In Her Own Words

The chance survival of autograph manuscripts by unknown women of centuries past can help to illuminate their lives and times, innermost thoughts, and writing methods. Looking back at England in the 17th century, in addition to well-known authors such as Aphra Benn and Katherine Philips, there were obscure women writers yet to be discovered. A case in point is an abridged history of medieval England by a certain Susan Pigott (RTC01, no. 238), probably writing early in that century. Her 104-page manuscript, recently acquired by the Manuscripts Division, begins with a signed dedicatory letter to the king of England, filled with tantalizing autobiographical details. Pigott describes herself as a “poore oppressed widdowe,” with two children. Her late husband, Pigott wrote, had rendered “dutiful and dangerous services faythfully accomplished to your heighnes. And this our native countrey, in a forrayne nation, whereby he lost his life.” Since his death, perhaps two and a half years earlier, Pigott claims to have been a victim of “rare opressions and hevy injuries outrageously heaped upon me and myne agaynst all good order of law and like course of justice usual in any Christian Commonwealth.” She even mentions “secrett papers … penned from tyme to tyme” for royal use. Pigott’s signed but undated letter prefaces a summary history of the kings of England, from William the Conqueror to Henry VII. Pigott wrote and corrected her manuscript in English Secretary hands of the early 17th century, consistent with those illustrated in Martin Billingsley’s writing manual, The Pens Excellencie or the Secretaries Delighte (1618). The paper has a heraldic watermark dating from around the same year: a shield with the arms of Strasbourg and fleur-de-lys; below the shield is a terminal flourish “WR,” which in the 16th century had stood for Wendelin Riehel but continued to be used and imitated in later centuries. If Pigott’s epitome is contemporary with the script and paper, then the king in question should be James I (r. 1603-25).

Pigott describes her work as “a shorte sumanary [sic] of examples of youre majesties most noble progenitors, royall kings of this your heighnes realme sethens [i.e. since] the last conquest.” She compiled her epitome by paraphrasing (her operative word is “collected”) scattered bits of text from Raphael Holinshead (1525-80?), Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1577), a collaborative multi-volume history. Pigott only used the four volumes relating to England and added Holinshead folio references in the margins. This popular work is best known today because William Shakespeare used the 1587 second edition of Holinshead as a source of information for King Lear, Macbeth, and various history plays (such as Richard III). Yet the identity of Susan Pigott is uncertain. The Pigott surname (with variant spellings) is of Norman origin and not unusual in England. British public records identify various widowed women named Susan Pigott. Among them is one who was a plaintiff in 1578-79 in a law suit involving a certain John Walton, Richard Groffield, Thomas Southern, and others; and another who in 1658 presented the curate Elnathan Pigott (d. 1675/76) to the Church of St. Marie, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk. But neither Susan Pigott can be connected with the author of the present manuscript, and more research will be needed to identify her. There is no way to know if she actually presented it to the king. What we do know is that the manuscript was in various English and Irish libraries, including those of Nathaniel Boothe, 1747; Thomas Connolly, 1860; and Frederick William Cosens, 1890. The manuscript came to the Library in desperate need of conservation treatment. The Library’s Book Conservator, Mick LeTourneaux, has now completed that work.

The Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature has two other autograph manuscripts by English women of the 17th century. The best known is My Booke of Rememberance by Elizabeth Isham (1608-54), an autobiographical work written around 1638, when she was about thirty. She was the daughter of Sir John Isham and once fianceé to John Dryden. In Isham records her fervent religious beliefs and inner thoughts, while living at Lamport Hall, her family’s Northamptonshire home (RTC01, no. 62). Isham’s manuscript has been digitized and is available online in DPUL (Digital Princeton University Library). An online edition is available from the University of Warwick. Another autograph memoir in the Taylor Collection is that of Mary Whitelocke (b. 1639), dating from the 1660s and bound in a contemporary embroidered binding (RTC01, no. 226). Whitelocke’s memoir is an intimate and detailed account of a wealthy Puritan gentry woman, whose father was a London merchant. Addressed to her eldest son, Whitelocke’s memoir encompasses her life from the time of her first marriage at age sixteen to Rowland Wilson (d. 1650), a Member of Parliament, also from a London mercantile family. Whitelocke’s second marriage in 1650 was to the prominent lawyer and politician Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605-75), with whom she had seven children. The memoir often focuses on Whitelocke’s family and domestic affairs, though discussion of public affairs and events is also in evidence, particularly in connection with her second husband’s public life. For more information, contact Public Services, rbsc@princeton.edu

RTC01, no. 238

Navigating the Mediterranean World

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to announce the acquisition and digitization in DPUL (Digital Princeton University Library) of a 1640 portolan navigational chart of the Mediterranean Sea (Princeton MS. 254). This portolan chart (image below) shows the Mediterranean, from the Iberian peninsula in the west (top) to the Greek Isles and the Holy Land in the east (bottom). It is oriented 90 degrees clockwise relative to modern maps, with Sicily (where it was produced) at the center. The well-known Italian cartographer Placido Caloiro e Oliva, active in Messina from 1611, prepared this manuscript map on the flesh side of a single parchment skin (85 x 44 cm, at widest points), writing in brown ink and decorating it in shades of red, green, blue, and brown watercolor. The map provides the Italian names of coastal ports and harbors, all of which are readable online using DPUL’s magnification tool. We also see rhumb lines, compass roses, cartouches, and other details. Twelve major port cities are indicated, including Genoa and Venice, each with buildings and festooned with colorful banners displaying the arms of that place. Some rivers are shown in blue, the Red Sea in red, and the north African coast (left) with two palm trees. At the top is an image of the Virgin and Child (85 x 85 mm), below which the mapmaker has signed and dated the map in gold: “Placidus Caloiro et Oliva fecit in Nobili urbe Messanae anno 1640.” The portolan chart was acquired with matching funds provided by the Program in Hellenic Studies, with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund and matching funds provided by a gift of the Orpheus Trust to the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies, in honor of the 40th anniversary of Hellenic Studies at Princeton. The chart will be on view in Welcome Additions, the Library’s first exhibition in the new Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery (6 March–23 June 2019).

Portolan charts were first produced in thirteenth-century Italy, based on careful observations by sea pilots of harbors, trade routes, compass directions, and estimated distances. Production of these navigational maps, which marked a significant advance over western cartography rooted in ancient models, spread to Spain and Portugal during the Age of Exploration and continued until the eighteenth century. Later portolani covered not only the Mediterranean, but also the British Isles, Baltic Sea, west coast of Africa, and the Americas. The Manuscripts Division already had a small portolan atlas with four double maps (Kane MS. 57), executed in the style of Jaume Olives (fl. 1557–1566), a mapmaker from the Majorcas. It has been digitized. The Scheide Library has a portolan atlas of 1642 with three double maps (Scheide M33), said to have been produced in Messina by Giovanni Battista Caloiro and Placido Oliva. The Manuscripts Division also has a late eighteenth-century Italian manuscript isolario for the islands of the Greek Archipelago (C0938, no. 735). Its 56 maps show many minor islands but sometimes omit major islands, such as Chios, Mytilenē, Rhodes, and Crete. This isolario was also acquired in cooperation with Program in Hellenic Studies, with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund and matching funds provided by a gift of the Orpheus Trust to the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies. For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, at dcskemer@princeton.edu

Portolan Chart, 1640

Alicia Ostriker: Poet and Critic

The Manuscripts Division is pleased to congratulate poet and critic Alicia Ostriker on being named the eleventh New York State Poet, succeeding poet Yusef Komunyakaa. Ostriker’s papers have been in the Manuscripts Division since 2002. In announcing her appointment, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York noted that Ostriker is being recognized for her collective body of work and the impact it has had on the people of New York and beyond. Previous poets who have served in the position include Marie Howe, Jean Valentine, Billy Collins, John Ashbery, Sharon Olds, Jane Cooper, Richard Howard, Audre Lorde, Robert Creeley, and Stanley Kunitz (whose papers are also in the Manuscripts Division). She was born in New York City in 1937 and came to prominence as both a poet and a critic in 1986, when she published her prize-winning volume The Imaginary Lover, a collection of poems, and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, in which she makes a controversial argument concerning the women’s poetry movement in the postwar and post-1960s America. She is a professor emerita at Rutgers University, Department of English, and was a long-time resident of Princeton, with her husband, Professor Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Department of Astrophysics. Alicia Ostriker is currently teaching in the Program in Creative Writing, Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton.

The Alicia Ostriker Papers (C0910) contain more than 20 linear feet of paper and electronic files donated by the poet, documenting her life and work as a poet and critic. The papers include manuscript drafts and proofs for dozens of volumes of poems, nonfiction books, critical commentary, essays, articles, reviews, interviews, and other writings, as well as some unpublished writings, song lyrics, student writings, and drawings. Ostriker’s extensive personal and professional correspondence includes letters exchanged with friends and fellow scholars and poets, along with reader mail and family correspondence. Her correspondents include many of the best-known American poets of the post-World War II period, such as Adrienne Rich, Robert Bly, Toi Derricotte, Stephen Dunn, Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, Sharon Olds, Robert Pinsky, and May Swenson. The most recent gift of papers includes Ostriker’s correspondence (1995-2002) with Peter Pitzele, creator of Bibliodrama, for the interpretation of the Bible through performance.

Ostriker’s poetry and criticism investigates themes of family, social justice, Jewish identity, and personal growth. “People who do not know my work ask me what I write about,” the poet notes. “I answer: love, sex, death, violence, family, politics, religion, friendship, painters and painting, the body in sickness and health. Joy and pain. I try not to write the same poem over and over.” Joyce Carol Oates, Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of the Humanities. has observed about Ostriker’s place in American letters, “Alicia Ostriker has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves.” Ostriker’s work and influence has been studied in a recent collection of essays: Martha Nell Smith and Julie P. Enszer, eds., Everywoman Her Own Theology: On the Poetry of Alicia Suskind Ostriker (University of Michigan Press, 2018). For more information about the papers, consult the finding aid or contact Public Services, at rbsc@princeton.edu

Alicia Ostriker. Photo by Jeremiah P. Ostriker

Picturing Sylvia

The papers of Sylvia Beach (1887-1962), the American expatriate proprietor of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare & Company, best known for publishing the first edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), have been one of the most frequently consulted literary archives in the Manuscripts Division for more than a half century. Beach’s English-language book shop was a meeting place for American authors of the Lost Generation, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, as well as for French, English, Irish, and other writers during the 1920s and 1930s. Found among almost eighty linear feet of papers are thousands of photographs that document Beach’s life, times, and friendships. These include portraits by Man Ray, Berenice Abbott, Gisèle Freund, and other leading photographers. For details about the papers, consult the finding aid.

Beach’s superb photo archives have been complemented recently by a fortuitous rediscovery within the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. After Beach’s death on 5 October 1962, these materials remained in her Paris apartment at 12 rue de l’Odéon. In 1964, Howard C. Rice, head of Rare Books and Special Collections, traveled to Paris and stayed at the Font-Royal Hotel for the months of March and April, during which time he packed Beach’s archives, library, paintings, and other materials for shipment to Princeton. The Library formally purchased them later that year from Beach’s estate, administered by Holly Beach Dennis, her sister and executor. While in Paris, Howard Rice wisely asked André Jammes, son of the antiquarian bookseller Paul Jammes, whose bookshop was in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, to photograph Beach’s apartment and library with everything in place. André Jammes, it should be noted, was to become an eminent historian and collector of modern photography. Jammes gave Rice a roll of twenty-two 35-mm black-and-white negatives, recently rediscovered in Rare Books and Special Collections. The negatives are being scanned so that high-resolution images of eight different views can be kept on file. Researchers consulting Beach’s papers will be able to review the images in the Reading Room. Below is one of the photos, showing Paul-Émile Bécat’s well-known portraits of Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, as they were in Beach’s apartment. The two portraits are today proudly displayed on the first floor of the renovated Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library.

Additional photographs related to Sylvia Beach, including some that show her as a child growing up in Princeton, have also come to the Manuscripts Division in recent years in the Frederic Dennis Papers on Sylvia Beach (C1540) and Noel Riley Fitch Papers (C0841). For more information, search finding aids or contact Public Services, at rbsc@princeton.edu

André Jammes, Photograph, 1964

Documenting Islamic Society

In recent decades, Princeton-based and visiting researchers have turned to the Manuscripts Division for original documents to study the social and economic history of Egypt between the Muslim (641 CE) and Ottoman (1517 CE) conquests. Historians and other researchers in Near Eastern Studies seek original documents of every description to trace the lives of ordinary people during long centuries of Islamization and dynastic rule, from the Umayyads to Mamluks. At the same time, globalization has encouraged comparative studies of documentary traditions, including Egypt in these early centuries. One can see this trend in Princeton’s Comparative Diplomatics Workshop (2018-19), co-sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies; the workshop draws on faculty and graduate students with an interest in documents and archives from ancient Rome, the western Middle Ages, Muslim Egypt, the Cairo Geniza, and East Asia.

In order to help support archival research on early Islamic society, the Manuscripts Division has had three collections of Egyptian documents and letters, chiefly in Arabic, cataloged and digitized. The earliest documents are several dozen Arabic documentary papyri, dating from the 7th to 9th centuries, which have been digitized and are being added to Papyri Collections in DPUL (Princeton University Digital Library). For descriptions of Arabic papyri, one should consult A Descriptive Inventory of Princeton Papyri Collections. A link to the updated PDF version (2018) is found in another blog post. Just added to DPUL is an interesting collection, Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett Additional no. 20, comprised of 29 documents and letters on parchment and paper, dating from the 10th to 19th centuries. Among them is a series of early 11th-century documents relating to the sale of property in the Fayyum village of Buljusuq. All but one of these documents came to the Manuscripts Division in 1942 as part of the extensive collection of Robert Garrett (1875-1961), Class of 1897. Item 29 (see image below), donated by Garrett in 1953, was only recently rediscovered and added to the collection. Previously digitized is the Michaelides Collection of Letters and Documents (1106-1497), including 41 items collected by George Anastase Michaelides (1900-73) and acquired by the Manuscripts Division in 2005.

Additional documents from different parts of the Muslim world can be found scattered among nearly 10,000 Islamic bound manuscripts in the Manuscripts Division. To find them, search Voyager for manuscript documents by language (Arabic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish). For additional information, contact Public Services, rbsc@princeton.edu

Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett Additional no. 20, item 29

Archives of Harold Ober Associates

The New York literary agency Folio Literary Management recently acquired Harold Ober Associates, the distinguished New York literary agency, and has agreed to donate 90 archival boxes of additional Ober archives to the Princeton University Library. Harold Ober Associates was founded in 1929 by Harold Ober (1881-1959), whose career as a literary agent began in 1907 at the Paul R. Reynolds Literary Agency. Ober’s own literary agency came to represent an impressive list of leading 20th-century authors, including Sherwood Anderson, Catherine Drinker Bowen, Pearl S. Buck, Agatha Christie, Walter Edmonds, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Gunther, Langston Hughes, S. J. Perelman, J. D. Salinger, Muriel Spark, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Wylie. Below is a photo of older Ober files relating to the efforts of Harold Ober and Judge John Biggs (executor of the Estate of F. Scott Fitzgerald) to interest publishers in the author’s unpublished work after his sudden death in 1940. Harold Ober Associates has been donating its archives to Princeton for a half century. The Archives of Harold Ober Associates (C0129) already contained some 300 linear feet of Ober author files (1929-2002); as well as files of the agency’s three British affiliates based in London: David Higham Associates (1965-1972), Bolt & Watson Limited (1971-72), and Hughes Massie Limited (1968-1972). The additional Ober records, arriving in October, include both recent correspondence files (2003-15) and selected older agency records, including ledgers, appointment books, biographical files, and miscellaneous documents, which should be arranged and described, probably in the next year.

From the 1880s to the present, literary agents and agencies the United States, England, and other countries have served as representatives of authors, artists, and others (including their estates) for commercial dealings with publishers, editors, movie producers, theaters, media, and others. The archives of literary agencies are a valuable source of documentation for the study of particular authors and books, and nicely complement publishing archives. Since the 1940s, when Princeton faculty and librarians first became interested in the research potential of collecting contemporary authors’s papers, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has been acquiring the archives of publishers and literary agencies, mostly American and British. In addition to Harold Ober Associates and its British affiliates, the Manuscripts Division holds the Brandt & Brandt Contract Files (C0732); David Lloyd Agency Records on Pearl S. Buck (C0060); Laurence Pollinger Ltd. Files Concerning D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover (C0956); and the George Nicholson Sterling Lord Literistic Author Files (C0956). In addition, various collections of authors’ papers and publishing archives in the Manuscripts Division contain individual files about American and British literary agencies. For more information, consult Finding Aids or contact Public Services at rbsc@princeton.edu

Ober Archives

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 dcskemer@princeton.edu

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 rbsc@princeton.edu

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 dcskemer@princeton.edu