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Eli Smith Family Papers

Call Number: RG 124

Scope and Contents

Eli Smith was a prominent early missionary to the Middle East. The letters, journals, and writings in this collection document his important role in the designing of Arabic fonts and translation of the Scriptures into Arabic, his explorations of the Middle East, and his life and work in general. This collection is also valuable for its documentation of the life of Mehitable Butler Smith, Eli's third wife, who spent ten years in the Middle East. Her letters to her family in America provide regular, detailed descriptions of her daily life as missionary wife and mother during this early era.

Series V, Research Materials of Margaret Russell Leavy, contains notes and photocopies gathered by Mrs. Leavy in the process of her research on Eli Smith and his family. Included are some material copied or transcribed from the notable collection of Eli Smith Papers held at Harvard's Houghton Library. The repositories from which the photocopies and transcripts were obtained are noted on the materials donated by Mrs. Leavy. Some transcripts prepared by Mrs. Leavy of original letters held in the Yale Divinity Library have been interfiled with the originals in Series I. Series V concludes with drafts of the major work on Smith that Margaret Leavy was preparing. Two works by Margaret Leavy related to Eli Smith are in the Library's cataloged collection: Eli Smith and the Arabic Bible, Yale Divinity School Library Occasional Publication No. 4, (1993), and "Looking for the Armenians: Eli Smith's Missionary Adventures 1830-1831" published in Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, Vol. 50 (Dec., 1992).


  • 1821-1964


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the descendants of Eli Smith, including Margaret Russell Leavy.


  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Writings
  3. III. Personal Items and Memorabilia
  4. IV. Photographs and Drawings
  5. V. Research Materials of Margaret Russell Leavy


4 Linear Feet (9 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Letters, journals, and writings in this record group document Eli Smith's missionary work in the Middle East. Letters of his third wife, Mehitable Simpkins Butler Smith, provide valuable documentation of her ten years in the Middle East. Research materials gathered by Margaret Leavy complement the original holdings. Eli Smith, an early missionary to the Middle East serving under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, is best known for his translation of the Bible into Arabic.

Biographical / Historical

Born in Northford, CT
Graduated from Yale College
Ordained into the ministry
Graduated from Andover Theological Seminary
Appointed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions as associate editor of its publishing house in Malta
1829, 1830
Travels through Greece, Asia Minor, Armenia, Georgia into Persia led to publication of a book entitled Researches of the Rev. E. Smith and Rev. H.G.O. Dwight in Armenia: Including a Journey through Asia Minor and into Georgia and Persia, with a Visit to the Nestorian and Chaldean Christianity of Oormiah and Salmas.
Married Sarah Lanman Huntington (died 1836)
Traveled with Edward Robinson through Sinai, Palestine and southern Syria
Married Maria Ward Chapin (died 1842); one son born, Charles H. Smith, who later became Larned Professor of History of Yale University
Married Mehitable Simpkins Butler; children: two daughters and three sons
Smith worked on the translation of the Bible into Arabic under the auspices of the American Bible Society and the American Mission in Syria
Died in Beirut
Guide to the Eli Smith Family Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
1997, 2003, 2015
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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