John Hinsdale Scheide Collection


Sharon Strulowitz

Manuscripts Division
Department of Rare Books and Special Collections
Princeton University Library



The John Hinsdale Scheide Collection was amassed in the years 1890-1941 by William T. Scheide (1847-1907), who had been inspired to collect by his tour of Italy in 1889, and later by his son John Hinsdale Scheide (1875-1942), Princeton Class of 1896. William acquired most of the contents of boxes 1-155, focusing on Italian documents though not to the exclusion of representative examples from England and France; it would appear that almost all of the Italian material was purchased from the Florentine publisher and antiquarian book dealer Leo S. Olschki. John, however, was far more interested in French and English documents, and bought a great deal from the London dealer Maggs Bros. and at auction. The principal part was acquired at the 8 November 1938 auction (sale no. 61) at Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York. The Slade Collection was described at the time as "about 2500 Chirographical Specimens from the XIIth to XIXth Century" from the collection of Lawrence Slade, who was the son-in-law of the eminent collector Robert Hoe, and had purchased most of them from the Parisian dealer Charavay in the 1920s. The bulk of these documents form the extensive papers of the noble D'Olive family of Toulouse from the 16th century until the French Revolution.

The collection was originally housed at the Scheide family home in Titusville, Pennsylvania. A formal deposit agreement was made in 1938, and the documents were shipped to Princeton in stages and put on deposit at the Treasure Book Room of the Moses Taylor Pyne Library. In 1939 a brief inventory was made of boxes 1-155. An additional 152 documents in boxes 251-263 were deposited in 1943 by John's son, William H. Scheide, Princeton Class of 1936. In 1945 the latter indicated the family's intention to donate the Scheide documents to the Library, but formal donation was not made by him until 1947. The John Hinsdale Scheide Collection was given the accession number AM 13016 on 16 January 1948.

Early Description and Arrangement

The basic arrangement and description of the collection was the work of Chalfant Robinson (1871-1946), a professor of Classics and Curator of Medieval History (or Curator of Medieval Manuscripts). The Library had originally planned to calendar the collection after each item had been fully identified and arranged by place (diocese) and date, but the plans were not completed by the time of Robinson's death. Instead, large parts of the collection were largely kept as received in "letter boxes" organized by century and country in order to help illustrate the history of European script and facilitate paleographical study; this scheme sometimes resulted in discrete series of items retaining the order in which the documents were found when purchased. Robinson provided descriptions for approximately 224 of the 263 boxes of the documents. The remaining documents were described by successive manuscript curators of Princeton, including Jean F. Preston and Don C. Skemer.

The Fabriano Documents were described by J. Melvin Edelstein (b. 1924), when he was at John Hopkins University. Fifteen documents from this collection, including a Fabriano document from 999, had been retained by The Scheide Library before the collection was donated and are now described in the Princeton University Library online catalog. The Lawrence Slade Collection (boxes 165-194) was described in 1992-1993 by Leslie Tuttle, a graduate student in the History Department.

During 2002-2003, Sharon Strulowitz integrated the various sources of descriptive information about the documents in the collection into a Microsoft Access database. A printout from that database, listing the documents by country (then place name and date), constitutes the present finding aid.

Researchers will note that a small number of items have been omitted from this listing. These items, primarily textual material, are described in the catalog of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the Princeton University Library. For further questions on these materials please consult Don C. Skemer, Curator of Manuscripts.

Scope and Contents

More than half of the 7,935 items in the Scheide collection are Italian notarial documents from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the bulk of them dating from about 1200 to 1650. The documents include wills, dowers, pious donations to churches, leases, business contracts, and other legal documents. They tend to document particular towns, including 500 or more documents each for Vicenza and Fabriano; 100-200 each for Bergamo, Tirano, and Caravaggio; and scattered documents for Asti, Beneventum, Ferrara, Florence, Venice, Verona, and many other northern Italian towns. Though the inventory gives the names of particular towns where the notaries practiced their trade, the documents themselves may concern the surrounding contado or other places. The notarial documents include: (1) the original minutes for legal documents of a contractual nature, such as land conveyances, prepared by the notaries, filed archivally for future reference by the notary, and in most cases recorded in notarial protocols or registers; (2) engrossed personal copies made by notaries for individuals and bearing later endorsements; and (3) non-contractual documents such as estate inventories and court judgments.

Perhaps the most important part of the Scheide collection is a substantial part of the archives of an Italian monastery. The Benedictine (later Silvestrine) abbey of S. Vittore delle Chiuse was founded in the 10th century on the right bank of the River Sentito, in the hills overlooking Castel Petroso (now Pierosara), near the town of Fabriano in the March of Ancona. Dating from 1007 until the beginning of the 15th century, the hundreds of S. Vittore documents now in the Scheide collection had been taken for safekeeping after 1810 by the monk Benedetto Rosei di Fabriano, whose heirs sold the material to Leo S. Olschki, who in turn sold them to William T. Scheide. The S. Vittore archives include notarial documents retained by the monastery.

French materials account for almost 2,500 items in the Scheide collection, chiefly the papers of the D'Olive family of Toulouse, whose noble lineage may be traced back to the mid-15th century. The papers were kept by members of the family for centuries and organized in the latter half of the 18th century by Joseph-Denis d'Olive (d. 1783), who served as President of the Chambre des Requêtes of the Parlement of Toulouse. In defense of its landed wealth and seigniorial rights, chiefly in the villages and manors of Esperce as well as Brugières and others, the D'Olive family was frequently involved in litigation and retained records of at least 26 court cases.

Other French archival materials were acquired from the Slade Collection along with D'Olive Family Papers, including several boxes of French documents (boxes 156-164) partially identified in Seymour De Ricci, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (vol. 2, pp. 1822-37) and the 1938 Parke-Bernet auction catalog's description of the Slade collection (pp. 48-50). Of particular interest in the boxes are four notarial registers kept between 1382 and 1486 by members of the Borelli family and other notaries in the small southern French town of Montech, Départment de Tarn-et-Garonne, northwest of Toulouse. Also of great research value are an account roll (1476) kept in Castres, Départment de Tarn-et-Garonne, by Pierre Bayard, treasurer and counselor to Charles VIII (1483-98); a 14-page censier or roll of quit-rents (1517) for the town of Brugières, near Castres; and a 78-page rentier or rent roll (1562-69) for the manor of Quemper-Guézennec, a village in the Départment des Cotes-du-Nord, Brittany. Found in the same boxes as the D'Olive Family Papers is a smaller group of notarial documents from the village of Pont Farcy pertaining to Burguet family and the area of Avranches in Normandy, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The Scheide Collection also includes a series of documents (boxes 89-97) that were originally collected around 1887 by a certain Dr. Vaunaire of Gannat, France; these materials pertain to Roches, Villars, Percenat, Tronget, and other small French towns in the Départment d'Allier.

Finally, John Hinsdale Scheide also included in the collection various small groups of English documents, many from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), as well as French, Italian, Flemish, and other items from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.

Document Listing

The Scheide Documents Database

The Scheide Documents Database consists of 7323 records, each containing seven fields or elements: item number, date, country, place name, type, note and expanded note. The item number is the unique key of each record: it is a hybrid of the box number and document number. "74-2003" means, for example, Box 74 and Document 2003. The date is the year date of the document, often an approximation due to the differences in calendar years. Country is based on the modern location of the place name (source or place of origination) of the document, except that "Papacy" is used as the "country" for all papal documents, regardless of source. The majority of the documents are from France, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The place name is given, in most cases, as the modern form of the village, town, or city from where the document originated. Type indicates the form or genre of the document, such as legal document, marriage certificate, deed, letter, and will. Additional descriptive information is provided in the note field, which, if necessary, spills over into the expanded note.

The following Microsoft Excel version of the database has been sorted first by country, then by place name and date, in order to facilitate research about specific geographical places. However, each user can do searches, sort, and save the records as he or she sees fit.