Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Princeton University. Library. Special Collections and Taylor, Robert Hill, 1908-1985
Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1280s-1958 (mostly 1800-1939)
51 boxes, 229 items, and 13 Volumes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scahsvm): Boxes 1-48; 7a


The Robert H. Taylor Collection consists of over 4,000 3,300 manuscripts illustrating in their wide range the scope of English literature from the fourteenth century to the 1940s. This finding aid focuses on the modern manuscripts, both bound and unbound, in the collection, which is designated "RTC01" within the Manuscripts Division of the Special Collections Department of the Princeton University Library. However, a brief listing of the collection's Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is included.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of manuscripts, letters, and documents of numerous and varied authors and artists that span nearly five centuries of English and American literature. There is a variety of related material, such as such as artwork, illustrated albums, letterbooks, and photographs.

Authors most extensively represented include the so-called "Taylor authors"-Max Beerbohm (with numerous caricatures and drawings, correspondence and manuscripts), Alexander Pope, Richard Brinsley Sheridan; George Gordon Byron, and Anthony Trollope.

Other writers significantly represented in the collection, with regard to manuscripts and/or letters, are: the Brontë family (Anne, Charlotte, and Patrick), Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, Lytton Strachey, Alfred Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, the Trollope family (Frances Milton, Henry Merivale, T. Adolphus, and Frances Eleanor), Oscar Wilde, and Virginia Woolf. The major artists include William Blake, Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"), George Cruikshank, Edward Lear, John Everett Millais, William Makepeace Thackeray, and J. M. W. Turner.

Note: A listing of Taylor Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts (Series 4) is included as a reference for researchers, but full textual and codicological descriptions of them will eventually be published in a "Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library."


The Taylor modern manuscripts collection (RTC01) is housed in 23 archival boxes and 7 shelves (for bound and oversized items). The majority of artwork, particularly the oversized items, is stored in 17 clamshell boxes. This remains an open collection, and additions continue to be made from time to time. The collection has been arranged in the following series:

Collection Creator Biography:

Taylor, Robert Hill, 1908-1985

Robert Hill Taylor (1908-1985), Princeton University Class of 1930, amassed a distinguished collection of rare books, manuscripts, and drawings during more than 50 years of active collecting. The collection began circa 1930, and was eventually moved to Princeton in 1960 and housed in the former Princetoniana Room in Firestone Library in 1972 before being moved to the high security vault in 2012. The heart of his collection consists of the works of Anthony Trollope (Taylor's favorite author), Alexander Pope, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, George Gordon Byron, and Max Beerbohm. As Taylor himself once stated: "I felt that these were representative authors of their respective periods who could still be collected with some approach to completeness, and so I have tried to specialize in them." 1

His first gift to the Princeton University Library, made in February 1950, was the first edition of Daniel Defoe's The True-Born Englishman (1700). Starting in 1958, Taylor donated his holdings of Victorian fiction (which included numerous presentation copies of Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, and Charles Reade) to the Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists (C0171), along with several important Anthony Trollope items from his collection. In addition, Taylor provided the necessary funds that enabled the Library's Special Collections to purchase a variety of special items, such as the Tollemache Chaucer, a fifteenth-century manuscript of The Canterbury Tales.

Besides his numerous and generous gifts, Taylor was an active participant in the Princeton University library community-giving lectures, selecting and assisting with Library exhibitions, and contributing scholarly articles to the Princeton University Library Chronicle. In addition, he served as the chairman of the Council of the Friends of the Library for 26 years. In 1975, Taylor was fittingly honored with the Donald F. Hyde Award of Princeton University for Distinction in Book Collection and Service to the Community of Scholars. He died in Princeton on May 5, 1985, but his legacy lives on through the distinguished and invaluable collection that bears his name and continues to grow.

1 Robert J. Wickenheiser, "Fifty Years of Collecting: The Collector and His Books" in The Princeton University Library Chronicle, Volume XXXXVIII, Numbers 2-3, Winter-Spring 1977, p. 78.

Collection History


Robert H. Taylor, Princeton Class of 1930, placed his library collection on deposit in the Princeton University Library in 1972, and bequeathed it to the Library upon his death in 1985. The Library has accepted gifts and made acquisitions of related material since that time.

"Mysteria Revelata" of John Collins was purchased with funds from the Richard M. Ludwig Endowment established by Michael Spence, Class of 1966.

Florence Emily Hardy (1881-1937) letters to Constance Innes Pocock were purchased in 2014 (AM 2014-88).

Max Beerbohm letters to Florence Kahn were purchased in 2000 (RT 2000-01).

William Shenstone epitaph by Richard Graves was purchased in 2015 (AM 2016-8).


No materials were separated during 2003 processing.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Sylvia Yu and Teresa Basler in 2002-2003. Finding aid written by Sylvia Yu and Teresa Basler in 2002-2003.

Finding aid updated periodically with new accessions by Kelly Bolding, Faith Charlton, and Chloe Pfendler, 2013-2017.

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:

Robert H. Taylor Collection of English and American Literature; 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 (scahsvm): Boxes 1-48; 7a

Find More


See the double issue of The Princeton University Library Chronicle devoted in its entirety to a survey of the Taylor Collection: Robert J. Wickenheiser, "The Robert H. Taylor Collection" (Vol. XXXVIII, no. 2 and 3; Winter-Spring, 1976-77), contains 13 articles by such scholars as G. E. Bentley, James Thorpe, Mary Hyde, Charles Ryskamp, E.D.H. Johnson ("Romantic, Victorian, and Edwardian: Part Two-Manuscripts, Letters, and Drawings," pp. 212-224), H. W. Liebert, Richard M. Ludwig, John V. Fleming, Earl Miner, and Thomas P. Roche. Also, the entire Winter, 1986 issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle focuses on the Robert H. Taylor Collection. See also: Robert H. Taylor, "Contemporary Collectors III: The Robert H. Taylor Library" in the Book Collector Vol. 3, no. 4 (Winter, 1954); "Association Copies from the Collection of Robert H. Taylor" in the Gazette of the Grolier Club [New series], (June, 1969), no. 10; and A.D. Wainwright, "Robert H. Taylor" in the Gazette of the Grolier Club [New series], (1986), no. 38.

Subject Terms:
American literature.
English fiction.
English literature -- Women authors -- Sources.
English literature.
Novelists, American -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Novelists, American -- 19th century -- Manuscripts.
Novelists, American -- 20th century -- Correspondence.
Novelists, American -- 20th century -- Manuscripts.
Novelists, English -- 19th century -- Correspondence.
Novelists, English -- 19th century -- Manuscripts.
Genre Terms:
Beerbohm, Max, Sir, 1872-1956
Byron, George Gordon Byron, baron, 1788-1824
Pope, Alexander. 1688-1744.
Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950.
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 1751-1816.
Strachey, Lytton, 1880-1932.
Thackeray, William Makepeace, 1811-1863.
Trollope, Anthony
Wilde, Oscar, 1854-1900
Woolf, Virginia, 1882-1941.