The Archive of The New York Review of Books

James Cummins Bookseller are pleased to announce the successful conclusion of the sale of the Archive of The New York Review of Books to the New York Public Library. The archive, spanning more than 50 years of continuous publication, comprises over 3,000 linear feet of correspondence, manuscripts, and editorial materials, and some 290,000 e-mails and electronic documents. “This archive represents an unparalleled resource for research, particularly for the study of the intellectual history of the last 50 years,” said N.Y.P.L. President Tony Marx. James Cummins Bookseller acted as the sellers’ representative in the cataloguing of the Archive, in all stages of negotiations with the Library, and in the transfer of the Archive materials to the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division.

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Founded in 1963 by Robert B. Silvers and Barbara Epstein, The New York Review of Books has become the leading forum for discussion of current literary work and the analysis of significant artistic, social, political, and scientific issues. From the outset, Silvers and Epstein recruited an international stable of contributors, including noted poets, writers, scholar, and public intellectuals. Among the early contributors were Elizabeth Hardwick, Hannah Arendt, W. H. Auden, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Joan Didion, Clifford Geertz, Paul Goodman, Nadine Gordimer, Lillian Hellman, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, Murray Kempton, Dwight Macdonald, James Merrill, Norman Mailer, Mary McCarthy, Adrienne Rich, Susan Sontag, William Styron, Gore Vidal, Robert Penn Warren, Isaiah Berlin, H.R. Trevor-Roper, and Edmund Wilson.

The archive documents the evolution of the magazine as it took a vocal role in opposition to both the Vietnam War and later wars in Iraq. The New York Review of Books was consistently at the forefront in the civil rights debate in America, and articulated an editorial commitment to human rights in discussions following the September 11th attacks in New York City.

Editorial correspondence is in the form of letters, telegrams, telexes, faxes, as well as emails. The archive is also full of drafts and carbons (with handwritten notes from the editors and writers), manuscript and typescript submissions, revisions, article copy, and galleys — all showing the collaborative process of editing a piece that could take several months or sometimes even years.

Among the highlights of the Archive:

A wealth of correspondence between Silvers and Sontag, including typescripts (some heavily marked by Sontag) of her various essays on photography. In one letter, Sontag writes to Silvers, “I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into: writing about photography is like writing about the world.”

A significant amount of unpublished correspondence between Noam Chomsky and Silvers (as well as Jean Lacouture and Francois Ponchaud) disagreeing over the accuracy of sources relating to early reports of the rise of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

Material related to the founding of The London Review of Books, from preliminary calculations to photos of the opening party.

Correspondence over several decades from Oliver Sacks to Silvers emphasizing how important Silvers’ encouragement and editing was to his development as a writer.

The telegram from poet Robert Lowell to the Review with his prose poem “Judgment Deferred on Lieutenant Calley.” It states, “I can’t tag this to a review comma but it seems meant for the New York Review of Books period.”

Correspondence between Mary McCarthy — who reported on the Vietnam War for the Review —including her aerogrammes from Vietnam, letters to Silvers, and writings on Watergate and other topics.

A nine-page letter from 1979 headed “Not for Publication” from Henry Kissinger to Silvers, in which Kissinger disputes views in a Review article by Stanley Hoffman on Kissinger’s The White House Years. Kissinger later sends a shorter note stating that silence means agreement. Silvers replies in a 20-page note.

A letter from Sarah Plimpton to Silvers introducing the editor to “a young poet and translator” named Paul Auster.

Unpublished material that was rejected by the Review, including pieces by Joseph Brodsky, Nadine Gordimer, Norman Mailer, Bernard Lewis, John Hollander, and others.

Unsuccessful attempts by Review editors to solicit pieces from writers. For example, Saul Bellow wrote in response to a request for a piece about the death of Primo Levi, “While I’m not exactly King Lear, I’ve had more than the normal share of family trouble in the past months . . . I can’t find it in me just now to write on so distressing a subject . . . Things have been singularly nasty lately.”

The sale of the Archive of The New York Review of Books also ensures that editorial materials and correspondence (in paper and electronic form) during the next five years will be deposited at the New York Public Library. James Cummins Bookseller are delighted to have played an essential role in securing a place for this fascinating Archive at one of the world’s great research institutions. James Cummins Bookseller regularly assist individuals and institutions in the cataloguing, sale, appraisal, and placement of archival materials, chiefly in the fields of literature, popular culture, science fiction, and sport.

For further information, please contact Henry Wessells, henry@jamescumminsbookseller.com .

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