Gifts that Keep Giving

Robert H. Taylor (1908-85), Class of 1930, was one of the most dedicated bibliophiles and Library donors in the history of Princeton University. Taylor devoted over a half century to amassing a superb collection of printed books, manuscripts, and other special materials on English and American literature, which he bequeathed to the Library in 1985. The Robert Taylor Collection, including the portion in the Manuscripts Division (RTC01), is a scholarly resource that supports campus-based research, classroom instruction, and researchers worldwide, who visit Rare Books and Special Collections and take advantage of selective digital access to holdings. During his life, Taylor contributed generously to particular acquisitions clearly intended for the Manuscripts Division, rather than his own collection, such as a mid-fifteenth century manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (Princeton MS. 100), formerly owned by the Tollemache family of Helmingham Hall, Suffolk, England; and the George Ripley Alchemical Roll (Princeton MS. 93), late sixteenth century. Taylor also looked to the future, beyond his lifetime, and had the foresight and means to bequeath sufficient financial resources to allow the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections to continue building the Taylor Collection and acquiring other literary materials. The Taylor bequest is truly a gift that keeps giving.

One of the most recent additions to the Manuscripts Division is a case in point. The Taylor bequest has permitted the acquisition of a substantial collection of manuscripts and other materials from the estate of Eva Marie Veigel (1724-1822), who was the widow of David Garrick (1717-79), the celebrated English actor, playwright, and theatre manager. He was a friend of Dr. Samuel Johnson, correspondent of Voltaire, and tireless promoter of Shakespeare. Among the estate papers is a volume, “The Accounts of the Estate of Mrs Eva Maria Garrick (who died 16 October 1822), undertaken by The Revd Thomas Rackett and George Frederick Beltz Esq Executors of her Will,” which includes an entry for seven guineas paid “Mr Gell for the Dean & Chapter of Westminster Abbey for leave to lay down a Grave Stone over the Spot of Interment of Mr & Mrs Garrick in Westminster Abbey.” Worthy of special mention is an account book for the 1750-51 season at the Theatre Royal at Drury Lane. The account book was kept by William Pritchard, who was the theatre’s treasurer and husband of actor Hannah Pritchard. Richard Brinsley Sheridan, one of Robert Taylor’s favorite authors, wrote for and later managed the Theatre Royal. The account book is a valuable source for the study of the theatrical and musical performance history of Georgian London.

This new collection (C1590) also contains selected family correspondence and transcripts of Garrick’s love letters to his wife Eva Marie; Garrick’s transcriptions of poetry; a 77-page handwritten catalog of play quartos in his personal collection, which he bequeathed to what is now the British Library; printed plays, broadsides, and theatre ephemera; materials pertaining to the Shakespeare Jubilee (1769) staged by Garrick at Stratford-upon-Avon, including the printed poem by James Boswell that was handed out and a printed list of subscribers to Samuel Johnson’s monument in St. Paul’s Cathedral; assorted medals, memorabilia, portraits, maps, and theatrical artifacts, including an early seventeenth-century kidskin glove (see below), which Garrick thought had been owned and worn by the Bard himself. By spring 2018, the Garrick collection should be organized, rehoused, and fully described. A finding aid will then go online to facilitate research use.

“Shakespeare’s glove”