Mellon Grant Awarded to Explore “The Archaeology of Reading”


Livy, T. Liuii Patauini Romanae historiae principis decades tres  (Basil: Ioannes Heruagios, 1555), Princeton University Library.

Livy, T. Liuii Patauini Romanae historiae principis decades tres
(Basil: Ioannes Heruagios, 1555), Princeton University Library.

The Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries*, in partnership with University College London’s Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL), and the Princeton University Library, have been awarded a $488,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement “The Archaeology of Reading in Early Modern Europe.” This new digital humanities research initiative will explore historical reading practices through the lens of manuscript annotations preserved in early printed books.

The Principal Investigator for this international research project is Dr. Earle Havens, the William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Sheridan Libraries, who will work closely with two of the world’s leading scholars of the history of reading, co-Principal Investigators Professor Lisa Jardine, Director of CELL at University College London; and Professor Anthony Grafton of the Department of History at Princeton.

“We are extremely grateful to the Mellon Foundation for their support of research into this fascinating but underexplored part of history,” said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. “Renaissance readers left us a wealth of material to investigate. This kind of deep discovery work would not be possible without the combined expertise of an international team of humanists and technologists bringing a broad range of expertise together, and we look forward to sharing what they uncover with the world.”

The project builds upon several decades of humanistic research that has focused upon the Printing Revolution of the sixteenth century, and the widespread practice by active readers of leaving often dense, interpretive manuscript annotations in the margins, and between the lines, of the books they read.  This diverse evidence of annotation provides a considerable range of unique and largely untapped research materials, which reveal that readers—much as users of the internet today—adapted quickly to the technology of print: interacting intimately, dynamically, socially, and even virtually with texts.

The revealing intimacy of these research materials is palpable, as Professor Grafton observes: “Reading these marginal notes gives us the chance to stand by the desks of Renaissance scholars and look over their shoulders while they work at their trade. We can watch them read and respond to a vast range of books, tracing their thoughts and glimpsing the ways in which they used their scholarship to advise kings, ambassadors, and archbishops.”

This body of primary source material is among the largest, least accessible, and most underutilized of original manuscript sources from the early modern period, due to the fact that they are almost entirely uncatalogued, or undercatalogued, by major research collections throughout the world.

“There are so many parallels between our project, and the digital world of information that we live in today,” Dr. Havens observes. “These notes reveal a largely unvarnished history of personal reading within the early modern historical moment. They also embody an active tradition of physically mapping and personalizing knowledge upon the printed page. The added practice of referencing and cross-referencing other works in these marginal annotations also allows us, like those early readers, to engage with the presence of ‘virtual libraries’ within the space of a single book.”

The history of reading remains a rich area for research, as scholars seek to better understand these reading habits and strategies, though it has remained a particularly daunting task when conducted in a purely analog context, particularly with books that literally contain thousands of notes. “This is an exciting moment!” says Professor Jardine. “We have been aware for some time of the unique importance of the copious annotations to be found in early modern books—marginal notes in ancient and modern languages tagged to printed passages, and cross-referenced to other notes and other books—but documenting and sharing them has largely defeated scholars.  Only now with resources being developed within the digital humanities will we at last be able to do so.”

By treating marginal annotations as large sets of data that can be mined and analyzed systematically in an electronic environment, the project team will create a corpus of important and representative annotated texts with searchable transcriptions and translations in order to begin to compare and fully analyze early modern reading by a number of dedicated Renaissance readers and annotators.

Over the next several years, The Archaeology of Reading team will integrate the digital humanities expertise of CELL and of the Sheridan Libraries’ Digital Research and Curation Center, as well as the collections of the Princeton University Library and other major repositories in the US, the UK, and Europe. The initial phase of the project will focus on the transcription and translation of a select number of heavily annotated books, and the allied adaptation of the open-access Shared Canvas viewer to maximize user interaction with these complex, composite early modern texts through a publicly available website.

* The Sheridan Libraries encompass the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the Brody Learning Commons, the Albert D. Hutzler Reading Room in Gilman Hall, the John Work Garrett Library at Evergreen Museum & Library, and the George Peabody Library at Mt. Vernon Place in Baltimore. Together these collections provide the major research library resources for Johns Hopkins University. The libraries were rededicated in 1998 to reflect the extraordinary generosity of Mr. and Mrs. R. Champlin Sheridan.                        



15. July 2014 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Writing Desk Goes On Display

Writing desk of British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Photo by Ricardo Barros.

Writing desk of British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Photo by Ricardo Barros.

Peter N. Heydon ’62 Gift of Browning Artifacts
Firestone Library Eighteenth-Century Window
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9:00-5:00; Saturday – Sunday, 12:00-5:00

The Princeton University Library is pleased to announce that Peter N. Heydon, Princeton Class of 1962, has made several important gifts, which are now on view in Firestone Library’s Eighteenth-Century Window. The first is the slant-topped mahogany writing desk of British poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–61), on which she is known to have written her epic poem Aurora Leigh. In Browning’s “novel in verse,” she has a young Anglo-Italian woman tell her own story in blank verse: “Of writing many books there is no end; / And I who have written much in prose and verse / For others’ uses, will write now for mine.” Elizabeth penned Aurora Leigh in Florence, where she lived with poet and husband, Robert Browning (1812–89), from 1846 until her death fifteen years later. Her writing desk had been sent from England shortly after the Browning’s’ arrival and was in the Drawing Room of the Browning’s’ spacious Casa Guidi apartment, which they rented from 1847 on the second floor of the fifteenth-century Palazzo Guidi, Piazza San Felice, 8. The desk is depicted prominently, front and center, in an oil that Robert Browning commissioned from his friend, the Greek painter George Mignaty, the day after Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s death on July 1, 1861. Browning never returned to the Casa Guidi, so the painting was his remembrance of their happy and productive years in Florence.

Along with Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s writing desk, Heydon has also given Robert Browning’s Northern Italian walnut table, also depicted in the Mignaty painting, as well as the Browning’s’ silver-plated “traveling” tea kettle, made by Henry Wilkinson & Co., in Sheffield, England. These are the first of several anticipated gifts to Princeton from Heydon’s extensive collection of Browning first editions, manuscript letters, and other Victorian memorabilia collected over four decades by the donor.

English Department and Comparative Literature students will be able to view these three recently received objects together with other Browning items already in Princeton’s collections. Heydon’s association items were sold in 1913 by London-based auction house Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, following the death of the Browning’s son and heir Robert Wiedeman Barrett “Pen” Browning (1849–1912). At the 1913 sale, British writer Florence L. Barclay (1862–1921) high-bid the writing desk, table, and tea kettle (along with many other personal treasures). Other Browning holdings in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections include dozens of manuscripts and autograph letters, held in the Manuscripts Division, and an author’s proof for the second edition of Aurora Leigh (London: Chapman and Hall, 1857), incorporating handwritten emendations in Robert Browning’s hand as well as a manuscript note by Elizabeth Barrett Browning on the verso of title page (Robert Taylor Collection, Rare Books Division). These proofs served as setting copy for the first American edition of Aurora Leigh (New York: Francis & Co., 1857).

Peter N. Heydon first became enchanted with the poetry of Robert Browning as a Princeton undergraduate, while studying under English Professor Edward Dudley Hume Johnson. Heydon’s enthusiasm for the Victorians took him to The University of Michigan, earning both a MA (1963) and PhD (1970), studying with, among others, Professor Robert Super, Princeton Class of 1935. Heydon taught English Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Michigan between 1963 and 1986 on the faculties of both the English Department and Humanities Department. He is the founding President of The Browning Institute, Inc., based in New York and Florence, which acquired the Browning’s’ Casa Guidi apartment in 1971; and for fifteen years as the Institute’s President oversaw the fifteen-room restoration of the apartment as a Museum and study center. It is presently owned and operated, like the Keats-Shelley House in Rome, by Eton College and the British National Trust. Heydon has authored a number of pieces on Robert Browning and his circle for Browning Institute Studies; and he was co-editor with Philip Kelly of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Letters to Mrs. David Ogilvy, 1849–1861: With Recollections by Mrs. Ogilvy (New York: Quadrangle Press, 1973). He continues to reside in Ann Arbor with his wife of forty-five years, horsewoman and humaniac Rita Montgomery Heydon.

For more information, contact Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections:

21. March 2014 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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From a Thankful Nation: Latin American Medals & Orders in the Robert L. Ross Collection

Thankful Nation-cover

In celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of Latin America’s wars of independence, the Princeton University Library has mounted a dramatic display of medals and orders that illustrate the recognitions awarded to soldiers and civilians in the form of wearable insignia. “From a Thankful Nation” opens on Friday, February 21, in the Main Exhibition Gallery of Firestone Library on the Princeton campus.

The exhibition features hundreds of Latin American decorations, ranging from a plain silver medal awarded to an officer of the Buenos Aires armed forces that freed Montevideo from Spanish colonial rule in 1814, to Guatemala’s highest award given to foreign presidents, the Collar of the Order of the Quetzal with its Mayan motifs, to a gilt example of the Cuban Order of Che Guevara, awarded for assistance to Latin America’s many left-wing movements of national liberation. Unlike the United States, which has generally avoided the award and wearing of medals as a vestige of European royal practice, the Spanish-, Portuguese-, and French-speaking nations of the New World have embraced such displays as tangible expressions of appreciation for the efforts of their soldiers and citizens.

Guatemala Order of the Quetzal

Guatemala Order of the Quetzal

Miguel Angel Centeno, Professor of Sociology and International Affairs and Chair of Princeton’s Department of Sociology, writes in his introduction to the exhibition catalogue, “These medals and orders allow us a unique perspective on the development of Latin American states and the qualities they have chosen to represent and reward.” On Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m., Professor Centeno will give a public lecture on the ideals exemplified by the pieces in the exhibition. The lecture in McCormick Hall 101 will be preceded by a curatorial tour of the exhibition at 1:30 p.m. and followed by a reception in the Main Gallery. Additional curatorial tours will take place on Friday, February 28, and Thursday, May 29, at 3 p.m.

The exhibition is based on the collection assembled by Robert L. Ross, a retired investment banker who worked throughout his career to improve living standards in Latin America as the best way to promote democratic rule and civil society. Ross has donated his medals to the Princeton University Numismatic Collection for study, research, and teaching purposes in support of the University’s Program in Latin American Studies. This gift has made Princeton’s holdings the world’s most comprehensive collection of Latin American orders and medals.

“From a Thankful Nation” traces the development of Latin American medals from their origins in the emblems of medieval crusading knights and the Spanish, Portuguese, and French royal and imperial orders through the revolutionary battles and the building of republics throughout the region. The use of medals as part of the governing strategies of dictatorial caudillos and adventuring “filibusters” is illustrated by such pieces as the pearl-adorned example of the Grand Cross badge of the Juan Pablo Duarte Order of the Dominican Republic that the dictator Rafael Trujillo, as grand master of the order, awarded to himself. While tracing the awards to common soldiers and laborers, the exhibition is most eye-catching with the display of no fewer than ten examples of Collars, the highest grade of an order (usually reserved for heads of state), as well as seventy Grand Cross sets, most replete with brightly colored silk sashes enameled gilt badges, and breast stars.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color catalogue written by Ross and Princeton’s Curator of Numismatics, Alan Stahl. In 736 pages of text and with 969 color photographs, it sets all of the official medals of each country in their historical context. The catalogue is for sale from the Library for $125; inquiries should be directed to The exhibition is also documented in a fully illustrated website:

“From a Thankful Nation” runs from February 21 through August 3 and is open to the public without charge on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Further information is available from Princeton’s Curator of Numismatics, Alan Stahl,

19. February 2014 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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Nova Caesarea & the 350th Anniversary of the Naming of New Jersey


William Faden (1749-1836). “The Province of New Jersey, Divided into East and West, Commonly Called the Jerseys” ([London], December 1st, 1777) [Historic Maps Collection]. The map that settled the boundary between New Jersey and New York.

To commemorate the 350th anniversary (1664-2014) of the naming of New Jersey, Princeton University Library will publish Nova Caesarea: A Cartographic Record of the Garden State, 1666–1888 in the summer of 2014.  An order form with pre-publications discounts for both the trade and special edition is available HERE.  The deadline for pre-publication discounts is August 1, 2014.



Pre-Publication Order Form

This comprehensive and extensively illustrated volume will introduce readers to the maps that charted the state’s development—from unexplored colonial territory to the first scientifically surveyed state in the Union. An introductory section on coastal charts, manuscript road maps, and early state maps will provide a historical background to the major focus of the book: the state’s first wall maps and county atlases. The large scale of these maps allowed their creators to include the names and locations of nineteenth-century merchants and farmers, hence personalizing local history. The maps will be supplemented with lithographs from the atlases and photographs of the locations today.

06. December 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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RBSC Statement Regarding Recent J. D. Salinger News Story

J. D. Salinger’s unpublished short story “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” has been in the news since November 27, 2013, when a copy of Three Stories (London, 1999) was sold on eBay and then scanned and uploaded without the authorization of the Salinger Literary Estate or the knowledge of the Princeton University Library.  “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” is among the typescript stories by Salinger preserved in the Archives of Story Magazine and Press (C0104), in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. This unauthorized edition contains a typesetting of “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” and two unpublished stories at the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center.

The unidentified person(s) responsible for that unauthorized edition may have used a researcher’s handwritten transcription of the story made without Princeton’s knowledge in our reading room, though it is also possible that it came from photocopies of the typescript made before 1987, when as a result of the landmark Salinger v. Random House, Inc., copyright suit, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections decided not to allow photoduplication of any work by Salinger. As part of its service to scholarship, the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has long allowed researchers to read these stories under supervision in its reading room, along with the rest of Story archives. As Library staff inform all researchers, it is their responsibility to secure permission from the appropriate copyright holder in order to quote, publish, or reproduce items from Princeton collections.

The Story archives contain more than 150 linear feet of editorial and personal correspondence, business and financial records, and other materials, chiefly pertaining to Story and other related publishing ventures (1931–1967) of owner-editors Whit Burnett, Martha Foley, and Hallie Burnett. Princeton initially purchased the archives from Whit and Hallie Burnett in 1965, and gifts of additional archives came from various donors between 1969 and 1999. Among the many other authors represented in Story‘s archives are Erskine Caldwell, Truman Capote, Joseph Heller, Norman Mailer, Carson McCullers, Joyce Carol Oates, William Saroyan, and Tennessee Williams. The Story archives is one of more than 1,400 other collections in the Manuscripts Division.

Don C. Skemer
Curator of Manuscripts, RBSC

03. December 2013 by Rare Books and Special Collections
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