Manuscript Society

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Manuscript Society
Founded1951; 73 years ago (1951)
Yale University
TypeSenior society
EmphasisArts and letters
Headquarters344 Elm Street
New Haven, Connecticut
United States

Manuscript Society is a senior society at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.[1][2] It is reputedly the arts and letters society at Yale.[3]


Founded in 1951, Manuscript was Yale's seventh "landed" senior society.[1][4] That is, its alumni trust owns the society's meeting place or "tomb".[5] The Manuscript Society was one of the first senior societies to offer membership to rising females at Yale College.[2]

Each delegation is selected by consensus among Manuscript alumni, trustees, delegates, and significant others, unlike other Yale societies where undergraduate members more freely select, recruit, and initiate their society's next delegation.[6]

The Wrexham Foundation is the society's alumni arm.[7] Since 1956, the foundation has underwritten the Wrexam Prize, a scholarship in the humanities for the senior who writes the best essay in the field of the humanities.[7]

Manuscript briefly played host to the 1991-92 classes of Skull and Bones, who were temporarily locked out of their tomb by alumni who objected to its undergraduates' decision to offer membership to women.[3] From its beginning the society also retained close connections with the campus literary society Chi Delta Theta, which formed in 1821[8][9]

Manuscript Society is part of a four-society "Consortium" with the Aurelian Honor Society, Book and Snake, and Berzelius.


The society holds the number 344 to be sacred.[3] It supposedly holds Enlightenment ideals, and the sun and sunflowers are both important symbols to members.[10]

The society holds an annual gathering in its tomb on Halloween.[11][2] Its members also invite guests to events featuring notable alumni.[11]

Chapter house[edit]

Designed by King-lui Wu, Manuscript's white granite tomb was built in 1952.[1][12][13] The tomb is mid-century modern, unusual amid other societies' elaborate mid-to-late-19th century buildings.[1] It featured a circular intaglio mural in white-glazed brick that was designed by Josef Albers.[1][12] The circle, which is only visible in direct sunlight, symbolizes the bond connecting the members.[1][12]

It appears from the outside to have only one level, yet conceals several subterranean floors and a courtyard.[13] The tomb holds a collection of notable modern and contemporary art.[11] The Yale University Art Gallery is said to have temporarily stored pieces there.[3] Wu said that he designed the building "for privacy, not for secrecy."[14] Dan Kiley deisgned the landscaping which includes a Japanese water garden.[11][15]

Popular culture[edit]

Manuscript is described in the novel Joe College by Tom Perrotta as "basically the cool people's version of a secret society".[16]

Notable members[edit]

Anderson Cooper
Jodie Foster
David Gergen
H. John Heinz III
Richard Rhodes
Name Class Notability References
Josef Albers Honorary Artist [3]
Jen Banbury 1989 Playwright, author, and journalist
Alan Bernheimer 1970 Poet [3]
Noah Bookbinder 1995 Professor of law at George Washington University [3][17]
Maia Brewton 1998 Child actress and lawyer [3]
Richard H. Brodhead 1968 9th President of Duke University [3][2]
Cleanth Brooks Honorary Literary critic [3]
Matthew Bruccoli 1953 F. Scott Fitzgerald scholar [3]
David Calleo 1955 Intellectual historian, political economist at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University [3]
Anderson Cooper 1989 Journalist and news anchor with CNN [18][1]
Robert A. Dahl Honorary Professor of political science at Yale University [3]
Eli Whitney Debevoise II 1974 U.S. Director of the World Bank [3]
Charles Derber 1965 Professor of sociology and social critic [3]
Juan Negrín Fetter 1967 Director of Wixarika Research Center [3][19]
Robert Fiore 1964 Film producer and director [3]
Jodie Foster 1985 Director and Academy Award winning actress [3][1][4]
Henry Geldzahler 1957 Art historian and curator [3]
Tamar Gendler 1987 Professor, chair of the Yale University department of philosophy [3]
David Gergen 1963 Presidential advisor and political commentator [3][18]
Robert Glick 1962 Director of the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research [3]
Cyrus Hamlin Honorary Literary critic and longtime Yale professor [3]
E. D. Hirsch, Jr. Honorary Literary critic and proponent of cultural literacy [3]
H. John Heinz III 1960 U.S. Senator
Cheryl Henson 1984 Puppeteer and president of the Jim Henson Foundation [3]
Rodger Kamenetz 1970 Professor and certified dream therapist [3]
Zoe Kazan 2005 Actor and playwright [20]
Byron Kim 1983 Minimalist artist [3]
Anthony Lapham 1958 CIA top lawyer in the 1970s [3][21]
Brooke Lyons 2003 Actor
Jane Maienschein 1972 Director of the Center for Biology and Society, at Arizona State University [3]
Richard Maltby, Jr. 1959 Tony Award-winning director [3]
Patrick McCaughey Honorary Former director of the Yale Center for British Art [3][22]
Ved Mehta Honorary Author and advocate for the blind [3]
Ted Morgan 1954 Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist [3]
Wallace Notestein Honorary Sterling Professor of English History at Yale [3]
Soni Oyekan 1970 Chemical engineer and inventor [3]
Michael Pertschuk 1954 Consumer advocate, author and former government official [3]
Scott Peterson 1988 Author and journalist [3]
James Prosek 1997 Author and naturalist [3][23]
Dale Purves 1960 Neuroscientist, director of Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders at Duke [3]
Richard Rhodes 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning author [3]
Duncan Robinson Honorary Master of Magdalene College and Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum [3]
Richard Selzer Honorary Surgeon, author, and professor of surgery at Yale [3]
William Kelly Simpson Honorary Art historian and head of college of Timothy Dwight College [3]
Steven Smith Honorary Political scientist and head of college of Branford College [3]
Paul Steiger 1964 Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal [3]
Robert Storr Honorary Curator, critic, painter, and writer.
Robert Farris Thompson Honorary Art historian and master of Timothy Dwight College [3]
Rosanna Warren 1976 Poet and scholar [3]
Elisabeth Waterston 1999 Actor [3][24]
Stephen F. Williams 1958 Senior Circuit Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [3]
Jonathan Zittrain 1991 Professor of Internet Law at Harvard University [3]
Karl Zinsmeister 1981 Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under George W. Bush [3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Khederian, Robert (2018-06-21). "Tomb raiders: The clubhouses of Yale's secret societies". Curbed. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  2. ^ a b c d Austin, Charlotte (2012-01-03). "Inside Yale's Secret Societies". The Harvard Voice. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay Parks, Steven; Cooper, Henry S. F. Jr.; Wallace, Thomas C., eds. (2002). Manuscript Society (1953-2002). New Haven, CT: Phoenix Press.
  4. ^ a b "Yale Has More Secret Societies Than You Realize. Here's The History". Grunge. 2023-05-06. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  5. ^ Branch, Mark Alden (July 2014). "Open secrets". Yale Alumni Magazine. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  6. ^ "Tombs & Taps" section of online Magazine Archived 2006-07-19 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 2010
  7. ^ a b "Wrexham Prize (1992) | Office of the Secretary and Vice President for University Life". Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  8. ^ Yale Extracurricular and Social Organizations publication, retrieved 26 March 2012
  9. ^ Havemeyer, Loomis (January 1961). Yale's Extracurricular & Social Organizations, 1780-1960. Yale University. via EilScholar, accessed 21 Aug 2021.
  10. ^ Havemeyer, Loomis. (1960). "Go to your room"; a story of undergraduate societies and fraternities at Yale. New Haven: Yale.
  11. ^ a b c d "Yale's secret social fabric". Yale Daily News. 2008-12-05. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  12. ^ a b c "Homage to the circle". Yale Alumni Magazine. September 2011. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  13. ^ a b "Manuscript Tomb Mural (1962) by Josef Albers and King-lui Wu". Secret Images. 2019-09-08. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  14. ^ "Ingenious Use of a Narrow Site". Architectural Record, November 1965.
  15. ^ "Manuscript Society House". Hidden Architecture. 2022-11-11. Retrieved 2023-07-04.
  16. ^ Perrotta, Tom (2006-09-19). Joe College. St. Martin's Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4299-0780-4 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ Listing in the George Washington Univ. Law School Directory Archived 2012-08-05 at, retrieved 26 March 2012
  18. ^ a b Wenzel, R. Economic Policy Journal. "Doing a background check on CNN" (26 December 2011), retrieved on 26 March 2012
  19. ^ Biographical Sketch of Juan Negrin, retrieved 22 March 2012
  20. ^ Tucci, Joseph (December 6, 2022). "'She Said' star Zoe Kazan got her acting degree and wrote a play at Yale". CT Insider. Retrieved July 4, 2023.
  21. ^ Martin, Douglas (15 November 2006). "Anthony A. Lapham, 70, Former C.I.A. Lawyer, Dies". The New York Times.
  22. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. ^ Hodara, S. The New York Times, "Interpreting a Blueprint for Birds". (Arts and Entertainment, 01/13/2008), retrieved 26 March 2012
  24. ^ Elisabeth Waterston bio Archived 2011-07-28 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 26 March 2012


  • Robbins, Alexandra. Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. (Back Bay Books: 2003). ISBN 0-316-73561-2

External links[edit]