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Series 1: Personal and Scientific Correspondence, 1929-1978 (mostly 1930-1975)
Collection Description & Creator Information
The Papers of Kurt Gödel include documents spanning the years 1905-1980, with the bulk of the material falling between 1930 and 1970. Of greatest extent and significance are Gödel's scientific correspondence (Series I), his notebooks (Series III), and numerous drafts, manuscripts, and galleys of his articles and lectures, published and unpublished (Series IV).
The papers comprise documents relating to all periods of Gödel's life, including scientific correspondence, notebooks, drafts, unpublished manuscripts, academic, legal, and financial records, and all manner of loose notes and memoranda. Family correspondence is notably absent, as are financial records after Gödel's emigration in 1940. Of the manuscript material, a substantial part is in Gabelsberger shorthand, a German system originally devised by Franz Xaver Gabelsberger (1789-1849) and published in his textbook, Anleitung zur deutschen Redezeichenkunst oder Stenographie (1834). Box 26 houses a microfilm copy of Kleines Lesebuch für Gabelsber'sche Stenographie, which could help users with the shorthand system. A photocopy of Karl Ludwig Weizmann's Lehr- und Ubungsbuch der Gabelsbergerschen Stenographie (1915) is in the Manuscript division's Vertical File for assistance in deciphering the system if needed. A bibliography of Gödel's 700-book library is available upon request from the librarian of the Institute's Historical Studies Library. Preprints and offprints sent to Gödel by others are briefly described in the finding aid. They are now stored in seven cartons at Firestone Library.
Prior to its first arrangement in 1983-1984, the collection was stored in filing cabinets and moving cartons in a cage in the basement of the Institute for Advanced Study's Historical Studies Library. In 1985 the papers were placed on deposit in Firestone Library by the Institute for Advanced Study. At that time, the 22 Paige boxes and oversized container used in the first organization of the collection were split into 41 archival boxes, one flat box, one extra large box and seven cartons. In 1997, the finding aid was revised and amplified. Most of the oversized correspondence was merged with that in the main series, as were items from Series III and IV.
Although gathered together in some haste and disarray following Gödel's death, most of the items were found in envelopes labeled by Gödel himself; on that basis, an attempt has been made to retain or, where necessary, restore Gödel's original order. An exception is the division of the correspondence into two series (I: Personal and Scientific Correspondence, II: Institutional, Commercial, and Incidental Correspondence) for convenience of scholarly access; the former is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, the latter by subject. Folders are numbered sequentially within each series. Documents were originally assigned six-digit item numbers, also sequentially within each series, with the first two digits corresponding to series designation. Thus, item 11013 is the thirteenth item in Series XI. Envelopes used by Gödel to organize his papers have been assigned the same number as the item they contained (or the first item among the items they contained). On folder labels, Gödel's own designations are enclosed in quotation marks, while dates in square brackets refer to citations of Gödel's own works in Dawson's bibliography (see the reference list at the end of the preceding biographical sketch). With the publication of a new standard bibliography in the Oxford edition of Gödel's Collected Works, pencil annotations were added to folder labels in accordance with the citations of the new bibliography (Volume III, pp. 487-491). The finding aid, revised in 1997, follows the new bibliography with publication dates in italics.
The correspondence in Series I bulks between 1950 and 1975, but includes earlier items from such correspondents as Paul Bernays, Rudolf Carnap, Jacques Herbrand, Arend Heyting, Karl Menger, Emil Post, Oswald Veblen, John von Neumann, and Ernst Zermelo. Other major correspondents include William Boone, Paul J. Cohen, Georg Kreisel, Oskar Morgenstern, Abraham Robinson, Paul A. Schilpp, Dana Scott, Gaisi Takeuti, and Hao Wang. Approximately two-thirds of the correspondence is incoming. Family correspondence is virtually absent, but about 1000 pages of Gödel's letters to his mother are preserved in the Neue Stadtbibliothek, Vienna.
Early records in the collection include patent correspondence of Gödel's father, birth and baptismal certificates, and Gödel's notebooks and report cards from elementary and secondary schools. Some university course notebooks are also preserved, but there are no enrollment or grade records from the University of Vienna.
Financial records (Series IV) are quite detailed for the period 1930-1939 but are totally absent after Gödel's emigration in 1940. They include account books, canceled checks and deposit slips, ledgers, and various bills and receipts.
Gödel's personal notes and notebooks (Series III, V, and VI) span most of his life. They are largely in Gabelsberger shorthand, as are also some drafts of letters and lectures (Series I and IV). However, there are often longhand headings in German and English, and where mathematics and logic are involved, computational or symbolic notes make some material accessible to readers who cannot read the shorthand. Manuscript items are are almost entirely in pencil.
An assortment of loose manuscript notes and memoranda (also largely in Gabelsberger Shorthand) comprise series V and VI, including reading notes, library request slips, bibliographic memoranda, computation sheets (especially concerning Gödel's work in relativity theory), and personal notes on diverse subjects, including American history, languages, philosophy, and theology. Especially prominent are voluminous notes on the works of Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz.
Smaller categories include medical records (Series X), photographs (Series XI), and ephemera (Series XII). A few folders of correspondence from other sources have also been incorporated as addenda.
Ancillary materials include the books from Gödel's library, now shelved at the Institute for Advanced Study. A list of the books is available at the Historical Studies Library of the Institute, and includes a record of journals received by Gödel (not annotated and thus not slated for retention). Assorted preprints and offprints sent to him by others have been segregated into three groups for retention: presentation copies, items accompanied by correspondence, and items bearing annotations or with accompanying notes. Items within each of these groups are filed alphabetically by author but are not numbered or otherwise indexed.
A few non-documentary items, donated with the papers, have been transferred for safekeeping to the Director's office at the Institute for Advanced Study. They include Gödel's briefcase, door plate, and National Medal of Science (medallion and lapel pin).
Boxes 1a-3c. Incoming and outgoing correspondence filed together, alphabetically by correspondent, and therein chronologically. Unidentified correspondents at end of series.
- Custodial History:
The papers of Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) were bequeathed by him to his wife Adele, who donated them to the Institute for Advanced Study in his memory prior to her death in 1981. Under terms of her will, literary rights to the papers are also vested in the Institute for Advanced Study. In 1985, the papers were placed on deposit in Princeton University Library.
- Archival Appraisal Information:
No appraisal information is available.
Access & Use
- Access Restrictions:
This collection is open for research.
- Conditions for Reproduction and Use:
Single copies may be made for research purposes. No further duplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original.
The Institute for Advanced Study reserves all copyrights and other literary rights to the materials, which may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of the Institute. Please contact the Shelby White and Leon Levy Archives Center, firstname.lastname@example.org, for permissions and additional information.
- Credit this material:
Series 1: Personal and Scientific Correspondence; Kurt Gödel Papers, C0282, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library
- Firestone LibraryOne Washington RoadPrinceton, NJ 08544, USA(609) 258-3184
- Storage Note:
- Firestone Library (mss): Boxes 1-3; 1a; 1b; 1c; 2a; 2b; 2c; 3a; 3b; 3c
- Gödel, Kurt, 1906-1978