Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Elisabeth Sifton Papers, 1962-2010, bulk 1984-2000

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1854
Bib ID 12876292 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Sifton, Elisabeth
Title Elisabeth Sifton Papers, 1962-2010, bulk 1984-2000
Physical Description 10.5 linear feet (22 document boxes and 1 record carton)
Language(s) English .

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



Arranged in four series.



The Elisabeth Sifton Papers span much of Mrs. Sifton's working life. General correspondence is filed alphabetically by last name and includes correspondence related to the day-to-day business of publising, as well as correspondence related to projects ultimately not realized by Mrs. Sifton. Author-specific files deal with projects that Mrs. Sifton worked extensively on. Some files lack information that remains in the archives of the publishing house where the project was completed. Work life files deal with involvement in various professional associations, classes taught by Mrs. Sifton, and some of Mrs. Sifton's own published writing.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Elisabeth Sifton Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Accruals are expected

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Papers processed, ptl 10/10/2017.

Revision Description

2017-10-13 File created.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Authors, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bellow, Saul Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, 1906-1945 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Book editors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Book editors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Novelists Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sifton, Elisabeth Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stern, Fritz, 1926-2016 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Elisabeth Sifton was born Elisabeth Niebuhr in New York City in 1939; a magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, she also studied at the University of Paris. She began her career in book publishing at Frederick Praeger in 1962, a partly academic partly general-interest publisher with a considerable art-book list and a reputation [later established as fact] as being somehow supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. When Praeger was sold to Encyclopedia Britannica, she left it and in 1968 became an editor at The Viking Press; she was named its editor in chief in 1980. In 1983, by which time Viking had been sold to Pearson, the British company that owned Penguin Books, she was named publisher of Elisabeth Sifton Books and vice president of Viking Penguin; her imprint won the Carey-Thomas Award for Creative Publishing in 1986. In 1987-92, she was executive vice president of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., then joined Farrar Straus and Giroux as its senior vice president; she was also Publisher, then Editor-at-Large, of its subsidiary Hill and Wang. In 2008 she retired from active editorial work.

In 1962 Ms Niebuhr married Charles Proctor Sifton, a lawyer and later a federal judge; they had three sons--Sam, Tobias, and John Sifton. They separated in 1984, and in 1996 Mrs. Sifton married the historian Fritz Stern.

A former member of the Freedom to Read Committee of the Association of American Publishers and the advisory council to Princeton's Department of Comparative Literature, Mrs. Sifton also served on the board of directors of Union Theological Seminary, of the French-American Foundation, and of the Harvard University Press, as well as on the board of advisers to the Beacon Press and the visiting committees to Harvard's Department of English and American History and to its University Press.

Poets, novelists and critics whom Elisabeth Sifton edited and published include John Ashbery, Bruce Chatwin, Robertson Davies, Don DeLillo, Stuart Dybek, Leslie Forbes, Carlos Fuentes, William Gaddis, Allan Gurganus, Richard Howard, Frank Kermode, Peter Matthiessen, J.D. McClatchy, Péter Nádas, R.K. Narayan, Richard Poirier, Gregor von Rezzori, Charles Rosen, William Trevor, Marina Warner, and Geoffrey Wolff.

Other writers whose books Elisabeth Sifton edited and published include Neal Ascherson, Isaiah Berlin, John Brewer, Frederick Brown, Natalie Zemon Davis, Vladimir Dedijer, Andrew Delbanco, Ann Douglas, Ronald Dworkin, Susan Eisenhower, David Gilmour, Philip Gourevitch, Gerald Gunther, James Hershberg, Stanley Hoffmann, Michael Howard, Michael Ignatieff, Roy Jenkins, Stanley Karnow, John Keegan, Sunil Khilnani, Stephen Kinzer, Nicholas Lemann, J.R. MacArthur, Robert MacNeil, Avishai Margalit, Ernest May, Edward Mendelson, Newton Minow, Dan Morgan, Victor Navasky, Michael Novacek, Lynne Olson, Fintan O'Toole, Sydney Schanberg, Jonathan Spence, Thomas Slaughter, Stella Tillyard, Lewis Thomas, Adam Ulam, Henry Wiencek, and Jules Witcover.

Mrs. Sifton is also the author of a book, The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Peace and War [2003], and numerous articles in The Nation and other periodicals. She and Fritz Stern together wrote No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State [2013].