Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Lowrie, Walter, 1868-1959
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Walter Lowrie Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1843-1978 (mostly 1891-1959)
39 boxes and 15.6 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-39


The collection consists of autobiographical material and other works such as manuscripts of books, sermon outlines, prayers, articles, and essays; correspondence with family during the time Lowrie was in Europe (especially letters to his mother), but also correspondence with friends and colleagues, particularly Howard A. Johnson, a long-time friend and executor of his estate; photographs of religious art presumably used for his books; documents including certificates and agreements with book publishers; printed matter including reprints of published works; and writings and documents created by Howard A. Johnson and other Kierkegaard scholars.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection contains biographical materials, writings, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, and printed material of Walter Lowrie (Class of 1890), as well as a smaller group of papers created by Canon Howard A. Johnson, the executor of Lowrie's estate. The majority of the collection comprises Lowrie's own papers, which include manuscripts of several works by Lowrie, such as A Short Life of Kierkegaard (1942), The Enchanted Island (1953), and The Soul of Plants (1957), his unpublished translation of Raul Francé's work; articles, addresses, prayers, and sermons by him; and reviews and clippings about his works. Much of the collection is devoted to correspondence between leading theologians and Kierkegaard scholars, such as Canon Howard A. Johnson, Niels Thulstrup, Masuri Otani, and Frederik Riedel, concerning translations of and articles about Kierkegaard's works. The collection also reflects Lowrie's contributions to Kierkegaardian scholarship by making accessible through his translations the Danish philosopher's works. There is additional correspondence by family members to Lowrie, particularly letters from his mother, as well as letters exchanged between family members and correspondence between Lowrie and various publishers. In addition, there are scrapbooks of printed materials about Kierkegaard, material (1907-1930) relating to Lowrie's principal parish, St. Paul's in Rome, and offprints of Lowrie's published works. Howard A. Johnson's papers include drafts of his own writings, teaching materials, corrections on Lowrie's work, student writings, and additional printed materials. Also present is a small collection of writings by other scholars about Kierkegaard.


The collection is arranged into seven series.

Collection Creator Biography:

Lowrie, Walter, 1868-1959

Walter Lowrie, Episcopal clergyman, author, and biographer, was born on April 26, 1868, in Philadelphia to Samuel Thompson Lowrie, a clergyman, and Elizabeth Albertine Dickson. From 1879 to 1886 he attended Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and entered the freshman class at Princeton College in the fall of 1886. He graduated in 1890 and went on to Princeton Theological Seminary, obtaining a master's degree in divinity in 1893. During 1893-1894 he studied abroad at Greifswald and Berlin, Germany, Florence, Italy, and Vevey, Switzerland. In 1894, he returned to America and entered the Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. On June 9, 1895, he was made Deacon of that church and spent the next two months, July and August, assisting at S. Hubert's Church, Keene Valley, New York, inaugurating his long tenure there as a summer minister. Summers from 1895 to 1906 were spent, wholly or in part, ministering at this church.

Lowrie spent his second academic year abroad (1895-1896) at the American School for Classical Studies in Rome. He returned to Philadelphia the following year to become the Curate of St. James Church, a position he would hold for two years. In the winter of 1896, two days after Christmas, he became an ordained priest. In 1898, he left St. James for the Philadelphia City Mission.

Lowrie's third academic year abroad came in 1899, again at the American School for Classical Studies in Rome. It was also the year of his first publication, Doctrine of St. John. In 1900, Lowrie returned from Rome and studied in Princeton, living with Dr. Francis Patton while he prepared his second book, Monuments of the Early Church (published in 1901). From 1901 to 1903 he was with the City Mission in Philadelphia and served at various parishes: from December 1900 to February 1901, as an interim pastor at St. Thomas Church, Whitemarsh, PA: during February-April 1901, as a lenten preacher at Calvary Church, New York City; in September 1902, as an interim pastor at St. John's Church, Paul Smith's, New York; and during October and November 1902, as an interim chaplain at S. George's School, Middletown, RI.

The following years, 1903-1907, were spent serving brief periods at various churches. Lowrie was Rector of Trinity Church in Southwark, PA. He was the Curate of Emmanuel Church in Boston, Mass., from 1904 to 1905. The following two years, 1905-1907, he returned to Trinity Church in Newport, RI, to be the Rector.

Lowrie spent the next twenty-three years, 1907-1930, as the Rector of St. Paul's American Church in Rome, breaking the interim occasionally to serve as exchange pastor, such as his one-year term (1912-1913) as exchange pastor of Christ Church, Cincinnati, Ohio, and another (1922-1923) as exchange pastor of Calvary Church in New York. In March of 1929, Lowrie began his first sermons on Kierkegaard, and in May of the following year he delivered the last sermon of his 23-year ministry in Rome. At the time, he was quoted as saying, "In leaving Italy I have given up much that is agreeable to me but I have gained my own soul."

The year 1930 may have marked the end of Walter Lowrie's career as Rector of St. Paul's American Church in Rome, but the next two decades brought so much productivity that clearly Lowrie's life was merely in transition: one chapter was closing while another was opening. In June 1930, Lowrie returned to Princeton to begin an "itinerant ministry." In 1930, he began to lecture on Barth and Soren Kierkegaard. During the years 1932-1933, he traveled to China and Japan to lecture on Kierkegaard. In December 1933, at the age of sixty-four, he began to study Danish. In the ensuing years, between 1934-1937, he was constantly translating Kierkegaard, and in June 1937 his first biography on Kierkegaard was finished (published in 1938). In June of 1938, the first two volumes of translations of Kierkegaard were completed (published in 1941). Between the years 1939-1944, twelve volumes of Kierkegaard translations were published. In January 1942, his second biography of Kierkegaard, A Short Life of Kierkegaard, was finished and published that same year. From April 1944 to March 1945, he was the Episcopal Chaplain at Princeton University.

In October 1952, Lowrie assumed the duties as Secretary of the Class of 1890. In August 1954, the last translations of Kierkegaard were finished; they were published in 1955. On August 1, 1958, the preface to the paperback edition of Art in the Early Church appeared. On November 21, 1958, his last "Class of 1890" column was printed in the Princeton Almuni Weekly. Lowrie died at Princeton Hospital on August 12, 1959.

Walter Lowrie married Barbara Armour in Princeton on February 19, 1918, at Trinity Church. They had no children.

Collection History


Material was donated to Princeton over the years by Lowrie; after his death in 1959, his wife, Barbara Armour Lowrie, and executor of his estate Howard A. Johnson continued to donate his works. Later additions were gifts of Mrs. R. W. Ketcham, Donald H. Fox, Daniel J. Lawton, and Reverend Owen C. Thomas.

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a departmental practice of combining into one collection manuscript material of various accessions relating to a particular author.


During 2015 re-processing, a copy of a dissertation by the original processor of the collection, Donald Fox, and explanatory correspondence related to later donations were separated from the collection and placed in the collection file.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Donald Hardie Fox, Jennifer Bowden, Jennifer Groom, and Jennifer Maloney in 1976, 1993 , 1998, and 1999. Donald Hardie Fox first processed the collection in 1976 and created a detailed finding aid. In the 1990s, at the discretion of the manuscripts curator, the correspondence series was re-processed and organized into an alphabetical format, and some of the other material was re-sorted into a new series organization. The folder inventory was updated to reflect this later arrangement scheme by Kristine Gift (GS) in 2015.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Walter Lowrie Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-39