Archival Collections

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, located in the Harvey S. Firestone Library and the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, is one of the premier repositories of its kind. Its holdings span five millennia and five continents, and include around 200,000 rare or significant printed works; 30,000 linear feet of textual materials, ranging from cuneiform tablets to contemporary manuscripts; a wealth of prints, drawings, photographs, maps, coins, and other visual materials; the Cotsen Children's Library; and the Princeton University Archives. The privately owned Scheide Library is associated with the Department.

The mission of the Department is to collect, preserve, organize, describe, and promote use of the primary source materials and unique intellectual resources in its care. A staff of 50, headed by Ben Primer, Associate University Librarian, pursues a wide range of activities designed to fulfill this mission, including collection development, cataloging and processing programs, reference and outreach services, and exhibitions.  Specific information about each of the Department's units can be found here

Below is a small sample of Russia-related archival materials that are available at The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.    




The Papers of Osip Mandelshtam

The Papers of Osip Mandelshtam (1891-1938) consist of Russian-language works, correspondence, and printed matter of Osip Emil'evich Mandelshtam. The collection contains holograph and typed manuscripts of his poems, reviews, articles, and essays, often in draft form representing different stages of his work, many of which are in the hand of his wife, Nadezhda, who acted as his amanuensis. Among the works are the following collections of poetry: Kamen, Tristia, Poems (1928), New Poems, and Voronezh Notebooks. Prose works include “Fourth Prose,” “Journey to Armenia,” “Conversation about Dante,” and “The Egyptian Stamp.” A copy of Kamen belonging to S. P. Kablukov and Poems (1928) inscribed to N. E. Shtempel are also in the collection. In addition, there are official documents; correspondence as well as notations by Nadezhda on Mandelshtam's political situation; letters from Mandelshtam to Nadezhda [Khazina]; and letters from Soviet poet Anna Akhmatova, a letter from Arthur Miller, and others, some of which contain references to the Writer's Union.

Georges Florovsky Papers

The collection consists of works, correspondence, documents, photographs, and memorabilia of Florovsky, reflecting his career at various academic institutions, such as Saint Vladimir's Theological Seminary in New York (1948-1956) and Harvard Divinity School (1956-1964), teaching patristics and Russian religious thought, and later at Princeton (1964-1972), teaching Slavic languages and literatures. The collection contains articles and papers written in several languages, mostly Russian and English, but also French, German, Romanian, Italian, and Greek; card files; his notes and bibliographic references; and bibliographies of his writings. Much of the material concerns his work in the World Council of Churches, as a member of the Executive Committee and the Commission on Faith and Order. Correspondence pertains, among other things, to his involvement in the Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius in London, the Parisian emigre community, and activities at Harvard. Correspondents include Svetlana Allilueva, Nikolai Arsenev, Nicholas Berdiaev, Father Sergius Bulgakov, Peter Struve, and George Vernadsky.

Evgenii Zamiatin Collection

The collection consists of selected papers, in Russian and English, of Zamiatin, primarily after 1931, when he emigrated to Paris, France. Included are autograph and typed manuscripts for a short story, "The Dragon," two articles, "The Modern Russian Theater" and "The Future of the Theater," and four synopses or scenarios for film or theater treatments, "D-503" (a film scenario for Zamiatin's negative utopian novel WE), "The Flea," "In Siberia," and "Master of Asia." Also present are nine letters (1932-1933) to George Reavey, the Irish poet and translator of Russian literature, and one letter (1934) to the theater director Theodore Komisarjevsky.


John Elphinston Papers Relating to the Russo-Turkish War

Consists of log books, letter books, letters, and documents preserved by John Elphinston, rear-admiral in the service of Catherine the Great. Includes his certificate of service signed by the Empress Catherine; his unpublished manuscript memoirs (1773) in four volumes; a narrative of the Russian expedition by sea (1769-70), with an account of his reception at the Court of St. Petersburg and his meetings with Catherine the Great, who had asked the British government to loan her some senior naval officers to rehabilitate the Russian fleet; Elphinston's own letter book and log book for the expedition. Together with manuscript narratives of the expedition edited by his son Captain Alexander Elphinstone; petitions to the Russian Emperors Alexander (1777-1825) and Nicolas I (1796--1855) for the reward due to his father, including autograph letters from Count Pozzo di Borgo, Count Nesselrode, and other officials and secretaries.

Clinton A. Decker Papers

Clinton A. Decker traveled to Russia as part of the American Advisory Commission to Russia of Railway Experts (1917) and later became a member of the Inter-Allied Technical Board (1919-1922). The collection contains personal and business correspondence and photographs documenting Decker's travels in Russia, China, and Japan.

The Norman Armour Papers

The Norman Armour Papers are comprised primarily of Armour's correspondence with State Department officials, American presidents, and foreign leaders. Reports, telegrams, transcripts of speeches and newspaper clippings documenting Armour's diplomatic career, and personal correspondence are also preserved in the collection.

Myra Armour, wife of Norman Armour, donated the papers in 1984.

In his letters, speeches and official reports, Armour often refers to his experiences in revolutionary Russia, which helped shape his more conservative and considered manner of diplomacy. In 1919, while stationed at the American Embassy in Petrograd, he wrote to Robert McElroy: "Bolshevism, with its appeal to all that is basest, and a programme which holds out as bait to ignorant workingmen the immediate satisfaction of all their wishes and desires, is...capable of wrecking every country, as it has already wrecked Russia....I believe it has in it the germs capable of destroying civilization itself." President Nixon later referred to the prediction in a letter to Armour: "You proved, unfortunately, to be an extremely accurate prophet at a time when very few in this country recognized the dangers ahead."

Papers of Louis Fischer and Bertha “Markoosha” Fischer

The Louis Fischer Papers include correspondence, interviews, articles and notes, lectures and speeches, photographs, and audiovisual materials that document his life as a journalist, writer, and commentator on international affairs. They also include the papers of his wife, Bertha Markoosha Fischer, an author in her own right, as well as family correspondence and papers. In the latter part of his life Fischer was affiliated with of the Institute for Advanced Study (1959-1961) and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs (1961-1969). The majority of the materials are written in English, but certain correspondence is in German, Russian, Hebrew, or French. Some of the articles are translations for foreign papers and journals.

George F. Kennan Papers

George F. Kennan, Princeton Class of 1925, was an officer in the U.S. Foreign Service from 1926 to 1953, ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and a member of and professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. The George F. Kennan Papers consists mainly of official and semi-official files (1934-1949) from the period he served as an officer in the Foreign Service of the United States. Also included are papers that span the years during which Kennan was ambassador to the Soviet Union (1952) and to Yugoslavia (1961-1963) and lecturer and professor of history at Princeton University. Included are published and unpublished articles, drafts, speeches, lectures, and reports concerning the control of atomic weapons, European unification, the Russian revolution, communism under Stalin, and U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, correspondence, miscellaneous clippings, and photographs.

Don Oberdorfer Papers

The Don Oberdorfer Papers consist of transcripts of interviews conducted by Oberdorfer with both American and Soviet foreign policy officials for his book,The Turn: From the Cold War to a New Era, TheUnited Statesand the Soviet Union, 1983-1990(Poseidon Press, 1991, and Touchstone Press, 1992). The papers also contain a significant amount of material documenting foreign policy actions taken by both countries during the same period.




Russian Prints and Posters Collection

Contains 19 Russian prints with a wide range of style and subject matter. The earliest print (1850) is a rare example of Russian folk art titled "How the mice buried the cat." Also included is a Russian version of the "Ages of Man," a portrait of Paul I as a young boy, and a colored lithograph showing the opening of the Georgian Constitutional Assembly in 1919. Three lithographs of St. Petersburg, a seriagraph by Vasili Kandinsky, and several modern posters complete the collection. A more recent addition is a group of nine Russian propaganda posters that were collected in the summer of 1934 by Oliver Langenberg (Princeton Class of 1935) and three college friends, who were traveling through the Soviet Union, observing first-hand the early attempts of the Soviet government to build a new society that would be a "workers paradise." These posters depict social and political goals of the Soviet leaders and contain images of workers, mothers, children, and cooperative farms. A striking poster contrasts German soldiers burning books with Soviet workers cherishing them.

The Anna Baksht Benjamin Family Collection of Raduga Books

For a few glorious years, between 1922 and 1925, Raduga’s reputation was as radiant as a rainbow. Not only did Chukovskii’s poems go back to press again and again, but Kliachko was able to attract the talents of writers of the caliber of Samuil Marshak, Vitalii Bianki, Elena Dan’ko, Agnaia Barto, and Evgenii Shvarts to write new works that would be illustrated by an equally brilliant group of artists. Raduga’s picture books were also exhibited abroad and won international acclaim.

Around 1926, Kliachko issued a catalog of 217 titles for children, with three double-page full-color collages of Raduga’s most famous and popular large picture books illustrated by the notable artists Mstislav Dobushinskii, Vladimir Konashevich, Eduard Krimmer, Vladimir Lebedev, Alexei Radakov, Sergeii Rakhmanin, Konstantin Rudakov, Mikhail Tsekhanovskii, and V. S. Tvardovskii.

Now that it is possible to examine in the Cotsen Children’s Library more than a hundred titles produced by the press, some interesting questions about its operations have begun to emerge. First editions of Raduga books were produced in four distinct formats in four price ranges: 11.5 × 14.5 cm for ten or twelve kopecks ; 18 × 14.5 cm for twenty-three kopecks; 22 × 18.5 cm for thirty-five kopecks; and 29 × 23 cm for a ruble (Raduga’s most famous books, like Chukovskii’s Moidodir, were issued in the largest, most expensive format). More surprising is the size of the first editions: the print run of the cheapest books was 50,000 copies; the twenty-three-kopeck books, 30,000; the thirty-five-kopeck books, 20,000; and the one-ruble books, between 5,000 and 10,000 copies. These numbers raise a corresponding question: if Raduga is supposed to have issued around four hundred titles during its eight-year existence, how was Kliachko distributing all those copies of all those books? The booklists that sometimes appeared on the backs of the large picture books could not have been the sole marketing device! We look forward to welcom­ing scholars who will address this question—and many others—about this fascinating twentieth-century children’s book publisher.

Rare Books: Russian History and Literature

Princeton's rare book collections of Russian history and literature consist of approximately 200 volumes which are most notable for literary works. Most of the literature is original texts, however some highlights are notable English translations. Literature is classed Ex 3010 to 3030 and history is classed Ex 3400 to 3499. The Library also has an extensive Slavic language collection in the open stacks of Firestone.

Twentieth-Century Literature. Pre-revolutionary Symbolist poets and novelists are strong in this area and well represented by selected works of such writers as Konstantin Dmitrievich Balmont, Andrey Bely, Aleksandr Iakovlevich Briusov, Nikolai Alekseevich Nekrasov, Aleksei Remizov, Soloviev, and others. Most of the Symbolist writings are in Russian with the notable exception of the translation into English of Blok's masterpiece, The Twelve and Nekrasov's famous poem, "Red-nosed Frost" published in Boston in 1886.

Nineteenth-Century Literature.Pushkin is best represented. Several excellent translations of his poems are available, including the four-volumeEugene Oneginby Vladimir Nabokov, published in Princeton in 1964. There is also the six-volume collection of Pushkin in Russian (Moscow and Leningrad, 1936-38) of his poems, stories, tales, letters and dramatic works, edited by Oksman and Tsiavlovskii. Also interesting is a six-volume set of Tolstoy's works, ex-libris F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Russian History.The most interesting books in this section are observations of Russian life written by German, French, English and American travelers between the 16th and 20th centuries. One of the more recent accounts is Steinbeck'sRussian Journal(New York, 1948) which is signed by the author. The collection has many editions in many languages of the two works by Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva.

Also of note are several unusual books such as a Russian grammar presented by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Zelda, an English translation of the Countess Sophie Tolstoy's autobiography, and the facsimile of a Russian gospel manuscript (11th century). The Library also has a copy of the first English work on Russia, Giles Fletcher's Of the Russe Common Wealth(London, 1591).