Scope and arrangement
Henry Draper's correspondence, 1869-1882 (one letter is dated 1859) consists of letters addressed to him, with a few drafts of his replies. Letters are primarily from colleagues in the United States, Germany, England, Scotland, Italy, France, and the Netherlands (a few letters are in German, French, and Italian). Also included are letters from dealers of optical and scientific instruments; scientific organizations and journals; others. Included among the letters are photographs (including a carte de visite photograph of the transit of Venus taken December 6, 1882 by Maximilian [Tech]), sketches, diagrams, charts, clippings, and printed material. Letters contain discussions of astronomy, astronomical photography, spectroscopy, and other scientific work being carried out by Draper and his colleagues; descriptions and evaluations of telescopes and other scientific instruments; Draper's work with the Transit of Venus Commission; mentions of the "Lick telescope", 1870s (the Lick Observatory was founded around that time); Dobbs Ferry political and other local matters; personal matters. Also, acceptances and regrets for the dinner held November 16, 1882 at the Draper's Madison Avenue house for the members of the National Academy of Sciences, which was meeting in New York - a list of members present at the meeting is included. Chief correspondents are Edward S. Holden, at the United States Naval Observatory in Washington D. C., and Simon Newcomb, Secretary of the Transit of Venus Commission. Other correspondents include: Robert Amory, George F. Barker, F. A. P. Barnard, John Browning, Alvan G. Clark, J. H. G. Coffin, John William Draper (relating to both personal and scientific matters), William Francis, David Gill, J. Norman Lockyer, E. H. F. Peters, C. Piazzi-Smyth, Lyon Playfair, Giovanni Tacchini, Thomas Edison, others.
The certificate and medal Draper received for his work on the Transit of Venus Commission, 1874, and three other certificates awarded to Draper are included.
Also included are page proofs of John William Draper's book, History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. Three letters, 1881, from Sygurd Wisniowski and John Karlowicz to John William Draper describe the difficulties of translating Draper's book into Polish and publishing it in Poland. One of Wisniowski's letters describes these problems in detail, as well as his own efforts to restore censored passages.
More than half of the collection consists of letters received by Mary Anna Palmer Draper, 1879-1914, with only a few dating from before her husband's death in 1882. Many of these are from dealers, scholars, and others, and relate to the purchase and authentication of her collection of ancient amulets, tablets, jewelry, coins, and other objects. Photographs, sketches, and rubbings of these objects; translations of their writings; wax impressions of seals; a typescript of a prayer to be used with an amulet ("The witchcraft of saints and evangelists"); bills and invoices listing Mrs. Draper's purchases; clippings and printed material, are included.
Also included are condolences following her husband's death; letters relating to her editing and publication of her husband's writings, letters from photographer Edward Bierstadt relating to negatives of her husband's astronomical photographs ("nebula", "corona", and "oxygen in the sun"), and other evidence of her efforts to further Draper's work after his death; letters from her husband's colleagues relating to personal matters, and to Draper's and their own work, including mentions of experiments with electricity, telephones, and sound magnification (Edison's name is mentioned in a few letters); letters from friends relating to personal matters and social engagements; a few letters relating to Palmer family genealogy. Two letters, 1874 and 1878, of her father, Courtlandt Palmer, are included. Frequent correspondents are John Bigelow, Ogden N. Rood, George Barker, and New York antiquities dealers Azeez Khayat and Daniel Z. Noorian. Other correspondents include: John S. Billings, James Dewar, Wolcott Gibbs, Herbert H. Gilchrist, Reginald Harrison Lyon Playfair, Arthur Schuster, and William T. Sherman. Two brief letters (in French) from artist Benjamin Constant, 1892; an invitation to his laboratory (also in French) at the Faculté des Sciences, Paris, signed P. Curie, 1903; and an autograph from Samuel L. Clemens, are included.
A small scrapbook contains letters, clippings, manuscripts of poems and other writings, ca. 1890s. These largely contain humorous anecdotes, many of which have to do with mispronunciation of English by foreign speakers.
Fragments of a vase with inscriptions in cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphics, sixteen small (with some fragments) and six large clay Babylonian tablets donated by Mrs. Draper are included. Other artifacts donated by Mrs. Draper can be found in various divisions of the library.