Biography and History

Robert Hill Taylor (1908-1985), Princeton University Class of 1930, amassed a distinguished collection of rare books, manuscripts, and drawings during more than 50 years of active collecting. The collection began circa 1930, and was eventually moved to Princeton in 1960 and housed in the former Princetoniana Room in Firestone Library in 1972 before being moved to the high security vault in 2012. The heart of his collection consists of the works of Anthony Trollope (Taylor's favorite author), Alexander Pope, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, George Gordon Byron, and Max Beerbohm. As Taylor himself once stated: "I felt that these were representative authors of their respective periods who could still be collected with some approach to completeness, and so I have tried to specialize in them." 1

His first gift to the Princeton University Library, made in February 1950, was the first edition of Daniel Defoe's The True-Born Englishman (1700). Starting in 1958, Taylor donated his holdings of Victorian fiction (which included numerous presentation copies of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Charles Reade) to the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists (C0171), along with several important Anthony Trollope items from his collection. In addition, Taylor provided the necessary funds that enabled the Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections to purchase a variety of special items, such as the Tollemache Chaucer, a fifteenth-century manuscript of The Canterbury Tales.

Besides his numerous and generous gifts, Taylor was an active participant in the Princeton University library community-giving lectures, selecting and assisting with Library exhibitions, and contributing scholarly articles to the Princeton University Library Chronicle. In addition, he served as the chairman of the Council of the Friends of the Library for 26 years. In 1975, Taylor was fittingly honored with the Donald F. Hyde Award of Princeton University for Distinction in Book Collection and Service to the Community of Scholars. He died in Princeton on May 5, 1985, but his legacy lives on through the distinguished and invaluable collection that bears his name and continues to grow.

1 Robert J. Wickenheiser, "Fifty Years of Collecting: The Collector and His Books" in The Princeton University Library Chronicle, Volume XXXXVIII, Numbers 2-3, Winter-Spring 1977, p. 78.

Source: From the finding aid for RTC01

  • Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature. 1280s-1958 (inclusive), 1800s-1930s (bulk).

    Call Number: RTC01

    The Robert H. Taylor Collection consists of over 4,000 rare books and 3,300 manuscripts illustrating in their wide range the scope of English literature from the fourteenth century to the 1940s. This finding aid focuses on the modern manuscripts, both bound and unbound, in the collection, which is designated "RTC01" within the Manuscripts Division of the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the Princeton University Library. However, a brief listing of the collection's Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is included.