Biography and History

Morris Longstreth Parrish (1867-1944) was a respected Philadelphia businessman who painstakingly built up in the course of his lifetime an impressive library of Victorian novelists at his residence, called Dormy House, in Pine Valley, New Jersey. The phrase "Parrish condition" became a trade word among bibliophiles for the highest quality standard of first editions, as exemplified by Parrish's purchases. However, it was just as important to Parrish that his books be read and enjoyed, and not be preserved on his shelves as museum pieces. Parrish authored three, privately printed bibliographies based on his library collection: Victorian Lady Novelists (1933) on the Brontës, George Eliot, and Mrs. Gaskell, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hughes (1936), and Wilkie Collins and Charles Reade (1940).

Parrish attended Princeton University briefly, as a member of the Class of 1888, but did not graduate. He received an honorary Masters of Arts degree from Princeton in June 1939. He bequeathed his entire library, including furniture and furnishings, to the Princeton University Library upon his death. The majority of printed books in the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists is housed in the Parrish Room , a recreation of Parrish's library at Dormy House, which is located in the Rare Books and Special Collections Department of the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library. The manuscripts and artwork in the Parrish Collection, however, are housed in separate locations within the Department.

A detailed summary of the growth of the Parrish Collection in the decade following its arrival at the Library was written by Alexander D. Wainwright, first curator of the Parrish Collection, who held the job until his death in January 2000. The following excerpts are from Wainwright's article entitled "A Summary Report and an Introduction," as published in The Princeton University Library Chronicle (Volume XVII, Number 2, Winter 1956, pp. 59-67):

The Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists consists primarily of a series of more than twenty author collections. When it came to Princeton it contained over sixty-three hundred volumes and (exclusive of the nearly eighteen hundred Lewis Carroll mathematical manuscripts), approximately one thousand manuscript items, mostly letters-the latter a comparatively small figure since Mr. Parrish had no pronounced enthusiasm for manuscript material - as well as many theater programs, playbills, photographs, clippings, and other miscellanea (pp. 59-60).

...As a result of these purchases and gifts, the Library has added to the Parrish Collection during the past ten years over five hundred volumes and some nine hundred manuscript items, mainly letters (p. 60).

...The Library places, for obvious reasons, a greater emphasis on manuscript material than did Mr. Parrish; for every author it is interested in acquiring letters related to any aspect of the composition, publication, and reception of his work, for several authors it is interested in any significant letter, and one of the ultimate aims is the possession of the manuscript of at least one major work of each author (p. 61).

*From "The Library of Dormy House" by John Carter (article reprinted in The Princeton University Library Chronicle , Volume VIII, Number 1, November 1946, p. 7): "... he [Parrish] cares... almost nothing for manuscripts."

Source: From the finding aid for C0171

  • M. L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists. 1806-1958 (inclusive), 1830s-1930s (bulk).

    Call Number: C0171

    The Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists, consisting of the library of books, manuscripts, photographs, artwork, and ephemera as collected by Morris Longstreth Parrish, Class of 1888, came to Princeton University in 1944 as a bequest. This finding aid focuses on Parrish's original collection of manuscripts, both bound and unbound, and includes his correspondence (related to his collecting activities) and letters both to and from many of the Victorian authors, as well as the manuscript and related (non-book) items given to and/or acquired for the collection by the Princeton University Library in subsequent years.