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Rare Books

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
609-258-3184
Curator of Rare Books
609-258-9942

See the typescript catalogue of the now-defunct Princeton University Epigraphical Museum, founded in 1933, and compiled by William Kelly Prentice and Glanville Downey [(Ex) CN25 .P74 1933]. Some of the artifacts listed in this catalogue are now housed in the collections of the Library.

"The University's Epigraphical Museum, which has occupied a large room on the third floor of the Old Chemical Laboratory since 1933, at first consisted of a collection of original inscriptions and "squeezes" (paper moulds of inscriptions), which were brought back to Princeton by the archeological expeditions to Syria in 1899-1900, 1904-05, and 1909; a number of plaster casts were made in Princeton from the squeezes. To these were added some inscriptions presented to the University library by M. Taylor Pyne '77, Professor Rudolph Brünnow, and others. Since then, casts and originals have been presented by a number of people, in particular by Robert Garrett '97; one very important cast was presented by the Italian Government in 1935 and another has been loaned to the museum by the Princeton Theological Seminary Library. Now the collection contains 37 originals and 95 casts, in addition to the squeezes. These include documents in 26 ancient languages. The inscriptions contain historical records, laws, business contracts, dedications to gods and epitaphs. There are also letters and records written in ink on wood and bone, and on small flat stones and pieces of broken pottery ("ostraka") materials which were widely used because of the high cost of parchment and papyrus."

            -- Glanville Downey '31. "History of the Alphabet" in the Princeton Alumni Weekly Vol. 38, no. 28 (April 22, 1938).

See also William Kelly Prentice '92, "The Alphabet's Family Tree: The Development of Written Thought Is Traced in Princeton's Epigraphical Museum, Recently Installed in the Old Chemical Laboratory", an article about the museum in the Princeton Alumni Weekly Vol. 33, no. 35 (June 9, 1933).