Special collections and heavy metal bands

By Daniel J. Linke, Interim Associate University Librarian for Special Collections, Princeton University Library

photo by Shelley Szwast, Princeton University Library

Amidst all the hubbub of the opening of the Emily Hale Letters from T.S. Eliot, a researcher asked me, “How many other sealed collections do you have?”  If by sealed, I replied, you mean restricted by donor covenant, there are a number, but I don’t have the exact figure in my head.  No, she replied, sealed, with metal bands, like this collection was. That answer was much easier: zero.  The reasoning for robustly sealing the collection and when it was done, however, are not well-documented, but I offer some speculation and hypothesize the answer to both here.

From the contents of the boxes, we know that the boxes were not sealed any earlier than April 1965. Though the correspondence between Hale and Eliot ended in 1957, the collection contains drafts of her narrative, including the final version from April 1965, just over three months after Eliot’s death.  Two years later, Hale donated additional material, including two additional Eliot letters.  In a letter to University Librarian William Dix, she stated that these letters need not be sealed with the other letters she previously donated.  

There are no documents that state explicitly when the collection was sealed, but sometime between these two points in time, the 12 boxes were wrapped in kraft paper and the paper taped shut.  Then six boxes were grouped and held together with four wood slats on the top, bottom, front, and back, with two large wood panels on the ends. Wire bands of the kind still used for shipping today were then wrapped around the four slats and ends and secured.  This configuration would not allow any easy or casual access to the letters.

Why? In 1965, the Firestone Library was still in its original form–there had been only a few renovations and small additions since its opening in 1948.  The biggest changes were the construction of the John Foster Dulles Library in 1960, the installation of air conditioning in 1964, and the addition of the Scheide Library in 1965.  Modern security systems did not yet exist, and Special Collections materials were protected by nothing more than an unmarked locked door within the department’s office.  That door was unlocked during the day to allow staff to retrieve materials for patrons, according to the retired Curator of Western Americana, Alfred Bush, who began working in the department in the mid-1960s.  Therefore, the entire boxed, taped, and banded contraption protected the letters from the idly curious or prying eyes. In addition, by packing six boxes together, the bulk would make it very challenging to surreptitiously squirrel away one box to some other location for private examination.

But why take the effort?  Then, as now, Princeton University Library staff took their obligations to donors seriously.  Given the notoriety of the letters, if the donor wanted the collection closed for 50 years, the librarians used the best tools at their disposal to ensure that it would be so.  Since the Firestone renovation and Special Collections’ move to its present location, restricted collections are protected by far more sophisticated measures, without the need for metal bands.  And the number of collections that are still restricted by donor covenant? Less than two dozen, but none for as long or with the anticipated expectation of these exceptional letters.

Women in 18th Century North Carolina

By Kelly Bolding, Project Archivist for Americana Manuscripts

While archival materials are usually interpreted within the context of surrounding materials, sometimes a single document can tell a story. The Manuscripts Division recently acquired an 1773 manuscript indictment from the North Carolina Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. The document summarizes the case of Margaret Smith, a woman living in 18th century North Carolina, likely as an indentured servant of William Sipards.

Smith, who was unmarried, had secretly given birth to a child that died under unexplained circumstances shortly thereafter. In the indictment, Smith is accused of asking a man who was enslaved to her employer to bury it the following day. Instead of following Smith’s instructions, the man took the child’s body to a neighboring barn. Although we do not know the circumstances of the child’s death, one can imagine the many pressures that Smith faced as a single mother with little social or economic power. While no related documents appear to be readily available in other repositories, perhaps a future researcher can locate additional pieces of Smith’s story.

This case is also notable due to the fact that Smith was indicted by an all-female jury, which would have been an anomaly for the time. The document notes that the twelve women jurors, all of whom are listed by name, were gathered by “Street Searching.” Martin Pfifer (1720–1791, also spelled Phifer) presided over the case as Justice of the Peace. While Pfifer or another agent of the court likely wrote the text of the indictment, the forewoman of the jury signed the document herself. Although the last two letters of her surname are indecipherable, her name is written as Abigil Shu– (perhaps Abigail Shuar or Shuan).

A description of this document can be found in the finding aid. For more information on visiting the Special Collections Department at Firestone Library, please see the library website or email RBSC@princeton.edu.

“Face to Face:” Emily Hale on Her Letters from T.S. Eliot

By Emma M. Sarconi, Reference Professional for Special Collections

In early March 1957, “at the urgent request of Mr. William S. Dix” (Princeton University Librarian), educator and dramatist Emily Hale drafted a review of her relationship with poet T.S. Eliot to accompany the collection of letters she donated to the Princeton Library in 1956. Completed in 1965 with the editorial support of Dix, and her long-time friends Princeton English Professor Willard Thorp, and journalist Margaret Thorp, she chronicled her relationship with the famous poet, describes the “unnatural code that surrounded us” as well as expressed her hope that through the letters’ release “at least the biographers of the future will not see this ‘a glass darkly’ but like all of life ‘face to face.’”

Upon learning of Hale’s donation of his letters to Princeton, T.S. Eliot drafted his own review of his relationship with Hale. That text can be found on Harvard’s Houghton Library Blog (see here). 

Per the agreement Hale made with the library upon her donation, the material in the Emily Hale Letters from T.S. Eliot had been sealed for fifty years following her death. On January 2, 2020, these items were made publicly available and are now open to view by all patrons. For more information on the release of these materials, please see the blog post drafted by the former Curator of Manuscripts, Don C. Skemer.

For more information on the contents of the collection, please view the collection finding aid. For more information on visiting the Special Collections Department in Princeton, please see the library website or email RBSC@princeton.edu.

Below, please find images of the final draft of Hale’s three-page narrative followed by a textual transcription. TIFF images of previous drafts as well as some of Hale’s correspondence with Dix, can be found here

At the urgent request of Mr. William S. Dix, currently Librarian of Princeton University Library, and my long-time friends, Professor and Mrs. Willard Thorp of Princeton (Professor Thorp is a prominent member of the English Department of the University), I am writing this brief review of my years of friendship with T. S. Eliot. 

We knew each other first in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he was working on his graduate course preparatory to completing his doctorate in philosophy.  He left in 1913 for such preparation in Germany. Before leaving, to my great surprise, he told me how very much he cared for me; at the time I could return no such feeling.  His subsequent life in Oxford and later citizenship in England are known by many and everyone who studies his work. At the close of the war he married an English girl whom he had met at Oxford.  This marriage was a complete surprise to his family and friends and for me particularly, as he had corresponded quite regularly with me, sent flowers for special occasions, etc.; I meanwhile trying [sic] to decide whether I could learn to care for him had he returned to the “States”. 

We did not meet until the summer of 1922, when I was in London with my aunt and uncle.  His marriage was already known to be a very unhappy affair which was affecting both his creative work and his health.  Only his closest friends at this time knew fully of the miserable relationship between his wife and him. Knowing this, I was dismayed when he confessed, after seeing me again, that his affection for me was stronger than ever, though he had assumed years of separation from his home in America and old friends would have changed his attitude toward me.  From this meeting in London until the early 30’s I was the confidante by letters of all which was pent up in this gifted, emotional, groping personality. 

He was finally legally separated from his mentally ill wife.  That they were never divorced was due to his very strong adherence to his conversion to the Anglo-Catholic Church. 

Up to 1935, between trips to America and correspondence, we saw each other and knew about each other’s life – though I had no feeling except of difficult but loyal friendship.  I taught during these years at private schools or girls’ colleges; he was becoming more and more acclaimed in the world of letters, everywhere.

Hiw [sic] wife was finally committed to an institution, leaving him emotionally freer, at least, than in many years. From 1935 – 1939, under this change in his life, he came each summer to stay in Compden, Gloucestershire, for a week or so, with my aunt and uncle who rented a charming 18th century house in the town – and to which I came for the whole summer to help my aunt in her entertaining and greatly enjoy the days in the lovely Cotswold village.  On one of his visits, we walked to nearby “Burnt Norton” – the ruins of an 18th century house and garden. “Burnt Norton”, as Tom always said, was his “love poem” for me. My relatives knew the circumstances of T.S.E.’s life, and perhaps regretted that he and I became so close to each other, under conditions so abnormal, for I found by now that I had in turn grown very fond of him. We were congenial in so many of our interests, our reactions, and emotionally responsive to each other’s needs; the happiness, the quiet deep bonds between us made our lives very rich, and the more because we kept the relationship on as honorable, to be respected plane, as we could.  Only a few – a very few – of his friends and family, and my circle of friends knew of our love for each other; and marriage – if and when his wife died – could not help but become a desired, right fulfillment. To the general public, and our friends in England and America, I was only “his very good friend”. 

Vivian Eliot died in the mid 40’s, at the close of the war, but instead of the anticipated life together which could now be rightfully ours, something too personal, too obscurely emotional for me to understand, decided T.S.E. against his marrying again.  This was both a shock and a sorrow, though, looking back on the story, perhaps I could not have been the companion in marriage I hoped to be, perhaps the decision saved us both from great unhappiness I cannot ever know. 

We met under these new difficult circumstances on each of the visits he continued to make to this country for personal or professional reasons.  The question of his changed attitude was discussed, but nothing was gained by anyffurther [sic] conversation.  However, in these years before his second marriage, he always came to see me, was gentle, and still shared with me what was happening to him, or took generous interest in speaking at the school where I then taught. 

The second marriage in 1947 I believe took everyone by surprise. He wrote of it to two persons in this country, his sister Marian, and me.  I replied to this letter, also writing to Valerie. I never saw T.S.E. nor ever met her after this marriage, although they came to Cambridge two or three times to be with his family and friends, as well as to deliver lectures or give readings. 

I can truthfully say that I am both glad and thankful his second marriage brought him the great comfort and remarkable devotion of Valerie; everyone who knew her testified to her tireless care of him, as his health grew worse; his family were delighted with her. The memory of the years when we were most together and so happy are mine always and I am grateful that this period brought some of his best writing, and an assured charming personality which perhaps I helped to stabilize. 

A strange story in many ways but found in many another life, public and less public than his.  If this account will keep the prying and curiosity of future students from drawing false or sensational conclusions I am glad.  After all, I accepted conditions as they were offered under the unnatural code which surrounded us, so that perhaps more sophisticated persons than I will not be surprised to learn the truth about us.  At least, the biographers of the future will not see “through a glass darkly,” but like all of life, “face to face.”

(s) Emily Hale

N.B. With the retirement of Curator of Manuscripts Don C. Skemer in November 2019, various Special Collections staff members will author blog posts on manuscript collections at Princeton. 

Musical Collaborations

In memory of Toni Morrison (1931-2019), the Princeton University Library has acquired two autograph music manuscripts containing drafts and sketches that the contemporary American composer Richard Danielpour wrote in pencil on the pages of orchestral score books: (1) Sweet Talk: Four Songs on Texts by Toni Morrison, a song cycle commissioned as part of the 1996 Princeton Atelier Program, for mezzo-soprano Jessye Norman (who recently passed), with instrumental accompaniment, 1995-96; and (2) Spirits in the Well, another song cycle with lyrics by Morrison, composed for voice and instrumental accompaniment at Yaddo, the artists’ community in Saratoga Springs, New York, November 1997. These two manuscripts will form a new one-box collection complementing related materials in the Toni Morrison Papers (C1491) The papers contain Morrison’s own files related to collaborations with Richard Danielpour, including these two song cycles and the opera Margaret Garner(2005), for which she wrote the libretto. Danielpour recalls, “When I realized that Beloved was based on the historical account of Margaret Garner, I thought, [Toni] is the person who needs to write [the libretto].” Morrison’s other well-known musical collaboration was Honey and Rue, a song cycle composed by André Previn with lyrics by Morrison for the soprano Kathleen Battle and chamber orchestra, which premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1992.

The papers of Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate in Literature (1993) and Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities (Emeritus) at Princeton University, contain several hundred boxes of archival materials documenting her life and work, including manuscript drafts and other materials pertaining to her eleven published novels: The Bluest Eye (1970), Sula (1973), Song of Solomon (1977), Tar Baby (1981), Beloved (1987), Jazz (1992), Paradise (1997), Love (2003), A Mercy (2008), Home (2012), and God Help the Child (2015). Morrison was especially fond of her work at the Princeton Atelier and fruitful collaborations with Danielpour and other composers and creative artists. Now part of the Lewis Center for the Arts, the Princeton Atelier, in its own words, “brings together professional artists from different disciplines to create new work in the context of a semester-long course.” When President Christopher Eisgruber announced on Friday, October 17, in Richardson Auditorium, that Morrison’s papers had found their permanent home in Firestone Library, the author responded by thanking Princeton for some of the happiest days of her life, both in the classroom and the Atelier. When the manuscripts have been cataloged, descriptions will be available in the online catalog and finding aids.

Richard Danielpour, Sweet Talk (detail).

Egyptology Seminar

Verena M. Lepper and her graduate seminar (Ancient Egyptian Manuscripts: Writing, Materiality, Technology [REL 404/CLA 404/HUM 404]) is visiting Special Collections eight times this fall to study selected holdings of the Manuscripts Division. She is a Visiting Stewart Fellow in the Humanities Council and Department of Religion, as part of the Council’s Global Initiative in Comparative Antiquity. The seminar will be studying the Manuscripts Division’s collection of Books of the Dead and other ancient texts written in Hieroglyphic and Hieratic script. These have all been digitized, as described in a recent blogpost. The seminar will also study a selection of Coptic, Demotic, and Greek papyri and ostraka in the Manuscripts Division. Guest lecturers in the seminar include four Princeton faculty: AnneMarie Luijendijk (Religion), Marina Rustow (Near Eastern Studies), Martin Kern (East Asian Studies), and Thomas Hare (Comparative Literature). The seminar will visit the Princeton University Art Museum to study a newly acquired Book of the Dead. One possible outcome of the seminar will be a future exhibition, either gallery-based or virtual, relating to the materials studied. Lepper is Curator of Egyptian and Oriental Papyri and Manuscripts at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung. She is the author or editor of several books on Egyptology and is chief editor of two monograph series: Ägyptische und Orientalische Papyri und Handschriften des Ägyptischen Museums und Papyrussammlung Berlin (DeGruyther) and Studies on Elephantine (Brill).

Egyptology Seminar (left to right): Jianing Zhao, Leina Thurn, Verena M. Lepper, Rachel E. Richman, Emily Grace Smith-Sangster, and Rebekah Haigh.

Visions of Hell

Unbearable torments and punishments awaited the wicked in Hell, according to the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster (Zarathustra), who lived at some point between 1500 and 600 BCE. His teachings inspired the Zoroastrian religion, which flourished in pre-Islamic Persia and has managed to survive until the present day among the persecuted Zoroastrian minority in parts of Yazd and Kerman, in northeastern Iran; and among the Parses (meaning Persians) of India, about 200,000 of whom live in Mumbai (Bombay) and its environs. From there, the Parses have brought their faith to other places, including the Princeton area. Surviving Zoroastrian texts describe Hell as a fiery, stench-filled place for men and women guilty of sins ranging from murder, sodomy, and sorcery, to bad administration, perjury, and other crimes against the social order. Punishments meted out in Hell include torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and immolation. Depictions of these punishments can be found in the relatively uncommon Zoroastrian illustrated manuscripts preserved in major research libraries.

The Manuscripts Division is fortunate to have a particularly attractive example: Islamic Manuscripts, New Series, no. 1744, possibly dating from the year 1589. This manuscript contains Sad dar, Arda Viraf, and other Zoroastrian texts, written in Persian and illustrated with fifty miniatures of Heaven and Hell. See the miniatures below for particularly vivid scenes of armed demons, snakes, and wild beasts attacking the unfortunate souls consigned to Hell. The Library digitized this manuscript for the Digital Princeton University Library (DPUL), where it may be accessed at this URL. It is one of more than 1,600 manuscripts in the growing Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts. As one can see online, the manuscript was living in its own kind of Book Hell. When acquired by the Library, perhaps a half century ago, the manuscript was disbound and badly worm-damaged, like many manuscripts of Iranian and Indian origin. In this compromised condition, it was difficult for the manuscript to be handled by researchers or shown to Near Eastern Studies classes without further damaging it. The volume needed full conservation treatment. Over the course of weeks, as time allowed, the manuscript was expertly flattened, mended, and rebound by Mick LeTourneaux, the Library’s Rare Books Conservator. This manuscript has now been saved. But many other seriously damaged and deteriorated manuscripts at Princeton need extensive conservation treatment if they are to survive as well.

Islamic Manuscripts, Third Series, no. 1744, pp. 214-215.

Entering the Public Domain

Under U.S. Copyright Law, a significant number of classic works first published in 1923 have entered into the public domain this year, which means that they can be republished and sold or read online free-of-charge through Project Gutenberg without permission of (or payment to) rights holders. Among the works entering the public domain this year are particular books by Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, and other leading authors of the last century. One title represented in the holdings of the Manuscripts Division is The Prophet, a collection of twenty-six brief inspirational essays by the Lebanese-American writer and artist Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), a Maronite Christian influenced by Sufism and Baha’i. This thin volume has sold tens of millions of copies since it was first published by the New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf on 23 September 1923. This popular book achieved cult status in the 1960s. Even before being discovered by the counterculture, President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (1961) paraphrased Gibran’s essay The New Frontier, in which the latter had written (actually about the Middle East), “Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country?” The book has been a perpetual bestseller and has been translated into twenty languages. Even today, Amazon.com rates Knopf’s Borzoi edition of The Prophet among its dozen best-selling works in the categories of “religious philosophy” and “inspirational philosophy.”

In 2007, the Library received the William H. Shehadi Collection of Kahlil Gibran (C1178) as a gift of the collector’s son Albert B. Shedadi (Woodrow Wilson School *1986). William H. Shehadi was a physician and director of the Department of Radiology at New York Medical College and Westchester Medical Center. He most admired Gibran’s compassion for others. His brother was the late Fadlou A. Shehadi (PhD *1959), a long-time Princeton resident. The collection includes significant portions of Gibran’s working manuscripts and notebooks for four well-known books, all written in English and published by Alfred A. Knopf in New York: The Madman: His Parables and Poems (1918), The Fore-Runner: His Parables and Poems (1920), The Prophet (1923), and The Earth Gods (1931). A page from the collection’s manuscript of The Prophet can be seen below. In particular, the notebooks contain the author’s many textual changes and deletions. The collection also includes fragments of other manuscripts, photographs of his New York studio, and published editions of his works. The Shehadi Collection is one of the main sources on Gibran, in addition to the author’s published works, love letters and private journal of his American friend and muse Mary Haskell, and Gibran manuscripts retained by family members and not readily available for research. In 1991, American University of Beirut published his book Kahlil Gibran: A Prophet in the Making, based on the Shehadi Collection. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, dcskemer@princeton.edu


Ancient Egyptian Manuscripts Online

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce that ten Pharaonic rolls, written in Hieroglyphic and Hieratic script either on papyrus or linen, have been digitized and are now available online in the Digital Princeton University Library (DPUL). See the listing below, with links to the digitized manuscripts. These rolls are the oldest part of the Princeton Papyri Collections. Most of them came to Princeton as part of the extensive 1942 gift of Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897. In the late 1920s, Garrett acquired several such rolls, chiefly from the Ptolemaic period (305-30 BCE), in the antiquities trade. He purchased a fully mounted Saite recension of the Book of the Dead in Hieratic, 26th Dynasty, from Spink & Son (London) in 1928. Others were purchased still fully rolled. One of these, a Hieroglyphic Book of the Dead (Pharaonic Roll, no. 5), New Kingdom, 18th/19th Dynasty, was partially examined at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1944-48 by Egyptologist and fellow Princetonian William C. Hayes (1903-63), Class of 1924. Five of Garrett’s Pharaonic rolls were finally unrolled and mounted in the Library’s Preservation Office in 1998-99 under the supervision of paper conservator Ted Stanley. The work was done as part of the APIS Project (Advanced Papyrological Data System), with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, supervised the project at Princeton. Leonard H. Lesko, Charles Edwin Wilbour Professor of Egyptology Emeritus at Brown University, was the project consultant who provided guidance during the unrolling and mounting, and then described them for the APIS database. Over the past twenty years, Egyptologists have studied these rolls and published their findings in books and articles. Previous blog posts have focused on three of the Pharaonic rolls: no. 5; no. 8; and no. 10. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, dcskemer@princeton.edu

Book of Amduat. Hieroglyphic script on papyrus. Ptolemaic Period. Contains 12th hour. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 1. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/dn39x503f

Book of the Dead. Hieroglyphic script on papyrus. Probably from a Theban tomb. Ptolemaic Period (?) Chapter 17 with polychrome illustrations. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 2. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/0r9677259

Book of the Dead. Hieroglyphic script on papyrus. Ptolemaic Period (?) Owner’s name is (N)es-Ese, a “chantress of Amon.” Contains chapter 110 (Field of Hetep) and beginning of chapter 149 written in retrograde from left. Unrolled and mounted in the Princeton University Library,1998. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 3. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/xd07gz04k

Book of the Dead. Hieroglyphic script on papyrus, with polychrome illustrations. Ptolemaic Period (?) Owner’s name is Pedimeh(y)et. His father’s name is (N)espautitaui, a “first prophet of Re”; his mother’s name is Lady Nebethutiyti. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 4. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/sn00b312r

Book of the Dead, with polychrome illustrations. Hieroglyphic script on papyrus. Dynasty XVIII. Owner is Iwt.nyr.syh (Iwtlsyh?), a name possibly of Semitic origin. Includes chapters 84, 77, 86, 85, 88, 114, 38, 105, 31, and 125. Unrolled and mounted in the Princeton University Library, 1999. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 5. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/ff3658534

Unidentified fragments. Fourteen small pieces with either Hieroglyphic or Hieratic script. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 6. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/rx913v491

Book of Breathings. Hieratic script on papyrus. Ptolemaic Period. Nearly complete, unrolled and mounted in the Princeton University Library, 1998. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 7. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/8w32r9117

Book of the Dead. Hieratic script on linen, Two complete rolls of the Saite recension (chapters 67-165), with illustrations in ink. The owner’s name is Hekaemsaf (or Heka-m-saf), whose mother was named Tinetmehenet. The owner should probably be identified with Hekaemsaf, a naval officer who served as Chief of Royal Ships under Pharaoh Ahmose II [or Amasis II] (570-526 BCE), 26th Dynasty. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 8. https://dpul.princeton.edu/catalog/k643b257s

Book of the Dead. Hieratic script on papyrus. Owner’s name is Khay-Hapy, “son of Isis-great-of-truth.” With Hieroglyphic labeling. Includes (from right) chapters 16, 18, 38B (?), 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 110, 27, 32, and 125. Ptolemaic Period (?). Pharaonic Rolls, no. 9. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/2514nq85z

Osiris text. Hieratic script on papyrus. Ptolemaic Period. Unrolled and mounted in the Princeton University Library, 1998-99. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 10. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/t148fm633

Litany or Hymn to Osiris. Hieratic script on papyrus. Pharaonic Rolls, no. 11. https://dpul.princeton.edu/papyri/catalog/0v838406h

Note: A fragment of a Book of the Dead, in Hieratic script on papyrus (Dynasty XXI, ca. 1100-950 BCE), with the owner’s name Pen-Amen-Apt, has been digitized in Treasures of The Scheide Library. The Scheide Library M P95.

Not yet digitized: Crocodile mummy cartonnage made from gesso with polychrome decoration (Tebtunis, 2nd century BC) box 8 Item 1-5.

Pharaonic Roll, no. 5 (detail). Transformation Spell, no. 86: Swallow perched on mummy.

Minassian Islamic Leaf Collection

Over the past dozen years, Library renovation, space reallocation, and staff changes have led to the fortuitous rediscovery of valuable materials acquired long ago, even before Rare Books and Special Collections moved to the newly completed Firestone Library in 1949. One such rediscovery is a collection of early Qur’ānic and Persian decorated manuscript leaves (19 items), dating from the ninth to eighteenth centuries. Below one can see one of the nineteen: a bifolium of an early Qur’ān written on parchment in Kufic, the oldest of Arabic calligraphic scripts. Krikor Minassian (1874-1944), a New York dealer in Islamic manuscripts and Near Eastern art, probably assembled this collection by the late 1920s or 1930s and donated it to Princeton around 1940. The Library accessioned it in May 1945 (AM 13658). Minassian was a native of Kayseri, Turkey, and remained active in the international market for decades. He formed other Islamic leaf collections, which are in various American libraries, such as the Library of Congress and Brown University’s John Hay Library. It is likely that particular leaves in the Princeton collection were from the same manuscripts as those in these collections. The Minassian Collection has been rehoused and designated Islamic Manuscripts, Third Series, no. 885. When cataloging has been completed, it will be digitized and added to the growing Princeton Digital Library of Islamic Manuscripts. At least a dozen additional Islamic manuscripts were found along with the Misassian leaves. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, dcskemer@princeton.edu

Kufic bifolium

Patrick Henry and the American Revolution

“All the Families of those men of your Militia that have joined Gen’l Washington by my Orders, may be in want of Salt,” wrote Patrick Henry (1736-99) on 12 November 1777 as the first governor of Virginia after independence. He addressed his letter to the County Lieutenant of Berkeley County, who was probably Josiah Swearington (1719-88). The letter continues, “And as their absence from home may be the means of misery or supply of that necessary article, I desire you will give notice to all such militia on their Return, or to their Families in their absence, that an application to William Coorr Esq. at Dumfries half a Bushel of Salt will be delivered to each soldier of your militia that acted in Concert with the grand army, paying what it cost the public.” Months earlier, George Washington had advised Patrick Henry to prepare his state militia for engagement with British forces, and several Virginia militia companies, including one from Berkeley County, joined Washington’s “grand army” in Pennsylvania. The 1777 letter shows Patrick Henry’s level of daily responsibility as governor, including such mundane details as the provisioning of salt to militiamen and their families, no doubt for use in preserving food.

Patrick Henry is best remembered today for his stirring patriotic speech, “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death,” urging his fellow Virginians to take up arms against British forces. He delivered it on 23 March 1775 to the Second Virginia Convention, assembled at St. John’s Church, in Richmond. Henry had first served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, then the Virginia Convention and was governor of Virginia, 1776-79 and 1784-86. The letter is the latest addition to the Manuscripts Division’s growing Collection of Patrick Henry Materials, 1743-1796 (C1165), which includes about 20 autograph letters and signed documents. Other letters in this collection pertain to his career as an attorney, owner of tobacco plantations, slaveholder, and land speculator. A 1784 letter to Colonel Joseph Martin concerns policy toward American Indians. This collection has been largely been assembled thanks to a generous Barksdale-Dabney-Henry endowment created in 2006 by Mrs. Margaret P. Nuttle. She was a direct descendant of Patrick Henry and had many Princeton family connections, including her brother S. Barksdale Penick, Class of 1925, a longtime Princeton Charter Trustee; and her son Philip E. Nuttle, Jr., Class of 1963.

The endowment made possible the successful Library exhibition, “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” (22 February-4 August 2013); as well as the acquisition of other early Americana to support research and instruction. Recent acquisitions include a 1774 journal relating to Lord Dunmore (1730-1809), the last colonial governor of Virginia, and to Lord Dunmore’s War. The journal was once owned by the Marquis de Chastellux (1734-88), a major general of French expeditionary forces under the Comte de Rochambeau (1725-1807) during the American Revolution. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, dcskemer@princedton.edu

Patrick Henry. Engraving by Edward Wellmore.