crown CU Home > Libraries Home
Columbia University Libraries Archival CollectionsRare Book & Manuscript Library Collections

   Grand Street Publications, Inc. records, 1981-2004.

Download and Print CitationContact Bookmark Share

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Grand Street Publications, Inc. Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information


These records contain the editorial, production and correspondence files of Grand Street, a New York literary quarterly founded by Ben Sonnenberg Jr. in 1981 and published through 2004. Throughout its two decades, Grand Street prided itself on nurturing authors and presenting a smart and eclectic mix of contemporary poetry, fiction, art and journalism. The bulk of this collection consists of annotated manuscripts, proofs and correspondence related to the magazine: featured writers include Anne Carson, Arthur Coleman Danto, Jonathan Franzen, Dennis Hopper, Ted Hughes, Norman Mailer, Susan Minot, Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushide, Edward Said and David Foster Wallace. Production files related to the magazine's operation are also housed within these records and these files include contracts, press and publicity files, design ideas and materials pertaining to Grand Street's attempts to rebrand itself as an online only magazine in the 2000s.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#0508
Bib ID:4078372 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Grand Street Publications, Inc. Records
Title:Grand Street Publications, Inc. records, 1981-2004.
Physical description:53.85 linear feet (47 legal sized document boxes; 18 record cartons, legal sized; 13 record cartons, letter sized).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection has no restrictions. This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.  More information »



This collection is arranged in three series.

Return to top


Scope and Content

The bulk of these records comprise annotated manuscripts, correspondence and editorial and production files for Grand Street. Manuscripts include multiple annotated drafts of poems, articles and fiction as well as final proofs. Professional correspondence related to these files with authors, editor and agents is also contained within the records. Other materials include art files, photographs and slides, press clippings and financial documents.

Series I: Editorial Files, 1982-2004

This large series holds materials related to the artistic content of Grand Street, including drafts and galleys of poems, essays and stories; images by featured artists; unused submissions and ideas for future stories. Grand Street's original filing order has been preserved: in the 1980s editorial files were arranged chronologically by magazine issue while from the 1990s on these same materials were sorted alphabetically by author. Similarly, volume numbers reflect Grand Street's own arrangement: during the 1980s, the journal classified each quarterly issue as part of a yearly volume while from the 1990s onwards, each issue was given its own number.

Subseries 1: Literary Files,1982-1990

Editorial materials from Grand Street's initial years, organized chronologically by issue, are contained in this subseries. The files for each issue contain general editorial materials as well as drafts of all artistic materials (short stories, poems, essays). Within each issue, these materials are organized by ascending page number within the publication: an index appears at the start of each issue. Edits are not restricted to copy-editing and sometimes denote significant artistic changes.

Subseries I.2: Art Files, 1991-2004

When Jean Stein took over from Ben Sonnenberg as editor and publisher in 1990, Grand Street evolved to include visual art alongside literary work. Materials relating to the art and artists featured in Grand Street comprise this subseries. Materials are arranged chronologically by issue and are then divided alphabetically by author or artist. Many artists' work was supplemented by a critical essay. (In arranging this subseries, the original filing system has been preserved, so that these essays are sometimes listed by author and sometimes by artist.) Each issue includes a general folder featuring editorial correspondence and ideas about the artists.

Subseries I.3: Author Files, 1989-2004

Literary Materials from the 1990s on were arranged alphabetically by author rather than chronologically by issue and this subseries retains this original order as well as its division into two sections: poetry and prose. The folder for each author only represents the author's work published in Grand Street in the 1990s. Some writers also had published work in the magazine in the 1980s and these materials can be found in Subseries I.1, arranged chronologically by issue.

Subseries I.4: Supplementary Editorial Materials, 1990-2003

This small subseries contains some unused submissions, reader responses and editorial ideas for potential stories and authors for Grand Street. Unused submissions are arranged alphabetically by author and include rejections and materials published by the author in other venues. Story ideas include brainstorming sessions from editorial meetings, lists of prospective authors to work with and correspondence with authors approached to write "dispatches" columns from different regions for Grand Street's website.

Series II: Correspondence, 1981-2000

Letters, postcards and notes from authors, editors and agents are included within this series. Correspondents include Anne Carson, Noam Chomsky, Arthur Danto, Ted Hughes, Joyce Carol Oates, Edward Said and Virgil Thomson. The correspondence is arranged in two subseries: correspondence from authors and correspondence from editors and agents.

Subseries II.1: Authors, 1981-1990

Ben Sonnenberg's editorial correspondence with authors is included within this subseries. Most correspondence pertains to preparations for the author's inclusion in Grand Street, however, as Sonnenberg knew and nurtured many of these authors, letters often touch upon personal matters as well. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by last name and then is generally organized chronologically within folders. This subseries is further divided into previously catalogued and non-catalogued correspondence, which reflects the decision to catalogue some materials upon their acquisition. The original alphabetical arrangement of non-catalogued material has been retained.

Correspondents represented within the general alphabetical folders include Noam Chomsky, Anne Carson, Arthur Danto, Gavin Ewart, Robert Fagles, Seamus Heaney, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Howard, P J Kavanagh, Edward Said and Virgil Thomson. Two letters by Louise Bogan from 1955 are included in "F" folder under Elizabeth Frank; Frank used Bogan's personal letters to a young Sonnenberg as background for a piece she wrote on Bogan in Grand Street.

Subseries II.2: Agents and Publishers, 1981- 2000

The majority of materials from this subseries originate from the second half of Grand Street's existence from the 1990s onwards. Correspondence from agents is organized alphabetically by agency rather than by agent. Materials from agents and publishers include negotiations of rights and contracts and submission and rejection letters.

Series III: Production, 1990-2004

Production and administrative files from the 1990s on are contained within this large subseries, which is arranged alphabetically by subject. Materials relating to the printing and distribution of Grand Street, financial files, contracts from authors, promotional materials and press clippings, and reports from international bookfairs are included within this series. The files relating to Grand Street's website changeover offer a glimpse into the postmillennial relationship between print and online journalism. These detail Grand Street's unsuccessful reinvention as an online only magazine in 2000 and its attempted shift back to print in 2003. Also here are research files about other literary webzines, authors contacted for the online "dispatches column and internal correspondence about the changeovers. An index of authors and works featured in Grand Street is also included in this subseries.

Return to top

Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection has no restrictions.

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

Restrictions on Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be requested from the Curator of Manuscripts/University Archivist, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML). The RBML approves permission to publish that which it physically owns; the responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Grand Street Publications, Inc. Records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library

Selected Related Material at Columbia

Benjamin Sonnenberg Papers, 1956-2001 Columbia University, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Return to top

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries. Rare Book and Manuscript Library; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Editorial files Processed 02/--/1986 HR

1989 addition Vols. 7 & 8 Processed 12/05/1989 HR

Editorial files Processed 02/22/1990 HR

Collection was reprocessed and finding aid written by Darragh Martin, GSAS 2012.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion July 7, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2009-07-07 File created.
    2010-10-04 xml document instance created by Lea Osborne.

Return to top

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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Manuscripts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Carson, Anne, 1950-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Grand Street.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Hughes, Ted, 1930-1998.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Little Magazines--Periodicals.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Minot, Susan.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Said, Edward, W.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sonnenberg, Benjamin, 1901-1978.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stein, Jean, 1947-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

Return to top

History / Biographical Note

Historical Note

Ben Sonnenberg founded Grand Street in 1981 and edited the magazine through the 1980s, defining its important role in New York's literary landscape. Sonnenberg capitalized upon his affluent New York upbringing and friendships with writers such as Ted Hughes to forge a "little magazine" in the tradition of The Parisian Review and Granta. Devoted to contemporary literature and politics, Grand Street was published quarterly and featured an enticing and eclectic selection of poetry, fiction and journalism.

Sonnenberg was a devoted and nurturing editor, striving to recompense writers financially and artistically; many writers were pleased by the generous fees and detailed editorial advice that Grand Street offered them. Sonnenberg also created a literary circle, hosting dinners with contributors in his Riverside Drive apartment and worked strenuously to promote new talent, including Anne Carson and Susan Minot. Carson attested to the close mentorship Sonnenberg provided, writing to him that he was "always in the back of my thoughts like a piece of chocolate saved in the corner of the cupboard all through Lent." Other writers featured throughout the 1980s include Grover Amen, Arthur Coleman Danto, Ted Hughes, W.S. Merwin, Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, Laura Riding, Edward Said and Virgil Thomson.

Upon Sonnenberg's retirement in 1989, Jean Stein took over Grand Street's lease as editor. Stein expanded the magazine's portfolio to include more international authors and work by contemporary artists. Featured artists were given a high-quality spread in Grand Street and these portfolios were usually accompanied by a short critical commentary. The increasing presence of art assisted another transition in the 1990s, when Grand Street became theme-driven from issue 48 onwards. These themes were often rather broad, allowing for interesting approaches from the featured artists and writers. Themes included Games (Issue 51), Fetishes (Issue 53), Dirt (Issue 57), Fire (Issue 67) and Berlin (Issue 69).

Ironically, Grand Street's initial theme--Oblivion--was strangely prophetic for the path of print journalism after the millennium. Encouraged by economic exigencies, Stein made the bold move of establishing Grand Street as a "state of the art" online magazine (with one print issue each year) in 2000. As part of this transition, Grand Street redesigned its website and put much of its artistic and literary archives online. Despite this stylish website and continued crop of interesting artists and writers, Grand Street struggled in its new home and attempted to revert back to a print journal in 2003. Having lost momentum and faced with an increasingly difficult market for journals, Grand Street ceased publication after the release of its 73rd Issue (Delusions) in the Fall of 2004.

Return to top