Taylor, Archer, 1890-1973

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Professor at Washington University, St. Louis (1915-1925), University Chicago (1925-1939), University of California, Berkeley (1939-1957).

From the description of Archer Taylor papers pertaining to folklore, [ca. 1939-ca. 1973]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 233603554

Memoirs of Fellows and Corresponding Fellows of The Mediaeval Academy of America

---from Speculum (July, 1974), pp. 606-08

Archer Taylor, a Fellow of the Academy since 1941, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 1 August 1890, and died in Vallejo, California on 30 September 1973. His family belonged to the Society of Friends and the quiet self discipline of the Quaker was evident throughout his long life of unremitting and painstaking research and selfless service to other scholars. Few men of his learning and massive publications have shared their knowledge so freely with their students, colleagues, friends and, again and again, with people in all parts of the world of whom he knew nothing beyond their writings or, indeed, their aspirations to write.

Taylor received an A.B. from Swarthmore in 1909, an M.A. in German from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910, and the Ph.D. in German from Harvard in 1915. Between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard he taught at Pennsylvania State College and made his first visit to Europe. At Harvard, between 1912 and 1915, he took courses with H. C. Bierwirth, Kuno Franke, W. G. Howard, Hans C. G. von Jagemann, G. L. Kittredge, F. N. Robinson, W. H. Schofield and J. A. Walz. His thesis, The märchen motifs in Wolfdietrich, was written under Walz with advice from Kittredge and Robinson. Taylor did not publish his dissertation as a whole, but to read it, as one of the undersigned did recently, is to show how, at the advanced age of not quite 25, he had set the pattern which he was to maintain through life: meticulous examination of texts, mastery of the bibliography of the subject, searching yet not querulous analysis of previous scholarship, separation and identification of themes, not as easy then as now, and above all, a wealth of comparative material from many languages, literatures, and folklores.

Taylor's teaching career carried him steadily westward. From 1915 to 1925 he was at Washington University in Saint Louis, from 1925 to 1939 at the University of Chicago, and from 1939 until he became emeritus in 1957 at the University of California in Berkeley. Everywhere he cheerfully undertook a heavy teaching load and at Chicago and Berkeley he spent long years as Chairman of his Department. As Chairman, he was an imaginative recruiter of younger scholars whom, by example and precept, he imbued with his own enthusiasm for teaching and research.

If "publish or perish" had validity Taylor would be alive today and, since that is not the case, he is somewhere in the empyrean sitting on a monument of publications, hot as when they appeared from the press, and smiling benignly down on less prolific mortals. From his first brief note on a Rosengarten t heme in 1916 to the time of his final illness, he produced a stream of articles, reviews and books which, had he done nothing else, would make one think him a reincarnation of some many-handed god or giant merely to have written them. Exaggerated though such a statement may sound, a glance at his bibliography makes exaggeration fade into truth. Taylor was by training a Germanist and medievalist, but his oeuvre, a word too fashionable to omit, proves him a master of folklore in the most generous sense of that word. His knowledge of the Middle Ages, and behind that of the classical literature affected and enlightened almost all that he wrote. His range, as impressive as his productivity, moved majestically from century to century, genre to genre, country to country, and continent to continent. As an instance of the last, only a couple of years ago, a collection of his articles dealing with Asiatic subjects was published in Taiwan and ran to several hundred pages. By convention, these memoirs are, and must be, brief. In consequence we list only a few of his major writings: The Black Ox (1927), Edward and Sven i Rosengbrd (1931), The Proverb (1931), The Literary History of Meistergesang (1937), Problems in German Literary History of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (1939), A Collection of Welsh Riddles (with Vernam Hull) (1942), Renaissance Guides to Books (1945), The Literary Riddle Before 1600 (1948), English Riddles from Oral Tradition (1951 -959 pages!) An Annotated Collection of Mongolian Riddles (1954), Proverbial Comparisons and Similes from California (1954), A Collection of Irish Riddles (with Vernam Hull) (1955), A History of Bibliographies (1955), The Shanghai Gesture (1956), Book Catalogues: Their Varieties and Uses (1957), A Dictionary of American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases (with B. J. Whiting) (1958), Catalogue of Rare Books: A Chapter in Bibliographical History (1958). Our selection suggests the breadth of Taylor's scholarly interests, but it does no justice to the number of articles with which he enriched us during his last years.

Taylor's scholarly eminence was recognized both here and abroad. There are few pertinent societies or academies of which he was not an active or honorary member. He was President of the American Folklore Society (1935-37) and of the Modern Language Association (1951). On his seventieth birthday (1960), he was presented with a handsome festschrift entitled Humaniora, the introduction to which by Gustave O. Arlt gives details of his private life which those who only know him by his writings should read. In his eightieth year an issue of Proverbium (Helsinki, 1970) was dedicated to him. Since his death a number of appreciative articles have appeared, of which we mention with especial pleasure that by Alan Dundes in the American Folklore Newsletter (III, 1, 1974). The signers of this memoir knew and admired Archer Taylor for an aggregate of more than one hundred and fifty years. Of him we can state, and except for convention it might have been enough: Archer Taylor, a good man, a warm friend, a great scholar -about whom can one say more?


From the guide to the Archer Taylor Papers Pertaining to Folklore, 1890-1973, (The Music Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Taylor, Archer, 1890-1973. Archer Taylor papers pertaining to folklore, [ca. 1939-ca. 1973]. California Digital Library
referencedIn Dorson mss., 1925-1981 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
referencedIn Cowell, Sidney Robertson, 1903-1995. Sidney Robertson Cowell correspondence, 1936-1973. Library of Congress
referencedIn Watkins, Oscar L. Papers, 1898-1943. Indiana University
referencedIn Portraits of University of California individuals and groups, ca. 1850-[ongoing] The Bancroft Library. University Archives.
creatorOf Taylor, Archer, 1890-1973. Letter : Columbus, Ohio, to Miss Dorsey, [Columbus, Ohio], 1963 June 3. Ohio State University Libraries
creatorOf Taylor, Archer, 1890-1973. [Letter] 1955 April 27, Berkeley [to] Dr. Casavis / Archer Taylor. - 1955. University of Oxford
referencedIn Thompson, S. mss., 1911-1976 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)
creatorOf Gillet, Joseph Eugene, 1888-1958. Miscellaneous manuscripts,1939-1948, n.d. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn American Philosophical Society Library. Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection. 1668-1983. American Philosophical Society
referencedIn IU Folklore Institute, 1987 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
creatorOf Archer Taylor Papers Pertaining to Folklore, 1890-1973 The Music Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
correspondedWith Casavis, George Nicholas person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
correspondedWith Cowell, Sidney Robertson, 1903-1995. person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Dorson, Richard Mercer, 1916-1981 person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gillet, Joseph Eugene, 1888-1958. person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
correspondedWith Thompson, Stith, 1885- person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith University of California (1868-1952) corporateBody
associatedWith University of California (1868-1952). Dept. of Music. corporateBody
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
correspondedWith Watkins, Oscar L. person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
Place Name Admin Code Country


Birth 1890-08-01

Death 1973-09-30




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