Special Collections Showcase April 2024

Special Collections Showcase April 2024

Once a month, five objects from across Special Collections’ vast holdings will be on display in the lobby of Firestone Library for two hours for anyone to come and see. Here are the objects featured in our April 2024:

Object 1: Toni Morrison’s Copy of Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner ( (Toni Morrison Papers – C1491, Box 218, Folder 11)

American author and editor Toni Morrison had a complicated relationship with the work of William Faulkner. On paper, the two had much in common–both wrote sweeping novels rooted in family dynamics; often set in the southern US against the backdrop of slavery and segregation both authors grappled with the actions of the past’s effects on the conditions of the present. However, in her talk at the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference in 1985, she said, “There was for me not only an academic interest in Faulkner but in a very, very personal way, in a very personal way as a reader, William Faulkner had an enormous effect on me, an enormous effect” and “I’m not sure that he had any effect on my work.” Through this discrepancy, it’s clear that Morrison was grappling with what she owes William Faulkner, a talented writer to be sure, but also a white man accused of being cowardly on issues of race outside of his books. This dynamic makes Morrison’s copy–underlined and lightly annotated–of Absalom, Absalom, a fascinating insight into the relationship between these two American literary giants. 

Annotated page from William Faulkner's "Absalom, Absalom" with the handwritten notations, "author's description at variance with Rosa's" and "has Spanish gold to buy 100 sq miles--no more"

Cover of publication reading "F.T.R. Programa del Frente de Trabajadores Revolucionarios F. T. R. del Carbon" with a man in a hard hat pictured

Object 2: Multi-title collection including Chilean labor movement, 1970-1972 : pamphlets and 9 other(s) (JL2699 .xZ9q)

After fifty years of grassroots organizing by labor unions and working-class activists, a coalition of socialist and communist political groups called the Unidad Popular (UP or Popular Unity) coalition successfully elected Salvador Allende president of Chile, ushering in the world’s first democratic socialist government. One of the main missions of the UP was its commitment to establishing a workers’ government–one that governed from the ground up and bucked traditional capitalist structures of power where money buys influence. But not everyone agreed on what that commitment looked like. For his part, Allende believed that a peaceful democratic revolution was possible, more in line with the Communist Party than the Socialist Party, which argued for a more powerful takeover. This group of pamphlets from the early part of Allende’s term speaks to the variety of opinions, stances and issues that exist within a political coalition and can provide insight into the compromises made in the name of progress and, maybe more importantly, who within the group made them.   

Typed table of contents of report

Object 3: “The Education of Women at Princeton: A Report on the Desirability and Feasibility of Princeton Entering Significantly into the Education of Women at the Undergraduate Level.”, 1968 (Committee On the Education of Women (AC187, Box 7, Folder 1)

It wasn’t until 1969 that cisgender women were admitted as undergraduate students at Princeton. Women had been on campus for some time, employed as staff, enrolled as intersex or transgender undergraduates hiding their gender identities, admitted as graduate students, attending or auditing classes, participating in extracurriculars, living in the dormitories, and as undergraduate exchange students as part of the Critical Languages Program, but cisgender women had never before been admitted in pursuit of a Princeton University undergraduate degree. After trying (and failing) to convince Sara Lawrence College to relocate to New Jersey, in 1968, Princeton president Robert F. Goheen conscripted Gardner Patterson, professor of economics and international affairs, to conduct the study behind the report, “The Education of Women at Princeton.” Gardner compiled data on everything from “effects on faculty retirement” to “Would Princeton be too big?”  In the end, “most emphatically ‘Yes,'” it was determined to be “desirable and feasible for Princeton to enter significantly into the education of women at the undergraduate level.” That fall, about 150 women were enrolled. In the review mirror, Gardner’s report is a testament to how far we’ve come on gender equality, but also how far we have to go. It’s hard to ignore how many of the concerns and questions posed amongst these pages are still on the lips of people today.  

Object 4: The Deseret brand book William Clayton, recorder. (2005-0273N)

The State of Deseret was a provisional state government founded by what is now the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that was located in the western United States from 1849-1850. Established following decades of persecution, church President Brigham Young and other church elders believed that statehood (versus just territory status) was the path to legitimacy and autonomy necessary to protect the sect from future attacks. As part of the negotiations that would become the Compromise of 1850 (which divvied up free and slave states), the State of Utah was established and Brigham Young was made its first governor. Because Deseret was never formally recognized by the US government and lasted such a short time, this very rare pamphlet recording the cattle brands used by the settlers is a precious resource for tracing who lived in Deseret (of particular interest to genealogists) and what life was like there.

List of recorded bands with owner's name

Object 5: Dīvān-i Ḥāfiẓ (Islamic Manuscripts, Garrett no. 62G)

The Divān of Hafez is a collection of poems written by the Iranian poet Hafez, one of the most important and well-known Persian poets in history. The text of The Divan was most likely compiled after his death in the 14th century and first translated into English in the 18th century.  Hafez primarily wrote in the literary genre of lyric poetry or ghazals, thought to be the ideal style for the ecstasy of divine inspiration in the mystical form of love poems. Often centered on messages related to freedom from restraint, themes in Hafez’s work include the beloved, faith and exposing hypocrisy. This illuminated copy is from the 16th century and features six full-page color illustrations, complete with gold leaf and with text written in Nastaliq (a style of Perso-Arabic calligraphy) script. This spectacular early modern manuscript is one of the almost ten thousand manuscripts from the Islamic world held in Princeton Special Collections, the largest collection in North America.

Join us at the next showcase in the lobby of Firestone Library on Friday May 24th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for a new round of objects!