Walter Houk Collection of Ernest Hemingway

The Walter Houk Collection of Ernest Hemingway is now open and available to researchers.

The Manuscripts Division recently received a gift of five boxes of manuscripts, correspondence, stenographer’s notebooks, photographs, and nautical charts from Walter Houk. The papers document the friendship between Walter and his wife Juanita Jensen Houk and the Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway was writing his last major works, Across the River and into the Trees (1950) and The Old Man and the Sea (1952).

Juanita Jensen Houk, an employee of the American Embassy in Havana, received government clearance to work as Ernest Hemingway’s secretary from 1949 to 1952. In 1952, she married Walter Houk, a diplomatic officer at the Embassy. Their wedding reception was held at Finca Vigía, the Hemingways’ house near Havana. The couple were frequent visitors at the finca, where they used the library, swam in the pool, went fishing on Hemingway’s boat Pilar, and drank daiquiris with him at the Floridita bar.

The collection offers a multifaceted view of the author during a particularly prolific and creative period. Juanita Jensen Houk’s stenographer’s notebooks, with typed transcriptions, of over a hundred of Hemingway’s dictated letters include letters not only to his friends and family but also to publishers and agents. He reported on his book’s progress to Charles Scribner and wrote to A. E. Hotchner about serializing Across the River and into the Trees in the magazine Cosmopolitan. In letters to Malcolm Cowley, he discussed fellow authors such as Saul Bellow, Truman Capote, Gertrude Stein, and Eudora Welty. In addition, the collection contains the Houks’ own correspondence with the Hemingways, including nine letters by Ernest Hemingway and fourteen by his wife Mary, photographs of the Hemingways and Houks on the Pilar, and Walter Houk’s manuscript memoirs about Hemingway and Havana.

Walter Houk’s reminiscences of his friendship with Hemingway during the Havana years form key parts of Paul Hendrickson’s new biography, Hemingway’s Boat: Everything He Loved in Life, and Lost, 1934-1961 (Knopf, 2011). The book reassesses Hemingway’s creative life and personal relationships through his attachment to his cherished boat Pilar. According to Hendrickson, “The archive where I have spent the most time in these last seven or so years of research and writing is Firestone Library at Princeton. The university is an hour and ten minutes from my front door; the car knows the way.” He calls the Princeton University Library’s Archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, which con­tains some 2,000 pieces of cor­re­spon­dence between Hem­ing­way and his edi­tors, and the Car­los Baker Col­lec­tion of Ernest Hem­ing­way “my centripetal research force. Nearly all the letters I quote from or make reference to in this book I have sat and held and read in the chapel-like Dulles Reading Room at Firestone.”

The Walter Houk Collection is a robust addition to the Library’s Hemingway materials. Other related collections include the Ernest Hemingway Collection, Hemingway/Lanham Correspondence, Patrick Hemingway Papers, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., Files of Hemingway and Pound, Ernest Hemingway Documents and Tax-related Papers, and Ernest Hemingway and Milford J. Baker Correspondence.

Walter Houk, Ernest Hemingway on the flying bridge of the Pilar, 1951. Man­u­scripts Divi­sion, Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library. Not to be repro­duced with­out the per­mis­sion of the Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity Library.

A Gatsby Visit

One of the highlights of the summer of 2011 was a visit to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on June 28 by Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann and members of his production team. Their visit to Princeton was in connection with production of a new movie version of The Great Gatsby. Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts, showed Luhrmann and the others F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heavily corrected galleys of Trimalchio, an early version of The Great Gatsby. In the photograph below, Luhrmann is in the foreground. The galleys are part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, which the author’s daughter Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan donated to the Princeton University Library in 1950. Skemer explained how Fitzgerald’s creative process can be traced in his own papers and related materials preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Particularly revealing is the author’s extensive correspondence with the legendary literary editor Maxwell Perkins at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Fitzgerald’s publisher. After the visit, Luhrmann wrote to Skemer to say, “Having returned from our trip to Princeton, I just wanted to reach out and thank you once again. Seeing those materials and hearing you articulate Fitzgerald’s processes really gave us a second burst of energy.” The British actress Carey Mulligan, who will play Daisy Buchanan in the movie, also visited to view portions of the Fitzgerald Papers and in particular to discuss the author’s relationship with Ginevra King, who served as a model for Daisy, Jay Gatsby’s lost love. Ginevra King’s letters to Fitzgerald and diary are also preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Mulligan, who earned an Oscar nomination for best actress in 2010, told the Huffington Post: “I went to Princeton where they keep all [Fitzgerald’s] papers and I got to look at Zelda Fitzgerald’s medical records and . . . the most amazing stuff.” Filming has begun in Sydney, Australia, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Caraway. Luhrmann’s new movie of The Great Gatsby is scheduled for a New York premiere in December 2012.

Baz Luhrmann, right, examines F. Scott Fitzgerald's papers. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.

Online Cataloging and Digitization for Islamic Manuscripts

Cataloging is now available online for most of the nearly 10,000 Islamic manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. These extraordinary holdings of Islamic manuscripts constitute the premier collection of Islamic manuscripts in the Western Hemisphere and among the finest in the world. About two-thirds of these were the gift of Robert Garrett, Class of 1897. 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 manuscripts by searching the Library’s online catalog. The Library has digitized 200 manuscripts in the Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts.

Over the past two years, the Princeton University Library has created online biblio­graphic records covering its collections of Arabic manuscripts in the Garrett and New Series. These had previously been only described in three printed catalogs: Descriptive Catalog of the Garrett Collection of Arabic Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library (P. K. Hitti, N. A. Faris, and B. `Abd al-Malik), Catalogue of Arabic Manuscripts (Yahuda Section) in the Garrett Collection (R. Mach), and Handlist of Arabic Manuscripts (New Series) in the Princeton University Library (R. Mach and E. Ormsby). Over two-thirds of the Library’s some 10,000 volumes of Islamic manuscripts are described in these catalogs. The catalogs were converted to XML format, and the resulting files were then edited for accuracy and consistency—they now have authorized names, properly romanized titles, and appropriate subject headings. The files were then imported into the Library’s online catalog. Still underway is an effort to link records that describe multi-text volumes.

The Third Series, comprising over 750 volumes in Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu, and Jawi, has been completely cataloged, and a finding aid has been created for the William McElwee Miller Collection of Bābī Writings and Other Iranian Texts, 1846-1923, comprised of 47 volumes of writings of the Bāb, Subḥ-i Azal, and Bahá’u’lláh, and their respective followers. The collection also includes Sufi texts and an anti-Islamic polemic writings. The Miller collection has been digitized, largely from microfilm, and is being made available online by the Library as a service to scholarship. File sizes are large (30-590 MB) and may take some time to download.

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

Botanical treatise in Arabic. Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 583H. Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

Gwen John’s Watercolors on Exhibit in Firestone Library

A group of recently rediscovered watercolors by British painter Gwen John (1876–1939) are on exhibit in the Eighteenth-Century Window of Firestone Library from November 21 through December 31. Thanks to new research by Professor Anna Gruetzner Robins, University of Reading (UK), two albums containing 23 unsigned watercolors have been identified as the work of  Gwen John. The albums are in the extensive papers of the British poet and critic Arthur Symons (1865–1945), preserved in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Gwen John was the sister of British artist Augustus John (1878–1961) and the one-time lover and model of French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). She is now recognized as one of the most important painters of her generation. Made during the artist’s productive years, beginning in 1917, many of the watercolors depict nuns, women parishioners, and orphaned girls in the Catholic church at Meudon, the Paris suburb where Gwen John lived for nearly 30 years. Almost all of these subjects are viewed from the back. Other watercolors in the album portray a woman in a train carriage, a woman wearing a striking boa, and a black cat in a window. A few of the watercolors have pencil sketches on the reverse. Gwen John gave the albums to Symons in June 1920. Both were natives of Pembrokeshire, in South Wales.

In an article just published in the Princeton University Library Chronicle, Professor Robins shows the relationship of the Princeton albums to two albums once belonging to the New York attorney and art collector John Quinn (1870–1924) and to works in British institutions. Robins notes, “Symons and John belonged to interconnecting networks that brought artists, writers, actors, gallery owners, and collectors together in the increasingly international world of Paris, London, and New York….Gwen John’s oil painting has undergone a major reassessment in recent years. The discovery of the two Symons albums makes a considerable contribution to an understanding of her greatness.” The American painter and art collector A. E. Gallatin (1881–1952) acquired the papers and albums from the widow of Arthur Symons and donated them to the Princeton University Library in 1951.

For more information, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, at

Gwen John, untitled watercolor. Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. Not to be reproduced without the permission of the Princeton University Library.

“George Segal: Sculptor as Photographer”

The exhibition “George Segal: Sculptor as Photographer” opens at the Princeton University Library on July 25. It focuses on the American artist George Segal (1924–2000), who spent most of his creative life in nearby North Brunswick, N.J. He is best known as a sculptor of distinctive plaster figures cast from life and placed, sometimes with other figures and objects, in tableaux or “environments.” But Segal worked in other mediums as well, including photography, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. Photography complemented Segal’s interest in the built environments of New York and New Jersey. Often accompanied by his friend, photographer Donald Lokuta, Segal began taking day trips through the streets of New York, especially the East Village and Lower East Side, as well as Newark’s Ironbound district. He was fascinated by Coney Island and Jersey Shore towns, such as Asbury Park, Keansburg, and Seaside Heights.

Segal selected 26 of his photographs for the portfolio Sequence: New York/New Jersey, 1990–1993. But most of his nearly 7,000 surviving photographs, donated to Princeton in 2009 by the George and Helen Segal Foundation, are unknown. They are preserved as part of the George Segal Papers, comprising nearly 80 linear feet of correspondence, business files, and original art, in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. The Segal exhibition, curated by Valerie Addonizio and Don Skemer, aims to make Segal’s photography better known and to show how his sculpture and photography were related. Like his sculptures, Segal’s photographs capture ordinary people and the mundane details of life. People often seem lost in thought, alone despite being in public places. Segal also photographed mannequins in store windows and other plaster-cast figures, perhaps because his own sculpture was based on life casts. But beyond any connection with his own sculpture, Segal was interested in photography as art.

George Segal was born in New York City and came of age as an artist at a time when Avant-Garde art and Abstract Expressionism were most influential. He began his working life as a New Jersey poultry farmer in North Brunswick, yet continued to paint, sculpt, and exhibit his work through the 1950s. In 1957 his farm was the setting for the first outdoor “Happening,” organized by the American painter and performance artist Allan Kaprow. This arts event was a harbinger of the 1960s, when Segal became a full-time artist and played an important part in the Pop Art movement, along with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. In 1961, Segal pioneered his signature technique of sculpting people, sometimes family and friends, by means of applying plaster bandages.

Segal’s works are found in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum; Smithsonian Institution, and in many other American and international museums, including the Centre National d’Art Contemporain (Paris), the Musée des Beaux-Arts (Montreal), and the National Museuum of Art (Osaka, Japan). His “Bread Line” (1991), vividly recalling life during the Great Depression, and two other bronze sculptures were commissioned for the FDR Memorial, in Washington, D.C. Segal donated his “Abraham and Isaac—In Memory of May 4, 1970” (1979) to Princeton University, and the Segal Foundation recently donated “Circus Acrobats” (1981) to the Princeton University Art Museum.

Exhibition in the Milberg Gallery, Firestone Library

Gallery hours: September 5–February 12, Monday–Friday, 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Saturday–Sunday, 12:00–5:00 pm

Public Program in McCormick 101

Sunday, November 6, 2011, 3:00–4:00 pm

Art historian Phyllis Tuchman will give an illustrated public lecture, “George Segal: Sculptor, Painter, Photographer.”

For more information about the George Segal exhibition or his papers, please contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts,  A description of Segal’s papers is available online at

George Segal, Manhattan at Night, 1986. © George and Helen Segal Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y. Not to be reproduced without permission of VAGA.