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Rare Books

Rare Book Division
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

The Margaret Jane Pershing Collection of Emily Dickinson was presented to the Library on June 7, 1969.  The collection was presented in honor of four Princetonians: Mrs. Pershing's late father-in-law James H., Class of 1888, her husband John, Class of 1921 and her two sons, John, Jr., Class of 1947 and Hugh S., Class of 1950.  Cf. John S. Van E.  Kohn, "Giving Emily Dickinson to the World,"  Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXI, 1 (Autumn, 1969) p. 47-54  [full text].

The collection (200+ volumes) is particularly rich in variant editions of the three series of poems (1890, 1891, 1896 in over 70 editions and variants), the letters, and all the 20th-century posthumous volumes. It is also rich in books and magazine articles about the life and work of Emily Dickinson. Also, together with these are creative works inspired by Emily Dickinson.

A complete catalogue of the Pershing collection was compiled at the time of the receipt of the gift: Robert S. Fraser. The Margaret Jane Pershing Collection of Emily Dickinson. Princeton: Princeton University Library, 1969. [(Ex) 3715.1.073 and (Holden) 3715.1.073]

The collection is also described in College and Research Library News Vol. 30, no. 8 (September, 1969) pp. 272-274. "An outstanding collection of works associated with New England poet Emily Dickinson has been presented to the library of Princeton University. It is the gift of the well-known Richmond, Va., collector, Mrs. John Pershing, and includes some 280 volumes and extensive supporting materials. The collection is particularly strong, the library reports, in multiple editions of the famous three series of Dickinson poems (Poems, 1890; Poems, Second Series, 1891; and Poems, Third Series, 1896), in her correspondence, and in the books and magazine articles about the life and work of the poet. Included are 24 copies of Poems (first series), representing 12 of the 17 editions issued between 1890 and 1906. Five of the 10 editions of Poems, Second Series, published between 1891 and 1906, are in the collection. And there are eight different copies of the two apparent editions of Poems, Third Series. Also included in the gift is material representing studies of Emily Dickinson and original works inspired by her poetry—books, parts of books, magazine articles, bibliographic material, and books and magazines containing creative works composed with Miss Dickinson in mind. Another part of the Pershing Collection consists of books and magazine articles written by “the Dickinson Circle,” her family, friends, and early editors, as well as material on the Amherst community. There are two fine manuscript examples; letters written by a sister, Lavinia; and correspondence relating to the formation of Mrs. Pershing’s Dickinson Collection. The Pershings were among the some 50 persons who gathered at the Princeton library for the presentation. The gift was accepted for the University by Professor Ludwig, and university librarian Dr. William S. Dix, President of the American Library Association. The 24- page catalog of the collection was prepared by Robert S. Fraser, rare books cataloguer of the Princeton library."