The Collections of Robert S. Garrett, Class of 1897

Robert S. Garrett was born in suburban Balitmore, into one of Maryland"s most prominent and wealthy families. For four generations, the Garretts ran Robert Garrett and Sons, a shipping and financing, investment banking firm founded by his Irish immigrant great-grandfather, also named Robert Garrett, in 1819. Garrett studied at Princeton, where he excelled in track and field athletics as an undergraduate, In the 1896 Olympic Games he won gold medals in the Shot Put and Discus competitions.

Garrett had an early intensive interests in history and archaeology, and he inherited his collecting passion from his father. After his father's sudden death in 1888, Robert 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, Facsimiles of Writing of All Nations and Periods by J. B. Silvester (by Sir Frederic Madden, London, 1949–50) as his guide for collecting primary examples of every known type of script. Garrett amassed a collection of historical volumes of Western and non-Western manuscripts, fragments, and scrolls, originating from Europe, the Near East, Africa, Asia and Mesoamerica.. In 1942, Robert Garrett gave to Princeton his superb collection of manuscripts, and then added the gift of the Yahuda Collection in 1943, which contains over 5,000 medieval Arabic items.