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Washington Irving collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 769
Scope and Contents

The collection provides evidence of the personal and professional life of Washington Irving and dates from 1802 to 1966. The collection documents Irving's writing career, diplomatic work, and travels through Europe, and consists of correspondence, writings, personal papers, and printed material.

Irving’s creative process can be traced in notebooks and handwritten drafts. The collection includes notes and an autograph manuscript for volumes four and five of Irving's final book Life of George Washington. The various manuscript fragments contained in the collection also illustrate the American public's fascination with Irving and the culture of collecting souvenirs related to his life and writings. For this reason the majority of Irving's drafts are incomplete; for example, the library acquired two leaves from The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus at separate times and which are from different sections of the original manuscript. A small amount of correspondence with publishers and authors, including Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott, also reflect Irving's literary life. Irving's letter to William C. Preston expresses his views regarding the copyright of his works within an international context.

A few documents relating to Irving's work as a diplomat in England and Spain are also part of the collection. These include a passport with Irving's signature in his role as Secretary to the American Legation in London. Irving's correspondence with diplomat Prince Dmitrii Ivanovich Dolgorukii and Scottish painter Sir David Wilkie reflect his experience in Spain. Notably, correspondence with Prince Dmitrii Ivanovich Dolgorukii also includes Dolgorouki's correspondence from Sir David Wilkie, in which Wilkie discusses his painting and work for King George IV of England.

Irving’s personal life can be traced in his correspondence with his siblings and their children (particularly his sister Catherine Rodgers Irving Paris and her daughter Sarah Sanders Paris Storrow). The collection also includes journals belonging to Emily Foster to whom Irving is believed to have proposed marriage. Documents relating to Irving's brothers -- namely John Treat and Peter -- are also included in the collection. The collection contains John Treat Irving's "Simon Pure Papers" (for which Washington Irving drew illustrations) and Peter Irving's journals describing his travels in Europe.

Stanley T. Williams's The Life of Washington Irving and extra-illustrated publications of Irving's writings attest to his reputation and lasting influence.

Language of Materials

Chiefly in English; some materials are in Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Washington Irving Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from various sources. For more information see catalog cards filed in the collection.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1804-1885. II. Writings, 1802-1972. III. Other Papers, 1807-1831. IV. Printed Material, 1850-1882.

1802 - 1972
9.8 Linear Feet (25 boxes)
Related Names
Irving, Washington, 1783-1859
Language of Materials
Language of Materials
Language of Materials
Spanish; Castilian