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Collection Overview

Collins, Varnum Lansing, 1870-1936
Varnum Lansing Collins Collection on Stephen Sayre
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
2 boxes and 0.8 linear feet
Storage Note:
ReCAP (rcpxm): Box 1-2


Consists of material gathered by historical writer Varnum Lansing Collins (Princeton Class of 1892) in preparation for his biography of American patriot Stephen Sayre (Princeton Class of 1757).

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of notes, drafts, transcriptions of articles, a typescript, and correspondence gathered by Varnum Lansing Collins (Princeton Class of 1892) in preparation for his biography of Stephen Sayre (Princeton Class of 1757), a merchant, banker, and diplomatic agent who worked in Europe for the cause of the American Colonies.


Arranged in this order: correspondence, notes, rough drafts, transcriptions, and typescript.

Collection Creator Biography:

Collins, Varnum Lansing, 1870-1936

Varnum Lansing Collins served as Princeton University's Secretary from 1917 to 1936. Collins wrote several books on Princeton's history.

Born in Hong Kong, Collins obtained his education in Paris and London before coming to Princeton as a member of the class of 1892. As an undergraduate, he was editor of The Nassau Literary Magazine, president of the Cliosophic Society, leader of the Glee Club, and a member of the Triangle Club. After receiving an Honorary A.M. from Princeton in 1895, Collins worked in the University Library as a reference librarian until he joined the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages in 1906. He was made full professor six years later and assumed the position of clerk of the faculty—a position he held until 1935. Collins also served as the secretary of the Graduate Council from 1917 until 1927 and was an instrumental figure during the years that the Council successfully conducted its $2,000,000 campaign for faculty salaries.

In 1917 he became University secretary and served in this role for nineteen years. When ill health forced Collins to retire in 1936, the Board accepted his resignation "with regret" and named him Historiographer to Princeton University. Collins had written a number of books on Princeton history, notably a biography of President John Witherspoon, a history of Princeton, and a guide to the town and the University. His love and knowledge of Princeton led to the grassroots development of the University Archives. Named editor of the General Catalogue/Biographical Catalogue in 1906, he compiled files on alumni and on possible, doubtful, and fraudulent "alumni" that have been used by researchers ever since. As secretary he began what is now known as the Historical Subject Files, a collection of Princeton history, lore, and trivia organized by subject.

Collection History

Processing Information

Folder inventory added by Feng Zhu '14 in 2013.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Varnum Lansing Collins Collection on Stephen Sayre; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
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Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
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