Book collector extraordinaire John I. Perkins (1862-1942) bequeathed not only 6000 exceptional rare books to Scripps College, but a remarkable collection of over 500 autographed letters and documents. Leaving the East Coast on an around the world sea voyage to settle in Los Angeles in about 1904, Mr. Perkins was known as a discriminating, serious, and modest gentleman collector of books of fine printing, illustrated books, fine bindings, and early manuscripts. After meeting the beguiling Scripps College librarian Dorothy M. Drake in 1939, Mr. Perkins determined to give his collection to the College which “now has a fine library, housed in a beautiful building, specially constructed for the purpose it serves.” Mr. Perkins wanted his collection used by students.
Still housed in the Ella Strong Denison Library and steadily used by students are important resources for the study of the history of the book: cuneiform tablets, papyrus and palm leaf books, thirteenth to sixteenth century illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and splendid examples of modern presswork from the turn-of-the- [19th] century to the present. Mr., Perkins collected printed books from all centuries in many areas with an emphasis on literature and history. Along with the books are handwritten, signed letters (ALS) and typed and signed documents that illuminate and enhance the study of a variety of disciplines.
Here are letters from primarily American and English artists, pioneers, suffragists, jurists, statesmen, poets, scientists, humorists, actresses, essayists, educators, generals, novelists, and musicians. Documents are often on vellum and are signed by Presidents, Kings, Queens and two Popes. Mr. Perkins original collection of correspondence has been augmented by about 600 items in collections and gifts acquired since Mr. Perkins’ bequest. The Autograph Letter, Signed inventory (PDF) lists contents of the collection.
This digital Perkins Autograph Letter Collection includes not only the texts of the documents, but images of supporting material such as envelopes, bills of sale, transcripts, clippings, articles, biographies, photographs, and other ephemera and association items.
Recent digitized signed letters include those from:
John Quincy Adams
Susan B. Anthony
John Jacob Astor
James Arnold Blaisdell
Pearl S. Buck
If you wish a comprehensive overview of the authors/creators of these special materials or details on the specific items, e-mail Denison@scrippscollege.edu or visit the Ella Strong Denison Library at Scripps College.