Eric White, Curator of Rare Books
Our Rare Book holdings focus mainly on significant publications printed ca. 1455 to the present in Europe and the Americas. These resources support broad research and teaching needs, chiefly within the humanities, while increasingly responding to interdisciplinary interest in the history of books as individual objects for primary study. Book donations by Princeton alumni, faculty, and friends over three centuries have provided the essential foundations for a wide variety of collections, and generous endowments allow the library to enhance its role as one of the world’s leading centers for work with these collections by means of reading room access, classroom experience, gallery exhibitions, and online initiatives.
One welcome recent acquisition, supported by the Friends of Princeton University Library, has no peer or precedent at any American university: it is the only surviving copy of the Fior di virtù (Florence, 1493), an illustrated book of moral instruction based on animal lore. Another purchase reunites the two long-separated halves of a heavily annotated copy of Ptolemy’s Geographicae (Strasbourg, 1525), part of which has been at Princeton since 1946. In 2015, the Library acquired the personal working library of Jacques Derrida. Welcome gifts include: a run of the rare monthly The American Jewess (1895- 97), given by Leonard L. Milberg, Class of 1953; important early editions of the writings of the seventeenth-century Mexican nun, Sor Juana de la Cruz, given by Edgar Legaspi; while a major acquisition of 2016, the engraved Description of a Slave Ship (London, 1789), now complements the woodcut version funded ten years earlier by Sid Lapidus, Class of 1959.
Rare Books Collection Highlights