Mildred Barnes and Robert Woods Bliss correspondence with Kirsopp and Silva Lake
Scope and Contents
The Lakes’ expedition to Van aimed to identify the capital of the Vannic or Urartian kingdom of 900-600 BCE (the Biblical Ararat), an ancient civilization that was believed to have spoken a Hurro-Urartian language and to have rivaled the Assyrian empire. First suggested to Kirsopp by the librarian of the Bodleian library and eminent Semitic scholar, Sir Arthur Cowley, the expedition included survey and excavation of the Citadel of Van (“Van Kaleh”), the surrounding plain where they hoped to find the ancient settlement, and two nearby sites, “Kalehjik,” a smaller Vannic citadel north of Van Kaleh, and “Tilke Tepe,” a pre-Vannic mound. The Lakes explained the significance of the expedition to prospective funders by noting the recent discovery of other ancient civilizations in the Fertile Crescent and their representation in the Old Testament. They suggested that an excavation of the area around Lake Van would uncover the former capital of the kingdom Urartu, the final survivor of the Hurrian empire, the Horites of the Old Testament, and in doing so, complete the picture of Near Eastern history. They hoped to find inscriptions, which would “illuminate the problem of the language of Urartu and other Hurrian dialects” and possibly aid in “tracing the great traderoute which connected China with the south and west, passing from the north through Turkestan and the Iranian plateau.” In addition to private contributions, such as that of the Blisses, the expedition had institutional sponsorship. The first season was sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Museum and Brown University, where Silva had received her Ph.D. in 1936. The subsequent season in 1939 was sponsored by the Semitic Museum of Harvard University and the Biblical Literature Department of Brown University.
During the first season in 1938, the Lakes’ work picked up where Russian scholar Nicholas Yakovlevich Marr’s 1916 excavation had left off, beginning with a set of oversized niches on the northern slope of the ridge east of the citadel. Joining the Lakes were fellow scholars Robert Casey, Peter Allport, Arthur Newell, and Hans Henning von der Osten. The first season yielded evidence of enormous stele with inscriptions along with multiple “altars,” walls, pottery, obsidian implements, and artificial terracing. The couple published their initial fieldwork results in a 1939 article entitled, “The Citadel of Van.”
The following year, the Lakes resumed work on the same sites for another 14 weeks. New developments included the discovery of what the team believed to be a fortified pier (“the Sardurburg”), finds of Chalcolithic and Hittite pottery, and the development of a theory that the plentiful local obsidian was traded for foreign pottery. An important accomplishment of the expedition was the identification of a pottery sequence across the three sites. The Lakes never published the results of this second and final season, but their work was incorporated into Manfred Korfmann’s later work on Tilke Tepe.
The Blisses also provided financial support for a number of the Lakes' publication projects, including: a series of monographs entitled Studies and Documents (founded by the Lakes in 1935 and edited by them until Kirsopp's death in 1946); a 10 volume series of facsimiles entitled Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200 (published as portfolios 1934-1939); and Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake (1937).
- Bliss, Robert Woods, 1875-1962 (Person)
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Extent1 boxes (5 folders)
Mildred Barnes Bliss was born in New York City in 1879 to Anna Dorinda Blaksley and Demas Barnes, who had invested in the patent medicine Fletcher's Castoria, the phenomenal success of which made him a wealthy man. When Barnes died in 1888, his wealth passed to his wife and their only child, the nine-year-old Mildred. The second marriage of Anna Barnes to William Bliss in 1894 brought Mildred and Robert together, and they themselves married in 1908.
Robert Bliss's career brought the Blisses to Paris in 1912. There they became friends with a circle of Americans, including the artist Walter Gay, the author Edith Wharton, and Mildred Bliss's childhood friend, the historian, diplomat, and banker Royall Tyler. Tyler introduced the Blisses to Parisian art dealers and sparked their passion for collecting, especially Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art. In Paris, Mildred Bliss began to support musicians and host musical evenings.
In 1920, the Blisses purchased the Georgetown property that they named Dumbarton Oaks. Their redesign of the house and the creation of gardens—directed by landscape designer Beatrix Farrand—made Dumbarton Oaks one of the outstanding residences of Washington. In 1940, the Blisses offered Harvard University the gift of Dumbarton Oaks, with its grounds, buildings, library, and art collections. Robert Bliss died in 1962, and Mildred Bliss in 1969." http://www.doaks.org/about/dumbarton-oaks-history/bliss-history
Kirsopp earned his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Oxford. After he was ordained in 1895, he was professor ordinarius of early Christian literature and New Testament exegesis at the University of Leiden from 1901-1914. He relocated to the United States in 1914 and joined the faculty of the Divinity School at Harvard University as a professor of early Christian literature. Lake became Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History in 1919, professor of history in 1932, and eventually retired as emeritus in 1938. In the latter part of his career, Lake became active as an archaeologist, directing expeditions to Serabit in the Sinai peninsula (1929, 1935), Samaria (1932, 1934), and to Lake Van in Turkey (1938, 1939).
He authored The Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1907); The Earlier Epistles of St Paul (1911); and with F. J. Foakes Jackson, The Beginnings of Christianity (5 vols., 1920–33). With his first wife, Helen Courthope, he published the photographic facsimile “Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus: the New Testament, the epistle of Barnabas, and the shepherd of Hermas” (1911), and with his second wife, Silva Lake, he co-authored a revised edition of the Text of the New Testament (1928); and jointly authored The Caesarean Text of the Gospel of Mark with Silva Lake and Robert P. Blake (1929). He and Silva were also co-editors of Dated Greek Miniscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200 (1945) and the monographic series, Studies and Documents.
He married Helen Courthope Forman in 1904, with whom he had two children, Gerard Anthony Christian Kirsopp Lake and Agnes Freda Isabel Kirsopp Lake. This marriage was dissolved in 1932, after which he married fellow scholar Silva Tipple New, with whom he had a second son, John A. K. Lake. The Lakes initially lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts (c. 1935), and then Haverford, Pennsylvania during their affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (c. 1938-1942). The couple ultimately retired to Pasadena, California, near Silva’s parents. Kirsopp died there on November 10,1946.
Silva was educated at the University of Vermont in 1924 and received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 1936. She taught at the University of Vermont (1924), as head of the Latin Department at Miss McClintock’s School in Boston (1924-1925), and Bryn Mawr as a classics professor. She was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship (1929-1930) “for textual criticism of the New Testament and the discrimination of the textual families in Greek, Syriac and Armenian manuscripts of the New Testament.” With her husband Silva co-authored a revised edition of the Text of the New Testament (1928); and she jointly authored The Caesarean Text of the Gospel of Mark with Kirsopp Lake and Robert P. Blake (1929). She was also editor of Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake (1937), and co-editor with her husband of both Dated Greek Miniscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200 (1945) and the monographic series, Studies and Documents, for which she authored the 1937 volume on Family II and the Codex Alexandrinus: the text according to Mark.
She married author Robert Warrington New (b. 1893) with whom she had three children, Robert W. New Jr., Silva K. New, and Bertrand L. New. In 1932, she married Lake, with whom she had a fourth child, John A. K. Lake. The Lakes initially lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts (c. 1935), and then Haverford, Pennsylvania during their affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (c. 1938-1942). The couple ultimately retired to Pasadena, California, near Silva’s parents. Silva died there on April 30, 1983.
Other Finding Aids
Immediate Source of Acquisition
- Casey, Robert Pierce, Silva Tipple Lake, and Agnes Kirsopp Lake, eds. Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake. London: Christophers, 1937.
- Lake, Kirsopp and Silva Lake. “The Citadel of Van.” Asia: Journal of the American Asiatic Association 39 (1939): 75-80.
- Lake, Kirsopp and Silva Lake, eds. Dated Greek Minuscule Manuscripts to the Year 1200. Boston, MA: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1945. 10 vols.
- Korfmann, Manfred. Tilkitepe: die ersten Ansätze prähistorischer Forschung in der östlichen Türkei [Tilketepe: The first signs of prehistoric research in Eastern Turkey]. With appendices by Kirsopp Lake. Tubingen: Wasmuth, 1982.
- Baird, William. History of New Testament Research. Vol. 2, “From Jonathan Edwards to Rudolf Bultmann.” Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2003.
- Carder, James N. “Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss: A Brief Biography.” In A Home of the Humanities: The Collecting and Patronage of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, edited by James N. Carder, 1-25. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2010.
- Grant, F. C. “Lake, Kirsopp (1872–1946).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2004. Accessed July 23, 2014. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/34375.
- John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. “Silva Tipple New.” Accessed July 23, 2014. http://www.gf.org/fellows/8330-silva-tipple-new.
Addendum: Accumulated Research Materials
- Folder 6: Copy of Harvard University Archives finding aid, Papers of Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, ca. 1860-1969 (HUGFP 76.8).
- Folder 7: Copies of correspondence from, Lake, Kirsopp and Sylvia 1940-1949, Papers of Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss, ca. 1860-1969 (HUGFP 76.8), Harvard University Archives.
- Bliss, Robert Woods Bliss, Mildred Barnes, Kirsopp Lake, Silva. Mildred Barnes and Robert Woods Bliss correspondence with Kirsopp and Silva Lake, 1934-1941: Finding Aid
- Image Collections and Fieldwork Archives
- Language of description
- EAD ID
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