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   Paul Oskar Kristeller Papers 1905-1998 [Bulk Dates: 1941-1997]

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Paul Oskar Kristeller Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


Professional and personal papers of the German émigré scholar Paul Oskar Kristeller. Kristeller was a professor of philosophy at Columbia University and a world renowned scholar of Renaissance humanism and Renaissance philosophy who published widely, notably his major catalog of uncataloged manuscripts from the Italian Renaissance, the Iter Italicum.

At a Glance

Bib ID:4079550 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Kristeller, Paul Oskar, 1905-1999.
Title:Paul Oskar Kristeller Papers 1905-1998 [Bulk Dates: 1941-1997]
Physical description:115 linear feet (171 boxes; 82 document boxes, 72 record storage cartons, 18 notecard boxes)
Language(s): In English, German, Italian, Franch, & Latin.
Access: This collection is located on-site. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



This collection is arranged in VIII series

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Scope and Content

This collection documents the professional, and to a lesser extent, the personal life of Paul Oskar Kristeller, a professor of philosopher and scholar of Renaissance philosophy and Renaissance humanism. The collection contains material related to Kristeller's teaching and professional activities, as well as a large number of manuscripts of articles, essays, lectures, and books written or edited by Kristeller. In addition to manuscripts, the collections contains correspondence (both personal and professional in nature), research notes, photographs, and a large series of material related to the research, writing, and publication of his major work of scholarship the Iter Italicum, a catalog of unprocessed Italian humanistic manuscripts.

Series I: Correspondence, 1926-1998

This series contains Paul Oskar Kristeller's correspondence, incoming as well as some carbons of outgoing correspondence. The series is divided into two suberies, the first is General Correspondence that focuses on correspondence with professional contacts and the second is Personal and Family Correspondence which has a more personal focus.

Subseries I.1: General Correspondence, 1920-1995

This subseries contains professional and personal correspondence spanning the majority of Kristeller's career. Kristeller often kept carbons of outgoing correspondence. When those carbons are available they are filed with the letters to which they respond.

Subseries I.2: Family and Personal Correspondence, 1913-1997

This subseries includes correspondence with Kristeller's family and personal friends, including letters between Paul and Edith Kristeller and letters between Paul Oskar and his parents and sister.

Series II: Personal and Biographical Material, 1905-1997

This series includes personal, biographical, and genealogical material related to both Paul Oskar Kristeller and his wife Edith. There are copies of Kristeller's memoirs "Recollections of My Life" that he wrote and shared with friends and colleagues towards the end of his life, as well as his C.V., Bibliographies, and awards and honors that he received throughout his career. There are also numerous photographs included in this series-- both his family and travel photographs and photographs of Edith Kristeller's family. This series also includes documents related to both Paul and Edith's attempts to collect indemnity pensions from the German Government, their attempts to locate relatives missing after the holocaust, and family trees and genealogical material.

Series III: Professional Activities, 1941-1996

This series consists of Kristeller’s correspondence, research, and writings with various associations, societies, and committees. The records focus on project research for articles and books along with administrative tasks for each organization. The three prominent components of the series are on the Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, the Committee to Rescue Italian Art, and the Journal of the History of Ideas.

Subseries III.1 : General, 1941-1996

Subseries 1 contains mainly correspondence, with some research and writings, with various committees, societies, and organizations. Prominent records are with the Renaissance Society of America and The State of Learning in the Humanities in Higher Education, also known as the Bennett Committee. Other folders pertain to literary projects, conferences and lectures given on both the west and east coast. The file on the Madrid Leonardo Report are the contents of a dossier assembled by Kristeller, Theodore Beardsley, Jr., and Carlo Pedretti to investigate the circumstances surrounding the rediscovery of a Leonardo manuscript in a library in Madrid.

Subseries III.2: Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, 1942-1986

Referred to as CTC, the Catalogus Translationus et Commentariorum is a compilation of Mediaeval and Renaissance Latin translations and commentaries. Subseries 2 is comprised of two sections, correspondence and topical files. Correspondence is arranged by date, with some alphabetized folders, including a portion on the Editorial Board. Multiple people can be found in all three areas. Topical files are alphabetized with an emphasis on Greek and Latin author lists, Libanius, Persius, contributors (under Subject Files), and a draft of Volume I.

Subseries III.3: Committee to Rescue Italian Art (CRIA), 1966-1968

CRIA is a committee formed in response to the flood of 1966 in Florence, Italy. Subseries 3 contains: committee correspondence, photographs of the flood damage, academic articles on the damage done to works of art and manuscripts, and reports on committee work. Included are related books and articles on the flood.

Subseries III.4: Journal of the History of Ideas, 1941-1987

Subseries 4 includes committee correspondence, minutes and reports. Note that general folders include a mix of these three.

Subseries III.5: Professional Contacts

This series is comprised of notecards listing Kristeller's colleagues from around the world along with their addresses, affiliations, and research interests.

Series IV: Columbia University, 1939-1989

This subseries includes papers and records related to Paul Oskar Kristeller's long career at Columbia University, including material related to his teaching and activities as well as administrative and other University activities.

Subseries IV.1: Subject Files, 1939-1968

The Subject Files subseries includes files related to Kristeller's activites at the University, including syllabi, a report on the University libraries Renaissance holdings, and information related to the Italian Department.

Subseries IV.2: Correspondence, 1941-1989

This subseries is comprised of Kristeller's correspondence regarding departmental and University matters. Also included in this subseries is correspondence related to theses and dissertations advised by Kristeller.

Subseries IV.3: University Seminars 1945-1976

This subseries includes records related to Kristeller's participation in the Columbia University Seminar on the Renaissance.

Subseries IV.4: Course Notes, 1940-1978

This subseries includes lecture notes and course notes from courses taught by Kristeller over the course of his tenure at the University. These notes are arranged alphabetically by course title; with courses that Kristeller regularly taught the file may include notes from several years, showing how the course changed over time.

Series V: Writings, 1926-1995

The writings series has been arranged in three subseries: Manuscripts, Lectures and Speeches, and Articles and Essays. Kristeller often had several drafts of his texts with extended annotation and revisions. Many of these drafts have accompanying research notes, notecards, and correspondence with librarians, colleagues, and publishers. This series spans Kristeller's entire career and contains writings in English, German, Italian, and French.

Subseries V.1: Manuscripts-- Books and Major Works, 1926-1992

This subseries is comprised of manuscripts and drafts of Kristeller's major works and monographs. Correspondence related to the research, editing, publication, and distribution of volumes may be included, as may research notes compiled by Kristeller.

Subseries V.2: Articles and Essays, 1926-1995

This subseries contains articles and essays written by Kristeller over the course of his career. While most of these are academic pieces published in scholarly journals or volumes of edited essays, the subseries also includes some unpublished seminar papers from Kristeller's time as a student and a few less formal biographical pieces and interviews.

Subseries V.3: Lectures and Speeches, 1940-1993

This subseries contains lectures, conference papers, and other addresses and presentations given by Kristeller. As Kristeller often gave the same lecture a number of times, the lectures are arranged alphabetically by their title rather than arranged by conference name or date. These files often contain correspondence and conference programs related to conferences where Kristeller spoke.

Subseries V.4: Festschrifts and Memorials, 1978-1993

This subseries includes articles, lectures, and obituaries given to celebrate or memorialize Kristeller's colleagues.

Subseries V.5: Book Reviews, 1930-1995

This series is comprised of both reviews of scholarly work written by Kristeller, and other's reviews of Kristeller's own scholarly work.

Series VI: Iter Italicum, 1949-1997

This series is comprised of research notes, manuscripts, and other records related to the Iter Italicum -- the catalog of previously uncataloged or incompletely cataloged Italian humanistic manuscripts, a major work of scholarship that is considered Kristeller's magnum opus.

Subseries VI.1: Research, 1949-1986

The research files are divided into two main sections-- chronological notebooks and country files. The notebooks are Kristeller's notes from his site visits to libraries around the world. The country files include correspondence, manuscript catalogs, and notes. The arrangement of the country files reflects the arrangement of the work as a whole: the files are arranged by country, and by city and then library or institution within each city.

Subseries VI.2: Editorial and Administrative Files, 1949-1997

The editorial and administrative subseries is comprised of financial records, grant proposals, publicity material, contracts, and distribution lists related to the editing and publication of the work.

Subseries VI.3: Manuscript, 1987-1997

This subseries includes drafts and proofs (many corrected in Kristeller's hand) of the Iter Italicum manuscript. This subseries includes drafts of the work's index, as well as notes for future addenda to the work and possible inclusions for later editions.

Series VII: Notebooks and Notes, 1920-1990

This series contains research notes, correspondence with libraries and colleagues, and some manuscript drafts related to various areas of Kristeller's research interests.

Subseries VII.1: Notebooks on the History of Universities, 1940s-1987

These notebooks include research notes and drafts related to Kristeller's research on the history of Universities and Humanistic education in Europe.

Subseries VII.2: Unidentified Notebooks, undated, 1945-1946

These notebooks include Kristeller's research notes. These notebooks are not identified by project, but some include notes related to manuscript research.

Subseries VII.3: Research and Topical Notes, 1920-1990

The Research and Topical Notes subseries includes notes, manuscript drafts, and correspondence related to numerous research projects, books, and articles. These files are arranged alphabetically by research topic.

Subseries VII.4: Research Notecards

This subseries contains notecards including bibliographic citations related to his ongoing research projects.

Series VIII: Printed Material

This series contains printed material from Kristeller's library, some by Kristeller himself, but the majority are offprints, articles, and books by other-- many inscribed to Kristeller by the author. This series also includes lists of books and articles that formed Kristeller's personal library.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Paul Oskar Kristeller Papers; Box and Folder (if known); Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

Catalogus et Commentariorum Records

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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Carrie Hintz and Lea Osborne with Amaya Rivera, GSAS 2011 and Danielle Childs, Barnard College 2010. Finding aid written by Carrie Hintz in September 2011.

Finding aid written by Carrie Hintz in February of 2012

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 26, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2012-02-03 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Card files.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lecture notes.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
American Council of Learned Societies.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Authors, Latin--To 1700.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Civilization, Medieval.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Civilization, Modern.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Classical education.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Classical literature.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
College teachers.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Committee to Rescue Italian Art.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Emigration and immigration.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Europe--Intellectual life.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ficino, Marsilio, 1433-1499.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Germany--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Intellectual life--History.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
International Federation of Renaissance Societies.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Journal of Philosophy.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Journal of the History of Ideas.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Kristeller, Paul Oskar, 1905-1999.--Iter Italicum.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Latin language, Medieval and modern--Study and teaching.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Latin literature, Medieval and modern--Bio-bibliography.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts, Greek.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts, Latin.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Medieval Academy of America.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Middle Ages.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
National Endowment for the Humanities.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Philosophy, Renaissance.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Pomponazzi, Pietro, 1462-1525.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Renaissance Society of America.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Scholarly publishing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Paul Oskar Kristeller, the Frederick Woodbridge Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, was a major scholar of Renaissance philosophy and Renaissance humanism.

Paul Oskar Kristeller was born Paul Oskar Gräfenberg on May 22, 1905 in Berlin Germany to well-to-do Jewish parents. Paul Oskar's father, Oskar Gräfenber, was a merchant who died of a heart attack shortly after Paul Oskar's birth. In 1911 Alice Magnus married the wealthy industrialist Heinrich Kristeller, whose last name Paul Oskar Kristeller adopted in 1919.

Kristeller, always intellectually curious, attended school at the Mommsen Gymnasium in Berlin starting in 1914 and graduating with honors in 1923. The curriculum included an extensive foreign language program, including 12 years of Latin training. In 1923 Kristeller started college, studying philosophy, medieval history, and mathematics at Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Marburg between the years 1923-1928. He went on to continue his studies at the University of Heidelberg, earning his PhD in 1928 with a thesis on Plotinus. He went on to do a Habilitation with Martin Heidegger in Freiburg, writing his Habilitationsschrift on the fifteenth century Platonist Marsilio Ficino, a thinker that would continue to figure in Kristeller's scholarship throughout his career.

The rise of the National Socialist government in Germany and their racist and anti-Semitic policies put an end to Kristeller's academic career in Germany in 1933. With his career in Germany cut short, Kristeller went to Italy where he taught German at a number of schools and Universities including the Istitito Superiore di Magistero in Florence and the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and the University of Pisa, where he also received the degree of Dottore in Filosofia in 1937. He remained in Italy, studying and teaching until 1938, but as the Mussolini regime gained more power in Italy, Kristeller began his attempts to secure an academic position in the United States. He eventually received an invitation to teach a graduate seminar at Yale University in 1939, and he remained based in the United States for the rest of his life, becoming a US citizen in 1945.

Kristeller obtained a permanent faculty position in the Department of Philosophy at Columbia University in the fall of 1939 where he was to spend the rest of his professional career. He was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1956 and taught classes, gave lectures until his retirement in 1973. Even after his retirement, Kristeller remained an active member of the Columbia Community giving occasional lectures and continuing his own research and scholarly projects up until the time of his death in 1999.

Kristeller was an internationally recognized scholar on the intellectual history of the Renaissance. He published widely, including a book length study on Marsilio Ficino and hundreds of articles on topics in Renaissance humanistic thought and Renaissance medicine. Though his scholarship is prodigious, he is probably best known for his work compiling research guides and manuscript catalogs, particularly his magnum opus the Iter Italicum , a seven volume catalog of previously uncataloged humanistic manuscripts.

Kristeller received many academic honors and accolades over the course of his career. He was a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, received a Guggenheim fellowship, and was awarded a Macarthur "genius" award. Kristeller was a member of editorial board of the =Journal of the History of Ideas, and was a founding member, and president, of the Renaissance Society of America.

In 1940 Kristeller married Edith Lind Lewinnek, another German Jewish émigré from Hamburg. Edith Kristeller received a diploma in physical therapy from New York University, and her medical degree from the Women's Medical College of Pennsylvania. She spent most of her career working in rehabilitative medicine at various New York City hospitals. Edith Lind Kristeller died in 1992.

Paul Oskar Kristeller died on June 7, 1999 at the age of 94.

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