Ancient Images

The oldest original art in the Princeton University Library dates back to the Akkadian Empire of southern Mesopotamia, ca. 2350–2150 BCE. It comes in the form of figurative images incised into circular stone cylinder seals, sometimes accompanied by cuneiform writing. These were essentially roll tools, usually made with a hole drilled through the center of the cylinder to facilitate wearing it around the neck for portability. Over the course of several thousand years, such seals were used to make authoritative impressions in wet clay, which could serve, almost like an official signature, to authenticate cuneiform documents. They had other purposes as well. Nearly all of the Library’s seals are in the Manuscripts Division’s Stone Seals Collection (C0849), which contains 241 stone seals from Mesopotamia, Syria, and other areas. After more than four millennia, most of these stone cylinders are so well preserved that they can still be used to make clear images in a modeling clay, such as Plasticine, which can then be photographed under raking light to produce a digital image. One may also digitally photograph cylinder seals directly and reverse the image to produce something that looks like the impression that would have been made in clay. Either way, one brings alive for modern viewers the visual landscape, legends, and religious beliefs of the ancient peoples.

Below, for example, one can see such a modern impression made in clay from one of Princeton’s cylinder seals, a greenish Akkadian example (Stone Seals Collection, Garrett no. 4). Here is how the image has been described: “Contest scene involving eight figures. At the right are two lions, each held by a lahmu, a nude bearded hero, who grasps one of the lions’ hind legs and rests his own foot on the lion’s neck. To the left, a bison is held by a bearded human figure wearing a kilt and a fez-like headdress; behind the latter is a god who holds another figure, perhaps a bison or more likely a kusarikku, or bearded bull-man, in similar fashion. The proportions of the figures are in many places rather irregular; note in particular the left lahmu, whose head seems unusually small and whose left leg is completely out of proportion to the rest of his body.”

The seals are in three collections separately assembled and donated by generous Princeton donors: Moses Taylor Pyne (1855-1921), Class of 1877; Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897; and Edward D. Balken (1874-1960), Class of 1897. The seals range in age from Sumerian and Akkadian examples of the 2nd and 3rd millennia BCE to Persian examples of the pre-Islamic Sassanian period. The stone seals are primarily cylinder seals and stamp seals carved from hematite, serpentine, steatite, chalcedony, chlorite, lapis lazuli, quartz, and other minerals, much of which was probably mined in ancient Persia. The seals are numbered as follows: Pyne, nos. 31-135; Garrett, nos. 1-49, 136-143; and Balken, nos. 1-77. In addition to stone seals, seal impressions can be found on some of the approximately 1,350 clay tablets in the Princeton Cuneiform Collection (C0848), the bulk dating from the Third Dynasty of Ur (Ur III).

The finding aid is comprised of two unpublished preliminary listings: (1) Rudolf H. Mayr, “Preliminary Checklist of Stone Seals in the Princeton University Library”; and (2) Albrecht Goetze, “Mesopotamian Seals in the Collection of Robert Garrett.” Cyrus H. Gordon wrote several brief articles relating in whole or part to the Princeton collections: “Seals from Ancient Western Asia,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 12, no. 2 (1951), pp. 49-54; “Near Eastern Seals and Cuneiform Tablets,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, vol. 14, no. 1 (1952), pp. 45-46; “Near Eastern Seals in Princeton and Philadelphia,” Orientalia, new series, vol. 22, fasc. 3 (1953), pp. 242-50, plates 57-70. There is also one stone seal in the Scheide Library and a substantial collection of stone seals in the Princeton University Art Museum. For more information about the collection in the Manuscripts Division, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Seal impression (Princeton Stone Seal Collection, Garrett no. 4)

Benjamin Taylor Collection of Philip Roth Materials

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce that the Benjamin Taylor Collection of Philip Roth Materials (C1609) is now available for research. Philip Roth (1933-2018) was one of the foremost American authors of his time. His published works include 30 novels, from his novella Goodbye Columbus (1959) and highly successful Portnoy’s Complaint (1969), to Nemesis (2010). Roth won many literary honors, including a Pulitzer Prize in Fiction (1998) for his novel American Pastoral (1997), as well as two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, and the Man Booker International Prize. Roth was born in Newark, New Jersey, and taught Creative Writing at Princeton University, 1962-64. The New York Times described him as “the last of the great white males: the triumvirate of writers—Saul Bellow and John Updike were the others—who towered over American letters in the second half of the 20th century. Outliving both and borne aloft by an extraordinary second wind, Mr. Roth wrote more novels than either of them.” Benjamin Taylor met Philip Roth in 1995, and the two authors became close friends and confidants for the rest of Roth’s life. Taylor is the author of the novels Tales Out of School (1995) and The Book of Getting Even (2008), as well as a number of nonfiction books, including Proust: The Search (2015) and The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered (2017). He is also the editor of Saul Bellow: Letters (2010). Taylor teaches creative writing at The New School and at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

The Benjamin Taylor Collection comprises three boxes of materials arranged in three series (Written Work, Biographical Materials, and Correspondence). Holograph leaves and corrected typescripts and proofs show the author at work. In 2001, Roth sent Taylor the galleys of The Dying Animal, and thereafter Taylor became a first reader for each of Roth’s books. Roth also gave Taylor a number of notes and drafts of several of his works. Most notable of these are 80 early holograph leaves from Operation Shylock, September 1990-May 1991. Roth also shared personal materials with Taylor, including letters and autobiographical essays, providing his younger friend with a insight into the profound difficulties Roth faced with age. Roth dedicated Exit Ghost to Taylor; an inscribed copy of the sixth draft in typescript is included in this collection. In turn, Taylor asked Roth for editorial comments on his memoir, The Hue and Cry at Our House: A Year Remembered; this collection includes a draft with Roth’s candid opinions on nearly every page. In addition, Roth inscribed various printed items for Taylor, including a large broadside poster containing the entire text of Everyman (2006), laid out in tiny print in six columns, with the printer’s device in the bottom left corner and Roth’s signature and the number of the print in the bottom right corner. According to Taylor, the poster was commissioned by Roth himself as a celebratory gift to close friends.

The finding aid for the Benjamin Taylor Collection is available online. The Manuscripts Division has Philip Roth correspondence and related material in the papers of Toni Morrison, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Melvin Tumin; the archives of PEN American Center; and in the Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Collection of Manuscripts, Correspondence, and Photographs. The bulk of the Philip Roth Papers are at the Library of Congress. For information about using Princeton collections, please check the finding aids site or contact Public Services at

Philip Roth, Holograph leaves for Operation Shylock

Weidenfeld & Nicolson Publishing Archives

The Manuscripts Division has acquired the archives of the distinguished publishing house of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, co-founded in 1948 by George Weidenfeld (1919-2016), a Austrian Jewish refugee from Vienna, who became a British citizen in 1947 and was knighted in 1969; and Nigel Nicolson (1917-2004), a British writer, who was the son of Sir Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. In 1985, George Weidenfeld acquired the American publisher Grove Press, and in 1991 sold his publishing company to the Orion Publishing Group. Lord Weidenfeld was aptly described in The Guardian as “a complex, multifaceted man of ideas, a perceptive publisher and skilled entrepreneur who spawned an impressive array of remarkable books.” The archives are comprised of 450 cartons of files (chiefly author files), as well as correspondence with other publishers, photographs, contracts, and other materials pertaining to their publishing activities over the course of nearly seventy years. Weidenfeld & Nicolson’s early successes included publication of Sir Isaiah Berlin’s The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953), Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1959), and James D. Watson’s The Double Helix (1968). Its publishing business expanded significantly in the decades after the controversial publication of Lolita. Among the thousands of other authors represented in the archives are Louis Auchincloss, A. J. Ayer, Cecil Beaton, Saul Bellow, Cyril Connolly, Margaret Drabble, Antonia Frazer, Martin Gilbert, Michael Grant, Eric Hobsbawm, Walter Laqueur, Vikram Seth, Claude Levi-Strauss, Rose Macaulay, Mary McCarthy, Norman Mailer, Vladimir Nabokov, Edna O’Brien, Hugh Trevor-Roper, A. L. Rowse, and Harold Wilson. The archives were packed and shipped to Princeton during the summer months and will be organized and described by the Library during the 2018-19 academic year.

For well over a half century, publishing history has been one of the Manuscript Division’s principal collecting areas, including American, British, and Latin American publishers. Archival holdings on American publishers, chiefly nineteenth and twentieth centuries, include the largely complete archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons (including author files on F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Wharton, Thomas Wolfe, and some 2500 other authors); the archives of Henry Holt, John Day Company, and Princeton University Press; selected archives of Doubleday Publishing, Harper and Brothers, G. P. Putnam, George Braziller, Derrydale Press, and Garland Publishing; complete archives of distinguished literary magazines, such as Story Magazine, The Quarterly Review of Literature, The Hudson Review, and Vuelta and Plural; papers of major publishers and editors, such as Maxwell Perkins, Harold Loeb, Edward S. Dashiell, George Haven Putnam, Saxe Commins, Sir Israel Gollancz, John Lehmann, Harold McGraw, William Jovanovich, Edward T. Chase, and Arthur H. Thornhill; archives of Harold Ober Associates, David Lloyd Agency, Brandt & Brandt, and other literary agencies; and archives of P.E.N. American Center. For information about the Manuscripts Division’s extensive holdings of publishing archives, please search the finding aids site.

Weidenfeld & Nicolson files on Lolita (1959)

Paleography and Codicology Workshop

Teaching with collections is a major (and growing) area of activity in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Most of this takes place in regularly scheduled undergraduate and graduate classes during the school year. But in recent years, there have been an increase in specially organized summer workshops using the rich resources of the Manuscripts Division. Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, has just taught a workshop on medieval paleography and codicology in the Department’s Small Classroom. It met on Wednesday afternoons between July 18 and August 15. Six Princeton graduate students participated. The workshop surveyed the evolution of Western script, from the late Roman Empire and Carolingian period to Gothic and Humanistic book hands, with weekly group exercises on reading selections of Latin manuscripts, including Princeton manuscripts produced in monastic scriptoria, commercial workshops, or copied by individual people for their own use. The workshop covered script characteristics and terminology, authorial and scribal working methods, abbreviations, punctuation, and approaches to transcription and editing; as well as codicology, with an emphasis on reading text in physical context, the archaeology of the medieval book, evolution of book formats and structure, writing materials, ruling techniques and patterns, internal organization, scholarly apparatus, physical modification of manuscripts by owners and readers over time, binding, provenance evidence, annotation, dating and localizing manuscripts, and other matters.

In one class (see photo below), Skemer explains the late fifteenth-century binding and titling of Princeton MS. 175, a German Franciscan miscellany comprised of a series of separate paper booklets containing extracts from theological readings, sermon drafts, and other texts, written by different members of this mendicant order during the period 1350-1475. The graduate students (from left to right) are Tom Davis (Classics), Rachel Gerber (History), Justin Willson (Art and Archaeology), Joe Snyder (History), and Ksenia Ryzhova (History); David Gyllenhaal (History), also a workshop participant, is not in view. Skemer has previously taught workshops on paleography and codicology through the Program in Medieval Studies and the Department of French and Italian. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, at

Ulli Steltzer (1923-2018): Photographer

The Manuscripts Division notes with sadness the passing of photographer Ulli Steltzer on 27 July, at age 94, in Vancouver, British Columbia. Steltzer was a long-time resident of Princeton, where she worked as a professional photographer from 1957 to 1972. She became a good friend of the Princeton University Library and the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, especially curators Alfred Bush and Gillett Griffin. In 2013, she donated her extensive papers and photographic archives to the Library with all copyright. The Ulli Steltzer Papers (C1454) were organized and described as part of the holdings of the Manuscripts Division, with a finding aid.

Steltzer was born Ursula Goetz in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the daughter of two art historians. She emigrated to the United States in the 1950s with her two children and moved to Princeton in 1957 to become a professional photographer for the Princeton Packet. Her Princeton photographs include J. Robert Oppenheimer, Paul Dirac, Jacques Maritan, John O’Hara, Ben Shahn, Marian Anderson, George McGovern, Adlai Stevenson, Roger Sessions, Igor Stravinsky, and other prominent Princeton intellectuals and distinguished visitors. In an autobiographical sketch prepared for the Library, Steltzer noted, “After working for the Packet for two years, they let me have their studio on Tulane Street to run my own business. That gave me the freedom I had always wanted, and I started to work on my own projects, some of them for several weeks out of town.” On frequent auto trips across the United States, armed with her Rolleiflex double-lens reflex camera, Steltzer photographed and interviewed African American families in the South, as well as Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo peoples in New Mexico and Arizona. Steltzer photographed migrant workers and urban poverty in New Jersey, Ohio, and Illinois; immigrants in Los Angeles and San Diego; African American communities and civil rights activists, including the March on Washington (1963) [see image below] and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1968).

In 1972, Steltzer relocated her studio to Vancouver. There she befriended prominent Haida artists, such as carvers Robert Davidson and Bill Reid, who would become her frequent collaborators. Steltzer documented the art, culture, and traditions of the Haida and other First Nations coastal tribes, as well as the Inuit, with whom she lived for several months. Traveling widely throughout the Americas and Asia during her long career, Steltzer also documented life in Guatemala, Cuba, China, and India. Her photographs have been exhibited widely in the United States, Canada, and Europe, and have appeared in at least a dozen books and collaborations, beginning with Indian Artists at Work (1976).

The Ulli Steltzer Papers include approximately 47,000 black-and-white negatives, contact sheets, and silver-gelatin prints, as well as manuscripts, notebooks, research files, correspondence, pamphlets, and diaries related to a number of published and unpublished photography projects spanning her entire career, from the late 1950s through 2008, including both her early Princeton portraits and later documentary photography of native peoples. Related textual materials accompany the photographs, including drafts for books and exhibition catalogs, research notes, travel diaries, transcripts of interviews, receipts, bound volumes and pamphlets, and correspondence with publishers, collaborators, and people photographed. Steltzer also donated photographic prints to the Graphic Arts Collection.

For more information about the Ulli Steltzer Papers, contact Public Services at

Ulli Steltzer, Contact sheet with photographs of the March on Washington, August 1963

After 1453: Greek Manuscripts in the Ottoman Empire and Beyond

In recent decades, the Manuscripts Division has acquired more than 130 post-Byzantine Greek manuscripts, dating from the Fall of Constantinople (1453) until Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire (1832). A number of these later Greek manuscripts are from adjacent areas, such as Wallachia and the Venetian-ruled islands of the Eastern Mediterranean. Princeton also has manuscripts produced by Greek scholars and scribes in Renaissance Italy after the fall of Byzantium, including a recently acquired 1541 manuscript of Niketas Akominatos Choniates, Chronike diegesis (Princeton MS. 252), copied by a Greek scribe in Venice for a French patron. The Library has acquired these manuscripts in part by gift and in part by purchase, with matching funds from the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund.

Recent additions to the open series Princeton Greek Manuscripts include a Iatrosophion (Ἰατροσόφιον), meaning “medical wisdom” (C0879, no. 131). Such compendia for daily medical practice had existed in the Byzantine Empire and continued to be used through the end of the nineteenth century. Princeton’s Iatrosophion, measuring 15.5 x 10.5 cm, is comprised of approximately seventy sections, written by at least five different hands. The volume may be a composite volume cobbled together from small portable paper notebooks of similar trim size. Unidentified local medical practitioners and folk healers on the island of Crete were the compilers and users of the contents of the Iatrosophion, between the late sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. This volume contains extracts from Greek medical treatises and materia medica, along with folk remedies, astrological medicine, lists of good-luck and bad-luck days for blood-letting, invocations of angels and demons, amuletic texts, charms, spells, and prognostications. Here and there, one sees magical script, Cabalistic symbols, Zodiacal signs, and pseudo-Solomonic seals. Particularly attractive are the watercolors of medicinal plants illustrating sections on herbal remedies. The plant illustrated in the manuscript image below is probably Dittany of Crete (Origanum dictamnus), an herb used since antiquity because it was believed to have medicinal value in treating dysentery, rheumatism, and other ailments. The manuscript was in such poor condition when acquired, it was almost unusable. Fortunately, it has now been skillfully conserved and rebound by Mick LeTourneaux, Rare Books Conservator, in the Library’s Collections Conservation Unit.

There are several other Greek medical and magical compilations in Princeton Greek Manuscripts (C0879), including Constantine Rhizotes’s medical commonplace book of ca. 1617 (no. 17) and an abridged Greek translation of a seventeenth-century Italian treatise on women’s health and gynecology (no. 124). Those that date before 1600 are cataloged in Princeton Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (C0938). Most post-1453 Greek manuscripts in Princeton’s collections are text manuscripts. But some are illuminated, illustrated, or are in finely executed contemporary Greek bindings. This growing collection includes theology, philosophy, chronicles, treatises on rhetoric, compilations of canon law (Nomokanon), commentaries on classical and Patristic texts; Greek Orthodox service books and anthologies of liturgical music written in post-Byzantine and Chrysantine music notation; illustrated guide books (Proskynetaria) for travelers and pilgrims visiting the Christian sacred sites in the Holy Land; collections of hymns, prayers, and poetry; and other subjects. All attest to the continuity and vitality of religious life, Hellenic learning, classroom education, traditional beliefs, and book arts among the Greek-speaking Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire and beyond.

Nearly all of these post-Byzantine Greek manuscripts have been separately cataloged and can be searched in the Library’s online catalog. For more information, contact Public Services at

Iatrosophion (C0879, no. 131)

Remains of a Lost World

A Sabaean inscription on a red sandstone block offers a fleeting glimpse of life in the southwestern part of the Roman Province of Arabia in the fifth or sixth century, before the rise of Islam. Today, religious strife and military conflict involving Saudi and Houthi rebel forces make international headlines. But then, the area was relatively peaceful, with a substantial Christian and Jewish population. Great personal wealth was possible through the incense and spice trade. Caravans transported frankincense, myrrh, and other valuable South Arabian and African commodities, from Shabwah in Hadhramaut (now a part of Yemen), to the ancient city of Petra (now in Jordan). Though incomplete and broken (see below), the inscription has been identified as a Christian dedication for a fortified house or tower. It is incised in Sabaean, a pre-Islamic Semitic language spoken and written in the ancient kingdom of Saba (the Biblical Sheba), now Yemen. This South Arabian language is chiefly known from such inscriptions.

Karl S. Twitchell, an American mining engineer active in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, purchased the inscription in June 1943 at Dhat al-Ukhdud, Najran, a key place along the ancient caravan route trade, and donated it to the Princeton University Library three years later. It was initially in Princeton’s Epigraphical Museum, founded in 1933 and housed in the old chemistry laboratory. Professor Philip K. Hitti, Department of Near Eastern Studies, facilitated the inscription’s initial study in 1945 by the British Arabist Harry St. John Bridger Philby, who was coincidentally the father of Kim Philby, the British MI-6 intelligence officer and notorious Soviet double agent. Ten years later, after the inscription had moved to the Manuscripts Division, Albert Jamme modified the elder Philby’s preliminary reading of the inscription. According to Jamme, it says that A[l]hat Ta’lubān and a second person built the tower with the help of God (“The Merciful. He [who] is in heaven”).

For more information about the inscription, see the articles by Harry St. John Bridger Philby, “Three New Inscriptions from Hadhramaut,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, no. 2 (October 1945), p. 133; and Albert Jamme, “South-Arabian Antiquities in the U.S.A.,” Bibliotheca Orientalis, vol. 12, no. 5/6 (September-November 1955), p. 152.

Sabaean inscription. Islamic Manuscripts, Third Series, no. 317e

Cambridge Edition of Fitzgerald Holograph

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s holograph of The Great Gatsby, the author’s full-length manuscript draft of his celebrated third novel, has been published by Cambridge University Press in a scholarly edition: The Great Gatsby: An Edition of the Manuscript, Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald (2018), co-edited by James L. W. West III, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Emeritus, Pennsylvania State University (who is general editor of the series); and Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. The edition includes a reading text of the holograph, as well as West’s introduction, Skemer’s bibliographical commentary, and many illustrations. Close reading of the handwritten text and a thorough analysis of physical evidence reveals much about the author’s working methods, chronology of composition, and revision and restructuring of his classic novel. In this most creative period in his life, Fitzgerald found the literary inspiration and self-discipline to produce a masterpiece that now sells hundreds of thousands of copies each year, almost a century after its first publication. Skemer’s commentary also traces the manuscript’s survival and explains how key Princeton faculty and librarians worked so tirelessly with the Fitzgerald estate to gather the author’s voluminous papers and provide a permanent home for them in the Library’s Manuscripts Division, beginning in 1943.

This book will allow critics, teachers, and students of literature to study The Great Gatsby as a fluid text. Here published for the first time is Fitzgerald’s manuscript text of 1924, begun in Great Neck, Long Island, and completed on the French Riviera, months before he would revise his text still further in the Trimalchio galleys. The novel evolved steadily from the author’s original conception (1922) to its final published form (1925). Sarah Graham, Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Leicester, notes in her review of the Cambridge edition, Times Literary Supplement (17 August 2018): “Like a jazz album offering multiple takes on a single tune, the value of this edition lies in the access it offers to the creative process. Comparing the novel published in April 1925 reveals the decisions Fitzgerald made as he revised his greatest work and supplies fascinating insights into its evolution….Seeing The Great Gatsby as it might have been shows that Fitzgerald’s drive for perfection matched that of his beloved hero.”

The Cambridge Edition of the Works of F. Scott Fitzgerald is a multi-volume edition of Fitzgerald’s collected works. The Cambridge edition was launched in the late 1980s under the general editorship of Matthew J. Bruccoli, with the approval of the Fitzgerald Literary Trust. The edition is based on the comprehensive collection of Fitzgerald’s manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, correspondence, and other papers in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Princeton also holds the archives of Charles Scribner’s Sons, Fitzgerald’s publisher, including the author’s extensive correspondence with his legendary editor Maxwell Perkins. Each volume of the Cambridge edition includes an introduction, authoritative texts, lists of emendations and variants, illustrations, and historical annotations. Bruccoli edited the first two volumes: The Great Gatsby (1991) and the retitled The Love of the Last Tycoon: A Western (1993). James L. W. West III succeeded Bruccoli as general editor in 1994 and continues in that position. The edition will include eighteen volumes when complete, including all five novels, about 165 short stories, and works of nonfiction, drama, and poetry. The present book is the seventeenth volume in the Cambridge edition; the eighteenth and final volume, a variorum edition of The Great Gatsby, is being prepared for publication (2019).

For more information about this and other volumes, go to the Cambridge University Press website. Digital images of the holograph and other Fitzgerald manuscripts are available online in the Digital Princeton University Library (DPUL).

Brazilian Acquisitions Honor Stanley J. Stein and Barbara Hadley Stein

The Princeton University Library and Program in Latin American Studies, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, are pleased to announce the acquisition of historical manuscripts about African slavery and the plantation economy in colonial and imperial Brazil. The materials were acquired in honor of Stanley J. Stein, Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, Emeritus; and his wife Barbara Hadley Stein (1916-2005), who was also a specialist on Latin American history and served for many years as the Library’s Bibliographer for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. Professor Stein joined the History Department faculty in 1953 and authored many books on Latin American economic and social history, including Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee County, 1850-1900: The Roles of Planter and Slave in a Plantation Society (1957); The Brazilian Cotton Manufacture: Textile Enterprise in an Underdeveloped Area, 1850-1950 (1957); Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe (2000); Apogee of Empire: Spain and New Spain in the Age of Charles III, 1759-1789 (2003); and Edge of Crisis: War and Trade in the Spanish Atlantic, 1789-1808 (2009). Several of his books have been translated into Spanish. The Steins worked together on several books, including The Colonial Heritage of Latin America: Essays on Economic Dependence In Perspective (1970), and were honored for their innovative studies.

This substantial archival collection just acquired in the Steins’ honor is in two parts: (Part I) A collection of 78 miscellaneous legal and other documents (1758-1888) pertaining to the history of the history of slavery in Brazil as a Portuguese colony and later as the Empire of Brazil, until the abolition of slavery in 1887. This group of documents provides insight into the slave trade, plantation economy, and lives of Afro-Brazilian slaves and their families, as for example in an 1823 petition of Maximiana Maria, a free woman of color (see image below). (Part II) Two bound volumes of transcribed financial accounts (1797-1810) of Luis Gomes Ribeiro, a member of the aristocratic Ribeiro de Avellar family, owners of the slave plantation (fazenda) of Pau Grande and its manor house, in the rural parish of Paty do Alferes, about 100 kilometers northwest of Rio de Janeiro, first producing only sugarcane but later expanding to other foodstuffs; and 144 letters (1831-58) written by Domingos Alves da Silva Porto, manager of Avellar & Companhia, an agricultural export business in Rio de Janeiro, to Joaquim Ribeiro de Avellar (1791-1863), first barão do Capivari, a Brazilian nobleman and owner of the same plantation.

Coincidentally, Professor Stein studied the plantation economy and society of Vassouras, located forty kilometers to the west, in his doctoral dissertation (1951), which became his first published book. In 2005, Stein donated a photograph album containing 111 photographs of Vassouras taken by him during his doctoral research (C0938, no. 78q). Other holdings of the Manuscripts Division on the economic and social history of Brazil before 1900 include the Codex Diamond, a manuscript register pertaining to diamond mining in Tejuco, Minas Gerais, 1781-95, with information about buying and renting slaves (C0938, no. 639); Gongo Soco Gold Mine, also in Minas Gerais, a ledger for 1840-44, with information about slave labor (C0938, no. 409q); and the Elma Sant’Ana Collection of the Mucker Papers, concerning a community of German immigrants in southern Brazil, 1840-77 (C1566). In addition, efforts to monitor transatlantic slave trade are documented in the Papers of George W. Storer (C1433), who served in the U.S. Navy for more than a half century, including his years as a captain and then commander-in-chief of the Brazil Squadron, 1837-50, which, in part, had the goal of preventing American ships from transporting African slaves. There is also a manuscript journal of a voyage from Norfolk to Rio De Janiero on board the Brig Don Juan, 1847, kept by H. V. Weakley (C0938, no. 583). Several of these manuscripts were purchased with support from a Library fund endowed by Kenneth Maxwell, also a student of Brazilian history. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Fernando Acosta Rodriguez shows Brazilian Acquisition to Stanley J. Stein, May 10, 2018.

Petition of a free woman of color, 1823

René Char and the French Resistance

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the acquisition of papers (C1599) of the celebrated French poet René Char (1907-88), documenting his role in the Resistance (La Résistance) against Nazi occupation of France and the collaborationist Vichy régime. Char was the author of more than 30 volumes of poetry, criticism, plays, memoirs, and other works. He was a native of the Provençal town of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, located east of Avignon in the Département du Vaucluse, southeastern France. During his long and distinguished writing career, he had close literary friendships and artistic collaborations with Louis Aragon, André Breton, Albert Camus, Paul Éluard, Georges Braque, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Luis Buñuel, and others. Pierre Boulez’s musical setting of Char’s 1934 Le Marteau sans maître (“Hammer Without a Master”) was first performed in 1955. Among the translators of Char’s poetry into English are W. S. Merwin (Princeton Class of 1948) and William Carlos Williams. When Char died in 1988, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac called him “the greatest French poet of the 20th century.”

Char was a Surrealist poet of 33 when he joined the French Resistance in 1940. Under his nom de guerre Capitaine Alexandre (see photographic image below), Char lead a maquis rural guerrilla unit in the French Alps (Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur). Resistance fighters engaged in armed warfare and sabotage, provided military intelligence to Allied forces, rescued soldiers and airmen from behind the lines, published underground newspapers, and performed other patriotic acts of defiance. Char commanded maquisards in a military sector along the Durance, a tributary of the Rhône River. The sector was an Allied parachute drop zone for arms and ammunition and for the landing of British Westland Lysander airplanes on clandestine missions. He offered valuable assistance in the Allied preparation for the landing in Provence in 1944. For his heroic war service, Char was awarded the French Medal of the Resistance and the Croix de Guerre, as well as being named to the National Order of the Legion of Honor.

His wartime experiences provided inspiration for poetic expression and especially for Feuillets d’Hypnos (1946), based on notes he kept in 1943-44. Sandra Bermann, Cotsen Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Comparative Literature, Princeton University, who studies the poetry Char wrote during this period, has observed, “Feuillets d’Hypnos brings before us the lived history of the French resistance, joining traumatic memory with hopes for a future of freedom and human dialogue. Closely intertwined with Char’s own actions as captain on the maquis, the collection of prose poems offers a rare engagement with historical experience in poetic form, both a tragic affirmation of life and, in its own right, a means of resistance…..But what makes Char’s text such a telling example is that it is not only a historical inscription that allows the past to ‘survive,’ but also an ‘original’ in its own right, a highly self-conscious poetic text capable of generating a literary afterlife of its own.” (Sandra Bermann, “Translating History,” in Sandra Bermann and Michael G. Wood, eds., Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation [2005]).

René Char’s French Resistance files cover both his World War II service and the post-war decades. The files include more than 500 original documents and scores of letters addressed to Capitaine Alexandre; more than 60 autograph letters and documents by Char himself; approximately 650 letters, telegrams, and postcards from companions in the Resistance, often written under their noms de guerre; and miscellaneous notes, texts, photos, and other materials. The correspondence includes many letters from French writers and journalists, such as Émile Bouvier (1886-1973), André Rousseaux (1896-1973), and Georges Roux (1914-1999). Marie-Claude Char, the poet’s wife, organized the files and added relevant materials after his death. The files are now being rehoused and described; they will be available for research use in a few months. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at

Char as Capitaine Alexandre.
Courtesy of Marie-Claude Char