PUL digitizes collection of papers chronicling the Delafield and Livingston Families

More than 30 years after receiving a collection of papers on the prominent Delafield family, Princeton University Library continues to make good on its commitment to preserve them for years to come. A subset of these papers, series 1-3 of the Edward Livingston Papers, is now directly available online in the Library’s Finding Aids. The record comprises more than 50,000 files and 46.4 linear feet of materials in 103 boxes.

The papers arrived at PUL in the 1980s and feature records chronicling members of the Delafield and related families, whose reach extended into the realms of business, law, politics, and other fields. Perhaps none of the papers are more notable than those covering the career of American lawyer, diplomat, statesman, and legal theorist Edward Livingston. Currently, the Livingston Papers stand as the third most used collection in Firestone Library’s Special Collections. 

Andrew Jackson's Proclamation Against Nullification; Edward Livingston Papers, C0280, Manuscripts Division, Department of Specia

Andrew Jackson's Proclamation Against Nullification; Edward Livingston Papers, C0280, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Bolding said that despite this digitization effort requiring the same processes as other PUL projects, working on the massive collection during the pandemic proved challenging. In coordination with Project Conservator Victoria Wong, she collaborated with the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts and Innovative Document Imaging in Philadelphia and East Brunswick, N.J respectively, to complete the project amidst pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. 

“We were doing this project while a lot of us were off site, so it was a challenge to coordinate in that working environment,” said Bolding.

Though the Delafield papers span a breadth of topics — Bolding learned that some of the records concern Violetta Susan Elizabeth White Delafield, who was a mycologist — they are particularly rooted in the early American Republic. 

“These collections are probably of most interest to researchers studying early American history, but also contain information that may be of interest to genealogists and educators teaching 19th century America,” said Assistant University Librarian for Special Collections Technical Services Alexis Antracoli. 

“The papers also contain significant documentation of women in the late 18th and throughout the 19th centuries,” Antracoli added. “While working with Professor Laura Edwards for her Women and the Law class, I learned that Margaret Beekman Livingston and Janet Livingston Montgomery, owned their own land and passed it down to their daughters,” said Antracoli, noting that those documents would be of interest to patrons researching early American women’s history.

“With our nation’s 250th anniversary just four years away, we expect there to be an increased interest in our collections from the Republic’s early decades,” said University Archivist and Deputy Head of Special Collections Dan Linke. “So making these documents widely accessible will allow researchers across the United States to benefit from what they have to offer.”

Both the Edward Livingston Papers and the Delafield Family Papers are available in the Library’s Finding Aids. 

Published on March 2, 2022

Written by Brandon Johnson, Communications Specialist

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications