeritus, will give a lecture on the Civil War at 5:00pm on Wednesday, March 5, in McCormick Hall Room 101. Sean Wilentz, the George Henry Davis 1886 Professor of American History, will present a lecture at 3:30pm on Sunday, May 5 in McCormick Hall Room 101 to celebrate the official opening of the exhibition. Both lectures will be followed by a reception in the Main Gallery at Firestone Library. Treasures that will be on view specially for these events include Charles Mason’s and Jeremiah Dixon’s 1768 hand-drawn map, and souvenir copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment signed by Abraham Lincoln.

WILLIAM STRACHEY (1572–1621), “The First Decade Conteyning the Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania,” 1612. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

WILLIAM STRACHEY (1572–1621), “The First Decade Conteyning the Historie of Travell into Virginia Britania,” 1612. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

$100,000 Reward! (New York, 1865). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

$100,000 Reward! (New York, 1865). Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

A New Handel Acquisition

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce the acquisition of an eighteenth-century scribal score (297 pages) of George Frideric Handel’s three-act opera Berenice, copied by a contemporary Handel copyist (“S2”) from the composer’s autograph manuscript. The scribal score is complete but for Berenice’s aria “Avvertite mie pupille” and opens with the title page reading, “Berenice Opera Composta per il Sgr G:F: Handel / Comminciato Decembr: 15 1736.” Handel’s opera seria concerning the life and loves of Queen Cleopatra Berenice of Egypt around 80 B.C.E. was based on an Italian libretto by the Florentine poet Antonio Salvi, who entitled it Berenice, regina d’Egitto. The opera premiered at London’s Covent Garden in May 1737. The present score was in the library of Charles Jennens and bears his shelfmark. Jennens was Handel’s patron and is perhaps best known as the librettist of Messiah. The score is for voices and orchestra (strings, oboes, bassoons, and continuo), with figured bass throughout and a few additional figures added by Charles Jennens. The complete manuscript can be viewed online here.

The manuscript will complement the Library’s James S. Hall Collection of George Frideric Handel, in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Among eighteenth-century scribal scores in the manuscripts portion of the Hall-Handel Collection (C0640) are those for the oratorios Belshazzar, John Balus, and Joseph, copied in about 1745 by John Christopher Smith (the elder) for Frederick, Prince of Wales.

The Berenice manuscript, along with several manuscripts and early printed editions from the Hall-Handel Collection will be exhibited in the Library’s Eighteenth-Century Window. The exhibition is free and open to the public, and is on view from February 21 through March 4, weekdays from 9 am to 4:45 pm, and weekends from noon to 5 pm. Additionally, Princeton University will host the American Handel Society’s biennial festival from February 21 through February 23. The 2013 festival will feature three concerts of Handel’s works performed by musicians affiliated with the University, two conference events, and the exhibition in Firestone Library. For more information about the festival, please click here.

Handel, Berenice. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Handel, Berenice. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.


Eyewitnesses to the Civil War

In a letter dated January 19, 1863, Captain Isaac Plumb, Jr., a Civil War soldier of the 61st New York Infantry of the Union Army who fought in many major battles of the war, including Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, and Cold Harbor, wrote, “it may sound very unpatriotic and unsoldier-like in me, but I must express my honest opinion.”  With those few words, the Plumb Family Papers become extraordinarily valuable—what researcher does not want the creator of an archival collection to tell their own truth rather than what that creator thinks their audience wants to hear?  The collection documents Captain Plumb’s extended family and dates from 1767 to 1929, but its particular strength lies in the letters to and from Captain Plumb during his Civil War service, just before his enlistment in 1861 until his death resulting from a wound at Cold Harbor in 1864. He wrote to and received letters from his parents, brother, uncles, and cousin’s husband regularly, and in those letters, all the correspondents, not just Captain Plumb, express their “honest opinions” about politics, philosophical ideas, and their experiences.

From this collection, researchers will see how one New York family felt about the presidential election of 1860, the South seceding from the Union, the start of the Civil War, slavery, race relations, and the value of the sacrifices made by both the Union and the Confederate. The Plumbs are keenly patriotic, and ready to fight for their country to maintain the Union. However, in vivid detail, Captain Plumb describes his loss of faith in his superiors, his real feeling about African Americans, the terrible waste of battle, and an overall disillusionment with the war. He does not protect his family from the horrors of the battlefield, despite the effect his descriptions must have had on his family, worried continually about his safety. Yet despite their fear of the fate of Captain Plumb, the lives of his family do go on; and these letters of calm amidst the chaos of war are equally illuminating as those written from a muddy army camp or a devastated battlefield.  In these letters, researchers see the home front—a landscape of women and older men; witnesses to a changing world; and the steadfast loyalty to the Union and the fight to end slavery, a sentiment increasingly at odds with that of their family member on the battlefield.

Captain Plumb was wounded during the 1864 Battle of Cold Harbor with two apparently superficial wounds, but these wounds became life threatening as infection spread. He had been taken almost immediately to Campbell Hospital in Washington, D.C., and he was fortunate to have family rush to keep him company and send reports homeward. These letters describe the hospital, the efforts by the doctors and nurses, and the “mood” of Washington, D.C., as well as how Captain Plumb received his wound and how he was recovering. He died on July 4, 1864, nearly three weeks after receiving his wounds. The collection contains his wallet, as well as the contents of the wallet at the time of death. Here, a researcher will see Captain Plumb’s unsteady handwriting as he requested company at the hospital; a single playing card; and telegram tape, folded up into a tiny envelope.

Captain Plumb’s physical life may have ended on July 4, but his memory lived on in his family and they document their love for him by erecting monuments, painting portraits, and writing about him in letters to each other, long after his death. Despite the family’s obvious pain at the time of Captain Plumb’s death, they do not seem to think that he died in vain—their patriotism and belief in the cause is evident for years following the conclusion of the Civil War.

Selected items from the Plumb Family Papers will be on exhibit in Firestone Library’s Main Gallery in Spring 2013. We invite researchers to follow these conversations between a family from the North who loyally supported their government on the home front and maintained faith despite the disillusionment of their family member on the battlefield; and one unique soldier who described his experiences honestly: camp life, battles, political and military philosophy, and the hope for the eventual healing of both soldiers and the country.

Portrait of Isaac Plumb, Jr. Not to be reproduced without the permission of Princeton University Library.

Cuneiform Collections in the Princeton University Library

Ancient Mesopotamian clay tablets with cuneiform writing, dating back over 4,000 years, will on display in the Firestone Library’s Eighteenth-Century Window from October 2 to 8. Cuneiform writing was a method of incising script into wet clay with a wedge-shaped writing implement. For nearly 3,000 years, the scribes of Mesopotamia mastered the vertical, horizontal, and oblique strokes necessary to write words and numbers in Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and other languages of the ancient Near East. The Manuscripts Division has a substantial cuneiform collection of approximately 1,350 baked and unbaked clay tablets and tablet cases, as well as some clay cylinders and nail-shaped cones. Most date from the Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur III) or Neo-Sumerian Empire, chiefly in what is now southern Iraq. The conventional date of Ur III, according to the Middle Chronology, is 2119–2004 BCE.  Cuneiform was used for all sorts of writing, from literature, law codes, and mathematical texts, to accounting records and economic documents in archives. Most of Princeton’s clay tablets are documentary and were excavated over a century ago from Telloh, Jokha, and Drehem (modern place names for the ruins of the ancient Girsu, Uma, and Puzrish-Dagan in Southern Mesopotamia). The principal donors of these were Moses Taylor Pyne, Class of 1877; Professor Rudolph Ernst Brünnow, Department of Near Eastern Studies; and other friends and alumni of Princeton University. In addition, there are 244 stone seals that were used to make impressions in clay tablets and their envelopes, from the collections of Moses Taylor Pyne; Robert Garrett, Class of 1897; and Edward D. Balken, Class of 1897. An online finding aid lists clay tablets and stone seals in the Manuscripts Division and The Scheide Library. Other clay tablets and stone seals are to be found in the Princeton University Art Museum. The Princeton Theological Seminary owns a very substantial tablet collection of clay tablets.

The tablets on display include the following:

No. 136. Baked clay cylinder of King Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 604–562 BCE). According to the Old Testament, this Neo-Babylonian king was responsible for the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and for the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem..

No. 555. Nail-shaped cone bearing the inscription of Gudea, the ensi of Lagash, Southern Mesopotamia (r. ca. 2144–2124 BCE).

No. 553. Accounting record listing expenses of women slaves during the reign of King Amar-Suen (r. 2045–2037 BCE). Third Dynasty of Ur.

No. 665. Pay-list of women (2027–2004 BCE). Third Dynasty of Ur.

No. 136. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

No. 665. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

Photographs of the Battle of Antietam in General George McClellan’s Papers

On September 17, we mark the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (1862), fought in Maryland near Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek between the armies of the Union Major General George B. McClellan and Confederate General Robert E. Lee. With over 23,000 casualties, the Battle of Antietam is still considered the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. It was also the first American battlefield photographed before those casualties were buried.

Found in the papers of George B. McClellan, Jr. (Class of 1886), a Princeton professor and one-time mayor of New York City, are some papers of his father, General George B. McClellan (1826–1885). Photographs comprise the bulk of these papers, including several dozen photos of the Battle of Antietam, many of which depict dead soldiers on the field or the makeshift tents and straw huts housing the wounded. Antietam was the only battle that McClellan fought from beginning to end, and it produced mixed results for him. Despite being a tactical draw—neither force was able to decimate the other, though General Lee retreated back into Virginia—Antietam was considered a turning point of the war for the North, ending Lee’s first attempt to enter Union territory and giving President Abraham Lincoln the confidence to announce a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862. Nevertheless, disappointed with McClellan’s failure to destroy Lee’s army, Lincoln removed him from command on November 5, 1862.

The photographs in McClellan’s papers were taken by Alexander Gardner, staff photographer to McClellan and, later, to other Union generals. As photography became more widely available in the 1830s and 1840s, war photography was encouraged in hopes that it would provide a record of historical events, beginning with daguerreotypes documenting the Mexican-American War in 1847. At the time of the Battle of Antietam, Gardner was working for photographer Mathew Brady, whose studio markings are on the back of the photographs; he would leave Brady’s studio shortly thereafter. Gardner’s photographs of Antietam and the Civil War, which were displayed in Brady’s New York gallery, sold as prints, and published as woodcut engravings in newspapers throughout the country, shocked their viewers, many of whom saw these devastating scenes of war for the first time.

Selections from these photographs will be on display in an upcom­ing exhi­bi­tion of Amer­i­can his­tory in Firestone’s Main Gallery in Spring 2013. McClellan’s papers are among more than a hundred collections in the Manuscripts Division that relate in whole or part to the Civil War. Other collections include the Civil War Letters of Adam Badeau, John S. Copley Civil War Letters, Roswell Lamson Papers, and American Civil War Collection. Bound manuscripts relating to the Civil War, including diaries, letter books, order books, and drafts of memoirs and histories of the war, can also be found in General Manuscripts collections C0199 and C0938, accessible through the Main Catalog. These are complemented by holdings of other divisions and collections of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, as well as the Scheide Library.

Click on each image to see larger photo. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library:

Early American History in the Livingston and Delafield Family Papers

Could an empty box have a story to tell? One such box does. As a result of the ongoing Firestone renovation, Library staff clearing an old storage area recently discovered an early 19th-century document box or chest (36 x 69 x 30 cm), made of wood covered in patterned wallpaper, with residues of red sealing wax, and still with its original hand-wrought iron handles and clasps. The box was probably made in New York around 1815, since it is lined on the inside with printers’ waste from a published address by Dr. David Hosack (1769–1835), Princeton Class of 1789, titled “Observations on the Laws Governing the Communication of Contagious Diseases, and the Means of Arresting their Progress.” Hosack read this address on June 9, 1814 before the newly formed Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York, which published it a year later in its journal, Transactions of the Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York, vol. 1 (1815), pp. 201-239. This volume was printed by Van Winkle & Wiley, a New York printing-and-publishing firm established by Cornelius Van Winkle and Charles Wiley in 1814 at 3 Wall Street–the forerunner of the scientific publisher John Wiley & Sons. Hosack was a physician, botanist, and educator, perhaps best known for treating the mortal wounds of Alexander Hamilton after his duel with Aaron Burr in 1804. In the 1814 address, Hosack gave his opinions about the rate of infection for yellow fever, which had ravaged New York in 1803. The Manuscripts Division has a collection of Hosack’s papers.

A note on the box indicated that it had come to Princeton in the 1980s with the Livingston and Delafield family papers, which were given to the Library in 1986 by Mr. J. Dennis Delafield (Class of 1957) and Professor Penelope D. Johnson. They had originally been housed at Montgomery Place, Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., just over a hundred miles north of New York City. Montgomery Place was the ancestral summer residence of many members of the Livingston and Delafield families. In document boxes such as this, family members kept bundles of personal, political, and legal papers.

The Edward Livingston Papers, comprising 165 boxes of papers as well as maps, rolls, and other artifacts, is one of Princeton University Library’s most extensive collections documenting the early American republic. These papers trace the career of American lawyer, diplomat, statesman, and legal theorist Edward Livingston (1764–1836). The bulk of the collection consists of 56 boxes of Livingston’s correspondence, spanning most of his adult life, including letters from renowned lawyers, economists, jurists, and politicians. Jeremy Bentham, Aaron Burr, Mathew Carey, Henry Dilworth Gilpin, and Martin Van Buren are just a few of the correspondents. Livingston’s papers also document his work on the Louisiana Civil Code and advocacy of penal reform and the abolition of capital punishment, as well as his role in President Andrew Jackson’s administration as a supporter in the Congress and Senate, and later as U.S. Secretary of State and minister to France. Perhaps the most important document in his papers is his draft of the “Nullification Proclamation,” written by Livingston for Jackson during the Nullification Crisis in 1832.

Moreover, the collection encompasses an abundance of legal records, land records, and financial records, many of which pertain to Livingston’s law practice and private affairs, from a scandal involving the disappearance of customs house funds in 1803 to his entanglement with General James Wilkinson over his alleged conspiracy with Aaron Burr and his split with President Thomas Jefferson over title to land in New Orleans, Louisiana. The collection also contains the land records and financial documents of Livingston’s mother and sister, the Hudson Valley landowners Margaret Beekman Livingston (1724–1800) and Janet Livingston Montgomery (1743–1828), and almost three centuries’ worth of ledgers, account books, rent books, day books, receipts, and balance sheets.

The Delafields were avid collectors of family history and family-related memorabilia in the Hudson River Valley region. John Ross Delafield (Class of 1896)’s papers comprise the largest segment of the Delafield Family Papers. As president of the Reserve Officers Association from 1923 to 1926 and of the Military Order of World War from 1930 to 1933, his correspondence and other records reflect his avid interest in genealogy and local history, his views on the cancellation of Allied war debts from World War I, and his advocacy of military preparedness. The papers of John Ross Delafield’s grandfather, Joseph Delafield (1790-1875), a lawyer, soldier, and scientist, are also extensively represented. They include college notebooks; correspondence, proceedings, survey maps, and accounts relating to the United States Boundary Commission survey of the Canadian border under the Treaty of Ghent; correspondence relating to the Lyceum of Natural History (later the New York Academy of Science), of which he was president from 1827 to 1866; and records of the 46th Infantry during the War of 1812 and the bounty claims of some its veterans. Major Delafield’s main correspondents include John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Benjamin Silliman, and Benjamin Tallmadge.

J. Dennis Delafield and Penelope Johnson also gave the Library a generous endowment that supported the cataloging and preservation of these papers, and which continues to support the processing of other early American manuscript collections. The Library looks forward to reporting on further discoveries to be made from these collections. Other significant collections of early American history in the Manuscripts Division include the Andre De Coppet Collection (Class of 1915), Louis Alexandre Berthier Collection, Blair and Lee Family Papers, Rush Family Papers, and Stockton Family Papers. Items from many of these collections, including this document box, will be on display in an upcoming exhibition of American history in Firestone’s Main Gallery in Spring 2013.

Document box, open. Edward Livingston Papers and Delafield Family Papers. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Document box, closed. Edward Livingston Papers and Delafield Family Papers. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Fitzgerald in Hollywood

The Princeton University Library’s extensive collections of materials relating to F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896—1940) (Class of 1917) have been enhanced by a recent gift of 22 items from Margaret Finney McPherson. These include over a dozen letters from Fitzgerald to McPherson’s parents, Fitzgerald’s Princeton classmate and friend Eben Finney (Class of 1919) and Eben’s wife, Margaret, as well as letters by Fitzgerald’s wife, Zelda (1900—1948), and his daughter, Scottie (1921—1986).

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters are dated between 1936 and 1938, and serve as a window into the last years of his life, when he moved to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. As he explains to the Finneys in one letter, “A writer not writing is practically a maniac within himself. Because of this—I mean too many anxieties and too much introspection I’m going to Hollywood next month & extrovert a while, do a picture on order for Harlowe & Robert Taylor, and then some other work for Metro if they want me to stay on.”

In Hollywood, Fitzgerald signed a contract with MGM for $1,000 a week, which was later renewed for $1,250, a substantial sum during the Depression. He worked on many movies, including Gone with the Wind, but received a screenwriting credit for only one, Three Comrades. He describes his work on Three Comrades in a letter to the Finneys, written on MGM letterhead; in other letters, he mentions working with the actor and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart and offers his impressions of Hollywood and the movie industry.

Many of his letters also reveal his anxieties about parenting his teenage daughter Frances Scott “Scottie” Fitzgerald. He expressed concerns about her grades, her romantic life, and the influence of his lifestyle upon her own, and repeatedly urged the Finneys to allow their daughter, Margaret “Peaches” Finney, to join Scottie on a visit to Hollywood where, he promised, he would introduce them to movie stars but not to alcohol or marijuana. In 1938, Peaches and Scottie did visit Hollywood, where they had their picture taken with the actor Errol Flynn.

Fitzgerald died of a massive heart attack in Hollywood at age 44. His last work, left unfinished at the time of his death and published posthumously as The Last Tycoon (1941), reflects his years in Hollywood in its main character, Monroe Stahr, who was inspired by the producer Irving Thalberg. The collection includes a letter from Fitzgerald’s widow, Zelda, thanking Margaret Finney for her support after Fitzgerald’s death. The Finneys lived in Baltimore, where the Fitzgeralds had also lived for several years. “[Fitzgerald] thought so happily of Baltimore,” Zelda wrote. “His people came from Maryland and he always felt that getting back to those flowering and peaceful slopes was to be going home. He loved the hospitable white roads and the immaculacy of the bright green fields, and always hoped that someday he would be able to live there forever.”

These materials have been added to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Additional Papers. Other collections at the Library with extensive material related to the Fitzgeralds include the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, Zelda Fitzgerald Papers, Craig House Medical Records on Zelda Fitzgerald, Ginevra King Collection Relating to F. Scott Fitzgerald, and H. N. Swanson Files on F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Carl Van Vechten, photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald, undated. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.