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Series I: Book Production and Related Materials, 1960s-2022
Series III: Correspondence, 1940s-2021
Series V: Teaching Files, 1981-2016
Series VI: Personal and Biographical Files, 1950s-2021
Series VIII: Publications, circa 1973-2021
At a Glance
Scope and Contents
Lydia Davis (1947-) is an American short story writer, novelist, essayist, and translator from French and other languages. She is the author of several collections of short stories, one novel, two collections of essays, and several translations. The papers include address books, calendars, contracts, correspondence, drafts, journals, manuscripts, notebooks, notes, proofs, publications, school records, and teaching files.
The papers include book production files that document the publication of Davis' novel, essay collections, and most of her major story collections and translated works. There is extensive material related to the writing and publication of Davis' novel, The End of the Story (1995) including calendars, drafts, revisions, notebooks and notes, manuscripts, setting copies, page proofs, annotations and corrections, and related correspondence. In addition, the papers include cover ideas, readers' notes, and the box that appears in the novel.
The papers also document the publication of two essay collections: Essays One and Essays Two. The materials include drafts, manuscripts, a partial setting copy, proofs, corrections, notes, and additional material related to the Bob, Son of Battle essay. There is also material related to the placement of essays in these collections, as well as cards used to organize essays.
This collection also contains materials related to the writing and publication of several of Davis' story collections, primarily for Break it Down (1986) and all subsequent collections. There are no production materials for earlier collections, with the exception of The Thirteenth Woman and Other Stories (1976), for which there is an unbound copy. This material includes corrections, correspondence, drafts, manuscripts, setting copies, page proofs, galleys, jacket proofs, and notes. There is also material related to the publication of Davis' short stories in journals, magazines, anthologies, and other projects. This material is filed in Series II: Professional Files. Files on these types of publication projects often contain not only business correspondence but also manuscripts, proofs, reviews, and other related material together in the same file. In addition, the collection includes published copies of the stories in Series VIII: Publications. Lastly, the papers also include many short story files containing individual stories, rough drafts, and notes. As many of these stories were included in Davis' story collections, these are filed in Subseries I.4: Short Stories--Individual Stories, Notes, and Drafts.
The papers also contains a wealth of material related to Davis' translation work. The production files include materials related to the production of Davis' major translation works, as well as other translations. These include Blanchot's The Last Man, Flaubert's Madame Bovary, Leiris' Rules of the Game, Proust's Swann's Way, as well as works by Pierre Jean Jouve, Justine Lévy, Alfred Ollivant, Danièle Sallenave, A.L. Snijders, and several items related to translations for Zone Books. The materials includes manuscripts, setting copies, proofs, corrections, notes, original texts and other source material, and related correspondence. There is additional material related to Davis' translation of works by Michel Butor and Pierre Jean Jouve for Marlboro Press with the press' records; the Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds the Marlboro Press Records,. There are additional files related to these works, and other translation works, in Series II: Professional and Writing Files. These files include subject files related to Maurice Blanchot, Conrad Detrez, Jean Frémon, Gustave Flaubert, Michel Leiris, Justine Lévy, Madeleine Monette, Marcel Proust, and Alexis de Tocqueville. There are also files related to articles, panels, reviews, talks, and events related to her translation work. In addition, the collection includes published copies of shorter translations and excerpts in Series VIII: Publications.
Davis' professional files include business files, as well as files on other professional subjects, including files related to specific writing projects. These files were filed and received separately from records related to the publication of Davis' books, which are filed in Series I: Book Production and Related Files. The papers also include teaching files, which relate to Davis' teaching appointments at college and universities, as well as her teaching work in writing seminars and master classes elsewhere. The majority of Davis' professional correspondence can be found in Series II: Professional Files, but there may be correspondence on professional subjects in Davis' personal correspondence files. In addition, files of miscellaneous business correspondence are filed in Subseries III.3: Professional Correspondence (Miscellaneous).
There is extensive personal material in the collection, and this includes address books, calendars, correspondence, drawings, early writing, journals, mementoes, notebooks, resumes, and school records and related material. The collection lacks photographs, however; there are only a few photographs in the collection.
Davis' personal correspondence is extensive, and primarily filed by correspondent name. There is a wide range of correspondents, including fellow writers, friends, boyfriends, former students, and others. Most personal correspondence is filed in Subseries III.2, but there is some additional personal correspondence in Subseries III.4: Miscellaneous Correspondence and Series VII: Miscellaneous Files. While Davis made content notes for these miscellaneous files, which include names, they do not appear to be comprehensive for all files. There is overlap between the correspondence files in Subseries III.2 and these miscellaneous files. There is some family correspondence in the papers related to Davis' parents and siblings, but it is not extensive.
Davis also kept journals and notebooks; these document her daily life, as well as her reading, writing, and translation work. These are extensive, comprising approximately 100 items. Davis is currently reviewing her journals and notebooks, and they will not be available for research use until that review is complete.
Davis filed some material in miscellaneous files with descriptions on the individual folders; the file descriptions in the finding aid are taken from the descriptions written on the files by Davis. These files can be found in Series VII: Miscellaneous Files.
There is some digital material in the collection, but this is currently limited to a set of 3.5" floppy disks from Davis' Kaypro Computer that date from around the 1990s. The titles on the disks are listed in the finding aid. The collection does not include any e-mail files or other digital material at this time.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
This collection is located on-site.
Some material, including nearly all the Paul Auster correspondence, requires conversation work due to the presence of mold and is not available for use at this time. These files are noted in the finding aid.
Davis has restricted certain letters and other items. These restrictions are noted in the finding aid.
Davis is currently reviewing her journals and notebooks, and they will not be available for research use until that review is complete.
A few additional files, including many teaching files and recommendation letters, are restricted due to privacy laws related to personal information and student records.
Digital files remain on their original disks and are not readily available for use; please contact the Rare Book & Manuscript Library in advance of your visit to discuss access options.
Conditions Governing Use
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. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Lydia Davis Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Selected Related Material-- at Columbia
Georges Borchardt, Inc. Records, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Marlboro Press Records, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Zone Books Records, Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Additions are expected.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Purchase, Lydia Davis, 2018.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
This collection was processed by Catherine C. Ricciardi in 2022.
Finding aid written by Catherine C. Ricciardi in October 2022.
2018-11-18 File created.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
2022-10-04 Finding aid created by Catherine C. Ricciardi.
History / Biographical Note
Lydia Davis (1947-) is an American short story writer, novelist, essayist, and translator from French and other languages. She is the author of several collections of short stories, two of which were nominated for the National Book Award and the PEN/Hemingway Award, as well as one novel, The End of the Story (1995). Davis is best known for her very short, micro or "flash" fiction; many of her stories are a single sentence or paragraph long. Davis has also worked extensively as a translator from French to English, particularly of Maurice Blanchot, Michel Leiris, Flaubert, and Proust, and in other languages, including Dutch and German. Her honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation, as well as the Man Booker International Prize. She was a professor of English and writer-in-residence at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and taught at Bard College, Columbia University, and the University of California San Diego. She is a 1970 graduate of Barnard College.