“I am, and ever have been, a great reader, and have read almost everything — a library cormorant. I am deep in all out-of-the-way books, whether of the monkish times or of the puritanical aera. I have read and digested most of the historic writers, but I do not like history. Metaphysics and poetry and ’ facts of mind ’ (i.e. accounts of all strange phantasms that ever possessed your philosophy-dreamers, from Theuth the Egyptian to Taylor the English pagan) are my darling studies. In short, I seldom read except to amuse myself, and I am almost always reading.” — Samuel Taylor Coleridge, November 19, 1796.
This past December, the Library purchased six books formerly owned by Coleridge, thereby doubling the number of books once in his library now held by Princeton. In one day we added as many as it had taken more than 100 years to accumulate. (Among the very first of those earlier arrivals was one acquired by Moses Taylor Pyne and given to the Library in 1895, as reported in the Daily Princetonian of November 8 for that year. The Pyne gift is marked with the accession number “Sesq. 562” which indicates book number 562 in a collection marking the “Sesquicentennial” of Princeton.)
The newly purchased books were among the 24 lots consigned by the direct descendants of the poet and sold at Sotheby’s in London on 13 December 2007. These 24 lots consisted of the following: • 5 lots were materials relating to the Coleridge family • 19 lots were S.T. Coleridge personal letters, papers, and inscribed books. Of the 19 lots, seven were manuscripts. The remaining lots were inscribed printed books.
The Library acquired the following books, listed here in chronological order by date of imprint:
• Hugh of Saint Victor. De sacramentis christianae fidei. Strassburg: [Printer Of The 1483 Jordanus De Quedlinburg (Georg Husner)], 30 July 1485. This copy also formerly owned by Michael Wodhull with his arms on the front cover and his inscription dated “Jan. 5th 1795”.
• Plotinus. Operum philosophicorum omnium libri liv in sex enneades distributi. Ex antiquiss. codicum fide nunc primum Graece editi, cum Latina Marsilii Ficini interpretatione & commentatione. Basel: Perneas Lecythus [I.E. Pietro Perna], 1580. Includes annotations by Coleridge.
• John Spencer. De legibus Hebraeorum ritualibus et earum rationibus…libri tres. Cambridge: Joan Hayes For (London) Richard Chiswell, 1685.
• Sir Francis Bacon. The Works…In Four Volumes. With Several Additional Pieces, Never Before Printed In Any Edition Of His Works. To Which Is Prefixed, A New Life Of The Author, By Mr. Mallet. London: A. Millar, 1740.
• William Cowper. The Life, And Posthumous Writings…With An Introductory Letter…By William Hayley. Chichester: J. Seagrave For (London:) J. Johnson, 1803.
• Charles Augustus Tulk (transl. and ed.) of Emmanuel Swedenborg, The Doctrine of New Jerusalem respecting the Lord. London: T. Bensley, Neely, and Jones, 1812. Inscribed on front endpaper: “For my Friend S. T. Coleridge from Cha: Aug: Tulk.”
These six were purchased at auction by antiquarian bookseller Christopher Edwards and were acquired by the Library directly from him shortly thereafter.