News from
Office of Communications
Stanhope Hall, Princeton, New Jersey 08544-5264
Telephone 609-258-3601; Fax 609-258-1301

Contact: Marilyn Marks, (609) 258-3601,

Aug. 2, 2000

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tours offered August 6 and 13 at 3 p.m.

"Century for the Millennium" exhibit features 100 treasures

Library displays masterworks from 3,000 years

Princeton, N.J. -- The most intriguing treasure in a collection of masterworks on display at the Princeton University Library may be the one that cannot be seen: 1,131 letters written by the poet T.S. Eliot to his secret muse, Emily Hale. The letters -- given to the library on the condition that they remain sealed until 2020 -- are exhibited in wrapped boxes under steel bands.

Other treasures in the Princeton University Library's "A Century for the Millenium" exhibition, however, are in full view. Chosen from collections in the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library, items on display begin with a ceramic cylinder bearing an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-561 B.C.), King of Babylon, and progress through the next 3,000 years.

Among the items are luxuriously illuminated Byzantine and Medieval manuscripts, a Maya calligrapher's paint pot with dated text from the 8th century, a 12th century Arabic manuscript of the Greek physician Galen, the Gutenberg Bible, and the earliest books printed in North and South America. Visitors will find celebrated copies of classic texts owned by famous scholars; an 18th century Koran; an Aztec map on deerskin; letters from Benjamin Franklin, James Madison and George Washington at Valley Forge; and an archive of letters from the Queen of France plotting to establish claim to Florida. An original copy of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence shares the gallery with Woodrow Wilson's typescript of his Inaugural Address, the manuscript of an essay on slavery by Abraham Lincoln and the only surviving copy of the most important Gold Rush guide.

Beethoven's "Sketchbook," a Bach letter and the draft score of Wagner's Das Rheingold are musical highlights. Literary features include Lewis Carroll's photograph of the original Alice, a scrapbook of cutouts by Hans Christian Andersen, the manuscript of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and the original drafts of Eugene O'Neill's plays in his memorably minuscule hand.

Much attention has been spent tracing each item's ownership and path to Princeton. One of the first Shakespeare folios shown is the earliest to come to America.

Items in the exhibition come from the library's holdings and from two private collections housed in Firestone: the Scheide Library, owned by William H. Scheide, Class of 1936, and the Cotsen Children's Collection, owned by Lloyd E. Cotsen, Class of 1950.

The two curators who made the selection, Paul Needham and Alfred Bush, called on fellow curators and Princeton faculty to suggest items that might qualify for a show of "Treasures." The exhibition emphasizes the national and international importance of Princeton University's library collections.

The display is on view in the Firestone Library's main exhibition gallery through Sunday, Nov. 5. Summer hours are 8:30-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. The library will be closed on Labor Day weekend.

Beginning Sept. 5, hours will be 9 to 5 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 5 p.m. on weekends. The library also will be open until 8 p.m. on Wednesday evenings.

Curator Alfred Bush will lead special tours of the exhibition on Aug. 6 and 13 at 3 p.m. The Firestone Library is located on the Princeton campus at the corner of Nassau Street and Washington Road.