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Quentin Quesnell papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00379

Scope and Contents

The collection contains material from Quentin Quesnell's personal life and professional careeer at Smith. This includes course teachings, papers, lectures, notes, readings, transcripts, correspondence, photographic prints and slides, publications, research and Quesnell's professional file.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1927 - 2012
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1970 - 2000


Language of Materials

English and Greek

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Born on February 27, 1927 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Quesnell earned a Master's Degree in Philosophy and an STL from St. Louis University. He later did studies in eastern languages and the Bible in Vienna, Paris, Jerusalem, and Rome. After receiving a PhD in Sacred Scriptures from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he joined Marquette University as a professor (1966 - 1972). He left Marquette for Smith College, becoming the head of the Department of religion from 1975 until 1997. During his time at Smith, Quesnell met fellow professor Jean Higgins and the two married in 1973. After retirement in 1997, he was awarded the Roe Straut Professor Emeritus (Roe Straut Professor of Humanities, 1988).

Quesnell actively engaged in several scholarly debates throughout his lifetime but is most known for his role in the Mar Saba Letter debate and his subsequent high-profile disputes with the discoverer letter, Morton Smith (1915 - 1991). In 1973 Smith published two books on his discovery of a previously unknown letter written by Clement of Alexandria to "Theodore" regarding a secret gospel of Mark. Quesnell's initial skepticism of the authenticity of this discovery sparked a 30-year debate within the academic community.


17.5 linear feet (17 containers)


Faculty. Head of the Department of Religion from 1975 to 1997. The papers contain biographical materials including a complete bibliography, correspondence, notes, photographs, publications and research.


This collection is organized into five series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Professional Life
  3. Publications
  4. Research
  5. Oversized Materials

Other Finding Aids

One or more content listings to individual accessions in this collection are available for download. Links can be found in the description of the individual accession

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Quentin Quesnell and his estate, 2011-2013. Some material may be from other sources.

Related Materials

  1. 42. Faculty - Quesnell, Jean Higgins
  2. 52. Department of Religion

Processing Information

Aquisition evalutation performed by Mark Umstot, Simmons Library and Information Science student internship, 2013. Collection processed and encoded by Elizabeth Carron, Archives Specialist.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Quentin Quesnell papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by Elizabeth Carron.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-11-12: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of College Archives survey
  • 2020-09-28: Added container profile info. to accession 2011-A-0035 boxes, updated extents and scope and contents notes

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063