Princeton University. Library. Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

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From its modest origins as a single room in Nassau Hall, the Princeton University Library has grown to become one of the foremost university libraries in the world. With collections totaling over 12 million volumes, manuscripts, and nonprint items spread across fifteen buildings, the Princeton University Library system serves not only the Princeton University community but the world at large.

The genesis of the Princeton University Library is nearly contemporaneous with the founding of the University itself. As early as 1750 small gifts of books had been made to the College by concerned benefactors and in 1754, only two years before the fledgling institution's relocation from Newark to Princeton, royal governor of New Jersey Jonathan Belcher donated his entire collection of 474 volumes. Even at this early point the Trustees clearly considered the acquisition and maintenance of a suitable library to be of a high priority, going so far as to earmark space in the new home of the College (the soon to be built Nassau Hall) as a sizable library room.

The formative years of the Library were marked by a steady growth in the size and breadth of the collections. By the time the first catalog of the Library's holdings was compiled by President Samuel Davies in 1760, the college could count 1,281 volumes in the second floor library room. The introduction of this initial catalogue laid forth a doctrine which would define the ethos of the Princeton University Library for the next 250 years. Said Davies, "A large and well-sorted Collections of Books on the various Branches of Literature, is the most ornamental and useful Furniture of a College and the most proper and valuable Fund with which it can be endowed." The philosophical leanings of Princeton's longest-serving 18th century president, the Scottish-educated Dr. John Witherspoon, also contributed heavily to the Library's early expansion. By the end of the century the catalogue listed 3,000 volumes and students were expected to pay a fee of 67 cents for the privilege of using the Library each session.

Calamity befell the College in 1802 when Nassau Hall was gutted by fire. Among the most hard-felt losses was the Library, of which only a handful of books were salvaged. Vigorous campaigning by the Trustees in the years 1802-1804 enabled the reconstruction of the collection through gifts and donations, and the Library took up residence in the newly constructed Stanhope Hall, where it would remain until 1855. Among the most vital changes to the Library in the 19th century was the increased role of the University Librarian. While various faculty members had held the position since 1768, it was always in a part-time capacity and subsidiary to other work. Beginning with Philip Lindsly in 1813, the Librarian began preparing periodic reports to the President on the status of the Library, outlining acquisitions, damages to volumes, and other notable information. The formation in 1830 of the Library Committee, a subgroup of the Board of Trustees, further signaled the Library's growing importance in the academic life of the College, and when Nassau Hall was again rebuilt after fire in 1860 the Library moved back to its original home, in what is now the faculty room.

Despite the continued growth of the collections and the support of the Trustees and the President, the potential of the Library was largely untapped until the administration of President James McCosh. Until 1868 with several brief periods of exception the Library itself was open to students only once a week for the distribution and exchanging of books. It was McCosh who first seized upon the need for a full-time librarian, and instituted new Library hours every day of the week except Sunday. These alterations to the Library increased accessibility and brought it much more in line with the needs of the student body and the institution in the face of an evolving curriculum.

If any other signifier was needed that the Library had entered a new modern age under McCosh it was the construction of the first freestanding library building on campus, the Chancellor Green Library. This striking octagonal structure fulfilled most of the Library's needs admirably, providing space for the University Librarian, shelving alcoves, and reading spaces for students. Nonetheless, by 1897 the growth of the collections necessitated an addition, which came in the form of the adjoining Pyne Library. Through two World Wars the pair of connected libraries stood as a focal point on campus while great strides were made inside of them by staff. Some of the notable University Librarians who called Chancellor Green and Pyne home include Frederick Vinton, who instituted the Library's first author/subject card catalog; Ernest Cushing Richardson, who established a unique classification system to meet the needs of the collection; and James Thayer Gerould, a founder of the Association of Research Libraries.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Princeton University Library appeared to have reached a point of stasis. Capable administration, suitable facilities, well-developed and well-catalogued collections, and ample room for expansion all seemed to point to a level of stability unseen in the Library's history. Despite this, by the 1920s shelf space in the libraries was again at a premium and it was readily apparent that any plan to alleviate crowding would necessitate a new Library building. The years of planning which preceded the opening of the Firestone Memorial Library in 1948 were characterized by a newfound recognition of the role of the University Library in the post-war era. No longer was space for volumes the primary concern, but rather it was viewed one element to be balanced against the needs of students and staff. With its open stacks, vast reading room, and many multi-purpose spaces the Firestone Library was an influential structure among university libraries.

Though the opening of the new library building was undoubtedly the defining moment of the Princeton University Library in the twentieth century, other seeds were planted early on which would eventually blossom to become hallmarks of the Library. Many of these were related to the diversification and increased specialization of the Library's collections. The continual growth of the Library's manuscript, rare book, and graphic arts collections ultimately led to the formation of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in 1948-1949. In particular, the efforts of mid-century University Librarians Julian Boyd and William S. Dix to acquire the papers of noted authors and publishing houses, as well as many gifts of private collections and other donations made possible by the Friends of the Princeton University Library, helped make Princeton a center for research. Subject-specific collections such as the Industrial Relations Section also came into being around this time, and subsequent additions or renovations to Firestone have provided space for numerous other specialized units.

While the monolithic Firestone stands as the center of the Princeton University Library, in the second half of the 20th century the University Library has also expanded into several satellite libraries around campus. These include the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, home of the university archives and the public policy collections; the Fine Hall Library, housing the math, physics, biology, and geosciences collections; the Engineering Library; the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology; the Stokes Library for Public and International affairs; the Mendel Music Library; and several other annexes and special subject libraries. Notable also is the ReCAP facility on Forrestal Campus, a vast shelving facility operated by Princeton in conjunction with Columbia University and the New York Public Library. All told, the University Library encompasses fifteen separate facilities, all operating under a single administration and towards the common goal of supporting the University's focus on scholarship and learning.

University Librarians

Sim, Hugh 1768

Linn, James 1769(?)-1770

Houston, William Churchill 1770-1786

Snowden, Gilbert Tennent 1786-1787

Abeel, John Nelson 1793

Finely, Robert 1793-1794

English, David 1794-1796

Ely, Alfred 1804-1805

Kollock,Henry 1804-1806

Bayard, Samuel 1806-1807

Belknap, Hezekiah 1807-1809

Dunlap, William 1809-1810

Bergen, John 1810-1812

Lindsly, Philip 1812-1849

Maclean, John Jr. 1824-1849

Giger, George Musgrave 1849-1865

Cameron, Henry Clay 1865-1873

Vinton, Frederic 1873-1889

Richardson, Ernest Cushing 1890-1920

Gerould, James Thayer 1920-1938

Heyl, Lawrence (Acting 1939-1940)

Boyd, Julian Parks 1940-1953

Kelley, Maurice (Acting 1952)

Dix, William Shepard 1953-1975

Boss, Richard 1976-1978

Koepp, Donald W. 1978-1995

Klath, Nancy S. (Acting 1995-1996)

Trainer, Karin A. 1996-2016

Jarvis, Anne E. 2016-

From the guide to the Princeton University Library Records, 1734-2012, 1952-1995, (Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Doukas, Stellios. Greek pamphlet collection at the Firestone Library, Princeton University : pamphlets, newsletters, and other ephemera on Greece and Southeastern Europe. Princeton University Library
creatorOf New York City Theater Playbills Collection, 1880-1987 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Theater People Subject Files, 1850s-1988 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf "We Saw It Happen" Collection, 1937 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsManuscripts Division
creatorOf Boyd, James, 1888-1944. [James Boyd index reference] [microform]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Dance Subject Files, 1900-1980s Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
referencedIn Rice, Howard C. (Howard Crosby), 1904-1980. Howard C. Rice correspondence with Alexander D. Wainwright, 1950-1980. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Circus Posters Collection, circa 1850-1973 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
creatorOf Vaudeville Collection, 1895-1931 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Beardsley, Aubrey, 1872-1898. Aubrey Beardsley collection (C0056) : complete list of drawings/illustrations. Princeton University Library
creatorOf American Minstrel Show Collection, 1854-1943, 1850s-1920s Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Playbills Printed on Satin, 1803-1923 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
referencedIn Leslie, Frank P. Frank P. Leslie papers, 1903-1972 (bulk 1940-1970). Minnesota Historical Society, Division of Archives and Manuscripts
creatorOf Princeton Revolution Collection, 1777 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsManuscripts Division
creatorOf Louisiana Slavery and Civil War Collection, 1722-1872 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsManuscripts Division
creatorOf Gilbert and Sullivan Collection, 1879-1965, 1930-1960 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Anonymous Playscripts Collection, 1890s-1942 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Mexican Postcards Collection, 1890-2000 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
creatorOf Radio Broadcasting Collection, 1938-1959 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Mexican Ephemera Collection, 1890-2000 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
creatorOf Geographical Playbills Collection, 1832-1980, 1925-1965 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Princeton University Library Records, 1734-2012, 1952-1995 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Princeton University Archives.
referencedIn Princeton University Library Records, 1734-2012, 1952-1995 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections.Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. Princeton University Archives.
creatorOf German Authors Collection, 1772-1930 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsManuscripts Division
creatorOf Pre-Columbian Stamp Seals and Roller Seals Collection, Pre-Columbian era-1600 A.D Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
creatorOf Screenplays Collection, 1931-1979 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Performing Arts Serials Collection, 1869-1980 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
referencedIn Frank P. Leslie papers., 1903-1972. Minnesota Historical Society
creatorOf Radio Scripts Collection, 1938-1947 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections. Exhibitions collection, 1951-2011. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Miscellaneous Screenplays, 1930-1980s Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Boker, George H. (George Henry), 1823-1890. [Francesca da Rimini [microform] : a tragedy : autograph mss. collection at Princeton University Library]. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections. Student academic work collection, 1862-1985. Princeton University Library
referencedIn Rice, Howard C. (Howard Crosby), 1904-1980. Howard C. Rice correspondence with Alexander D. Wainwright collection, 1950-1980. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Miscellaneous Playscripts Collection, 1882-1961 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Miscellaneous Dance Files Collection, 1940-1989 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Broadside Playbills, 18th-20th century Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsRare Book Division
creatorOf Fine Press Printing Ephemera Collection, 1898-2010, 1924-1948 Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special CollectionsGraphic Arts Collection
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Altschul, Frank, 1887-1981 person
associatedWith American Broadcasting Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Ashbee, C. R. (Charles Robert), 1863-1942 person
associatedWith Ashbee, Janet E. (Janet Elizabeth) person
associatedWith Bahr, Leonard F. person
associatedWith Balanchine, George. person
associatedWith Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo corporateBody
associatedWith Baskin, Leonard person
associatedWith Beardsley, Aubrey, 1872-1898. person
associatedWith Beilenson, Edna, 1909-1981 person
associatedWith Beilenson, Peter, 1905-1962 person
associatedWith Berliner, Harold person
associatedWith Blumenthal, Joseph, 1897-1990 person
associatedWith Boker, George H. (George Henry), 1823-1890. person
associatedWith Boston Museum, 1847-1903 corporateBody
associatedWith Boyd, James, 1888-1944. person
associatedWith Boyd, Julian P. (Julian Parks), 1903- person
associatedWith Brewer, F. (Fredric) person
associatedWith Carey, Melbert Brinckerhoff, 1892-1941 person
associatedWith CBS Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Chestnut Street Theatre (Philadelphia, Pa.) corporateBody
associatedWith Claire, Marie. person
associatedWith Cobden-Sanderson, T. J. (Thomas James), 1840-1922 person
associatedWith College of New Jersey (Princeton, N.J.) corporateBody
associatedWith Conwell, Clarke person
associatedWith Covent Garden Theatre. corporateBody
associatedWith Cummins, Maureen person
associatedWith Diaghilev, Serge, 1872-1929 person
associatedWith Dix, William S. person
associatedWith D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Drury Lane Theatre. corporateBody
associatedWith Durant and Hornor (Firm) corporateBody
associatedWith Federal Theatre Project (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Gerould, James Thayer, 1872-1951 person
associatedWith Gibbings, Robert, 1889-1958 person
associatedWith Gilbert, W. S. (William Schwenck), 1836-1911 person
associatedWith Godine, David R. person
associatedWith Goudy, Frederic W. (Frederic William), 1865-1947 person
associatedWith Grabhorn, Edwin E. person
associatedWith Grabhorn, Jane Bissell person
associatedWith Grabhorn, Robert person
associatedWith Graham, Martha. person
associatedWith Graves, Joseph person
associatedWith Hamady, Walter person
associatedWith Hammer, Carolyn Reading person
associatedWith Hammer, Victor Karl, 1882-1967 person
associatedWith Haymarket Theatre (London, England) corporateBody
associatedWith Heckscher, August, 1913-1997 person
associatedWith Heyl, Lawrence, 1893- person
associatedWith Howard & Doyle Theatrical Agents. corporateBody
associatedWith Hoyem, Andrew person
associatedWith Ishall, Joseph person
associatedWith Joffrey Ballet corporateBody
associatedWith Kanner, Catherine person
associatedWith Kelley, Maurice, 1903- person
associatedWith Kellogg, Spencer person
associatedWith Kelsey, Enos, 1733-1811 person
associatedWith King, Ronald, 1932- person
associatedWith Koch, Peter Rutledge person
associatedWith Koepp, Donald W., 1929- person
associatedWith Lawrence, Simon, 1958- person
associatedWith Leslie, Frank P. person
associatedWith Licher, Bruce person
associatedWith Limón, José. person
associatedWith Lindsly, Philip, 1786-1855 person
associatedWith Ludwig, Richard M., 1920- person
associatedWith Marks, Lillian person
associatedWith Marks, Saul, 1905-1974 person
associatedWith McCaddon Circus corporateBody
associatedWith McGrath, Harold person
associatedWith Morris, Henry, 1925- person
associatedWith Moser, Barry person
associatedWith Mutual Broadcasting System. corporateBody
associatedWith National Broadcasting Company, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith New York City Ballet corporateBody
associatedWith New York (N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times. corporateBody
associatedWith Older's Museum, Circus and Menagerie corporateBody
associatedWith Pippet, Gabriel person
associatedWith Princeton Ballet Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Buildings. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Catalogs. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Cotsen Children's Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Dept. of Rare Books and Special Collections corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Employees. Handbooks, manuals, etc. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. Friends. corporateBody
associatedWith Princeton University. Library. History. corporateBody
associatedWith Prüssen, Eduard person
associatedWith Rather, Clif person
associatedWith Rather, Lois, 1905- person
associatedWith Rice, Howard C. (Howard Crosby), 1904-1980. person
associatedWith Richardson, Ernest Cushing, 1860-1939 person
associatedWith Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Combined Shows corporateBody
associatedWith Ritchie, Ward, 1905-1996 person
associatedWith Royal Ballet corporateBody
associatedWith Sadler's Wells Ballet corporateBody
associatedWith Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616 person
associatedWith Stinehour, Roderick person
associatedWith Stoddard, Carol C. person
associatedWith Street of Crocodiles (Press) corporateBody
associatedWith Sullivan, Arthur, Sir, 1842-1900 person
associatedWith Thompson, Edmund, 1897-1974 person
associatedWith Tiessen, Wolfgang person
associatedWith Trissel, James person
associatedWith Trovillion, Hal W., 1879-1967 person
associatedWith Trovillion, Violet, b. 1890 person
associatedWith United States. Continental army corporateBody
associatedWith Updike, Daniel Berkeley, 1860-1941 person
associatedWith Van Viet, Claire person
associatedWith Vinton, Frederic, 1817-1890 person
associatedWith Walnut Street Theatre. corporateBody
associatedWith Wheeler, Hatch & Hitchcock's Circus & Hippodrome corporateBody
associatedWith Wood, Roland Armstrong, 1897-1967 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Mexico
New Jersey--Princeton
New Jersey
Princeton (N.J.)
New Orleans (La.)
Exhibitions--New Jersey--Princeton
Mexico
Subject
Academic Librarians--New Jersey--Princeton
Universities and Colleges--Administration--New Jersey--Princeton
Academic Library Directors--New Jersey--Princeton
Princeton University
Academic Libraries--New Jersey--Princeton
American history
New Jerseyana
Occupation
Activity
Collectors

Corporate Body

Active 1951

Active 2011

Americans

English

Information

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