The Princeton University Library is now the holder of working manuscripts and notebooks for four well-known Kahlil Gibran books, including the Lebanese-American’s best-selling “The Prophet.”
The donation was made to the university by the family of the late William H. Shehadi, a Lebanese-American physician, researcher and professor who was an admirer of Gibran. Using the collection of manuscripts, Shehadi published the book, “Kahlil Gibran: A Prophet in the Making,” in 1991.
Both Shehadi’s son and brother are Princeton University alumni.
Born in what is now Lebanon, Gibran moved to the United States in 1912 and spent most of his creative life in New York City, where he wrote in both Arabic and English, and painted.
Decades after his death in 1931, Gibran’s writings gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s during the counterculture movement, which responded to his lyrical language and mystical treatment of such subjects as love, death, nature and longing for the homeland.
“The iconic value of this collection is significant,” said Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts in the library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.
Originally published in 1923, “The Prophet” is Gibran’s principal work, a collection of 26 brief poetic essays on aspects of human life. Written in English, it’s been translated into 20 languages.
Besides papers pertaining to “The Prophet,” the Shehadi Collection also includes manuscripts and notebooks of “The Madman: His Parables and Poems” (1918), “The Fore-Runner: His Parables and Poems” (1920) and “The Earth Gods” (1931).
Conservation work on the collection should be completed this summer, allowing it to become available to researchers, Skemer said.