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Collection Overview

Garrett, Robert, b. 1875
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Robert Garrett Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1901-1992 (mostly 1920-1945)
4 boxes and 2.3 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-4
English Arabic


The Robert Garrett Papers consists of correspondence and documents primarily concerning the Robert Garrett Collection and other collecting interests of Garrett, Princeton Class of 1897.

Collection Description & Creator Information


Consists of correspondence, financial material, and printed matter of Garrett (Princeton Class of 1897). The collection contains correspondence between Garrett and Ernest Cushing Richardson, Harry Clemons, and James Thayer Gerould of the Princeton University Library regarding his gift (1942) of mainly Islamic books and manuscripts; correspondence, invoices, and lists of purchases from manuscripts dealers, including Bernard Quaritch, Ltd.; correspondence with William Gates concerning the Mesoamerican Manuscripts Collection; correspondence concerning the University Committee on Humanistic Collections; and offprints of articles about the Garrett Collection. Additional correspondence (1941-1942) of Robert Garrett with Philip K. Hitti, A. S. Yahuda, Harold W. Dodds, and Julian P. Boyd concerns the Yahuda Collection of Islamic Manuscripts.

In addition, there is a folder of Garrett correspondence with R. E. Brunnow, E. C. Richardson, and others, concerning the acquisition of Babylonian clay tablets (1911-1945). Additional provenance files are housed at the end of the collection.


The collection has been arranged chronologically by subject.

Collection Creator Biography:

Robert Garrett was born in Baltimore, Maryland, on June 24, 1875. Garrett inherited his collecting interest from his father, Thomas Harrison Garrett, Princeton Class of 1868. After his father's sudden death in 1888, Garrett spent the following two and a half years traveling extensively with his mother and two brothers, Horatio and John, in Europe and the Near East. During his travels Garrett developed a particular interest in manuscripts and began collecting. He used the text Universal Paleography: or, Fac-similes of Writing of All Nations and Periods by J. B. Silvestre (tr. by Sir Frederic Madden, London, 1949-50) as his guide for collecting primary examples of every known type of script. Garrett returned to the United States in 1891 and soon after began his studies at Princeton University. He received his A.B. degree from Princeton in 1897. While in school, Garrett excelled in track and field athletics. In 1896 he competed in the first modern Olympic games in Athens, Greece, where he became the first champion in discus and shot put. After graduation he continued on in the family banking firm, Robert Garrett & Sons, in Baltimore, Maryland. However, he maintained very close contact with his alma mater and in 1905 was elected a Life Trustee of Princeton University. Throughout his career Garrett also remained dedicated to his collecting hobby. He maintained from the beginning that his collection would one day be given to the Princeton University Library so that it would always be connected with academic research. He donated the bulk of his collection to the Princeton University Library in 1942. Robert Garrett died on April 25, 1961, in Baltimore, Maryland. In the end he had amassed a collection of over 11,000 volumes of Western and non-Western manuscripts, fragments, and scrolls, originating from Europe, the Near East, Africa, Asia and Mesoamerica, ca. 1340 B.C.-1900s.

Collection History


Gift of Robert Garrett, Mrs. Emanuel Petitpas, and Josephine Petitpas. Additions transferred from James Weinberger Near East Collections.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Teresa T. Basler in 2003. Finding aid written by Teresa T. Basler in 2003.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and 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:

Robert Garrett Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184

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Publication Note:

Dodds, Harold W. "The Garrett Collection of Manuscripts: Acceptance of the Collection by President Dodds," Princeton University Library Chronicle 3, no. 4 (June 1942), pp. 113-130. (this issue also contains articles about other aspects of the Garrett Collection). Garrett, Robert. "Recollections of a Collector," Princeton University Library Chronicle 10, no. 3 (April 1949) Skemer, Don C. "The Garrett Collection Revisited," Princeton University Library Chronicle 56, no. 3, pp. 420-28. William, Harold A. Robert Garrett & Sons Incorporated: Origins and Development, 1840-1965. Baltimore: n.p., 1965.

Subject Terms:
Book collecting -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century.
Book collectors -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Librarians -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Manuscripts, Arabic -- Collectors and collecting -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century.
Rare books -- Collectors and collecting -- New Jersey -- Princeton -- 20th century.
Genre Terms:
Princeton University.
Clemons, Harry, 1879-1968
Gerould, James Thayer, 1872-1951
Richardson, Ernest Cushing, 1860-1939