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   Barry Miles Papers, 1958-1990

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Preferred Citation

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

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

Summary Information


The Barry Miles Papers contains correspondence, manuscripts, photographs, and printed materials concerned with Miles' literary activities in the London counterculture. Included are letters and manuscripts from William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, among numerous others. This collection also includes material used by Miles in the research and writing of his work Ginsberg: A Biography as well as from his editorship of the annotated edition of Ginsberg’s Howl.

At a Glance

Bib ID:4078472 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Miles, Barry, 1943-
Title:Barry Miles Papers, 1958-1990
Physical description:16 linear feet (37 boxes: 27 document boxes, 10 cassette tape boxes, 1 flat file).
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 into 5 series:

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Scope and Content

This collection is comprised of the correspondence and manuscripts (primarily of others) obtained by Miles in his capacity as a bookseller at Better Books and Indica Bookshop, little magazine publisher ( The International Times, Longhair ), and producer at Zapple Records from the mid-1960s through the 1990s. Also included is material compiled by Miles during the writing of Ginsberg: A Biography, and the annotated edition of Ginsberg’s Howl, including multiple drafts of these writings.

The bulk of the correspondence pertains to Miles’ publishing and bookselling efforts, much of it from counterculture poets and writers. William S Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg are the most voluminous of Mile’s correspondents. Also included are many flyers and catalogues.

The manuscript holdings consist largely of poetry, although there are a number of prose works by William S Burroughs. There are also a large number of Ginsberg manuscripts.

The scholarly work of Miles himself are also found in this collection, primarily drafts and research materials for Ginsberg: A Biography, and the annotated edition of Howl. There are ten distinct versions of the former work, along with handwritten research notes, typed chronologies and itineraries, and duplicate Ginsberg correspondences and journals from university libraries and personal collections. Included are ten boxes of cassette tapes of Ginsberg readings, lectures, and interviews.

Series I: Correspondence, 1960s-1980s

This series contains correspondence related to Miles’ work as a publisher of the little magazines Longhair and The International Times, and as owner and manager of London’s Better Books and Indica Books. Most of the correspondents are writers and artists from the counterculture scene in the US and Britain.

The majority of the correspondents are represented by only one or two letters, primarily addressing business and promotional concerns. These are arranged alphabetically within “General Correspondence.” Because some of the correspondents are people of note, this finding aid includes a list of correspondents found within the “General Correspondents” folders.

Correspondents with a large volume of material have been filed individually, the largest of these being the correspondence of William S Burroughs, which is also available on microfilm in the Columbia University library catalogue.

Original flyers and catalogues for various little magazines, book publications, poetry readings, and musical events have also been placed within this series.

All materials have been organized alphabetically by correspondent.

Series II: Manuscripts, 1959-1979

This series holds the manuscripts of writers associated with Miles and his various magazines ( Long Hair and Trees ), as well as his publishing, promotional, recording (at Zapple Records), and bookselling ventures. There are no manuscripts by Miles himself in this series, however, there are a considerable number of original manuscripts by William S Burroughs here.

All manuscripts have been arranged alphabetically.

Series III: Allen Ginsberg, 1960s-1990s

Correspondence, as well as manuscripts and typescript drafts of poems by Allen Ginsberg, are included in this series. There can also be found a handwritten itinerary of one of Ginsberg’s reading tours, and Ginsberg’s rendition of his family tree that includes a sketch by Beat poet Gregory Corso. These materials have been organized alphabetically.

Series IV: Ginsberg: A Biography Materials, 1943-2000

This series consists of materials related to Barry Miles’ biography of Allen Ginsberg. First, it includes ten distinct manuscript drafts of the biography itself, up to and including galleys and typeset drafts. Many of these drafts include handwritten notes and corrections. The sixth draft has extensive corrections by Ginsberg. There is also a draft of the revised edition of the biography. Additionally, a published copy of the first edition, signed and annotated throughout by Ginsberg, can be found.

The research materials are quite extensive, including typed chronologies of Ginsberg’s life, and itineraries of his various travels, as well as transcribed interviews with family and friends.

Audio recordings of interviews are also in this series, part of a 10-box collection of cassette tapes containing duplicates of tapes from Ginsberg’s personal collection. The cassette tapes are ordered according to Ginsberg’s own organizational schema when possible. Other audio material, such as Miles’ interviews with Ginsberg friends and family, are arranged alphabetically by interviewee.

There is also Miles’ detailed year-by-year chronological reconstruction of Ginsberg’s life, from 1943 to Ginsberg’s death in 1997. These files contain contemporary newspaper clippings; selected Ginsberg journal entries; letters regarding relevant details of Ginsberg’s life; writings by Ginsberg and others from the year specified; and studies of Ginsberg and the Beats relevant to that year. Within the folder ‘Year 1949’ can be found photocopies of Ginsberg’s early manuscript “The Fall.”

Nearly all of this material is photocopied. The duplicated material is dated, in the container list, by when the originals were produced; the photocopies themselves date from the 1980s, the period when Miles was writing the biography.

This series also contains extensive correspondence, some related to the publication of the biography, but mostly a collection of Ginsberg’s personal correspondence from the 1940s to the 1990s. As with the chronological material discussed above, this correspondence is almost exclusively photocopied Also found within this series are duplicates of Ginsberg’s journals from 1953 to 1980. Finally, this series contains a small collection of Ginsberg obituaries.

Series V: Annotated Howl, 1955-1986

In 1986, Miles edited an annotated, facsimile edition of Ginsberg’s Howl. In addition to a number of unpublished drafts, this series contains annotations, appendices, and other materials contained within the book. There are also photocopies of Ginsberg letters and correspondence between Miles and the book publishers.

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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); Barry Miles Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

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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

Processed 02/02/88 J. L-W.

Allen Ginsberg letters & misc. Cataloged 08/27/92 HR

This collection was reprocessed by Aaron Winslow (GSAS, 2014).

Finding aid written by Aaron Winslow in January 2010.

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion June 26, 2009 Finding aid written in English.
    2010-04-07 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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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.

Additional Creators

HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Brautigan, Richard.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Malanga, Gerard.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
McClure, Michael.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Patten, Brian, 1946-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Catalogs (trade).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Drafts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Galley proofs.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (literary).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Press releases.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Silkscreen prints.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Booksellers and bookselling.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Little magazines--England--London.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Barry Miles was born in 1943, in Cirencester, England. He studied art at Cheltenham College of Art before moving to London and qualifying as an art teacher.

Throughout the 1960s, Miles managed Better Books, a counterculture center located in London, at which he staged performances and poetry readings of American poets, helping to generate greater interest in American literary and arts movements within Britain.

After Better Books was sold in 1965, and Miles, together with art critic John Dunbar and musician Peter Asher, founded MAD Ltd. With the financial support of Paul McCartney, they opened Indica Bookshop and Art Gallery in 1966, which continued to host experimental poetry readings and avant-garde art shows. Miles remained owner/manager of Indica until it closed in 1970.

Also around this time, Miles founded and edited a number of little magazines, including Trees and The Long Hair Times (also, sometimes, just Long Hair ), magazines that specialized in publishing Beat poetry and other avant-garde and experimental literature from the US and UK. The latter magazine was the direct forerunner of the underground newspaper The International Times (later just IT ), founded in 1966 by Miles, John “Hoppy” Hopkins, and Jim Haynes.

Miles became manager of Zapple Records in 1968, a subsidiary of the Beatles’ Apple Records, which was intended as an outlet for spoken word and avant-garde records. Only two records were released before Zapple folded in 1969.

Living in New York for much of the 1970s, Miles worked for Allen Ginsberg catalogueing his tape archives and writing for New Musical Express. He later returned to London to edit Time Out.

Since the 1970s, Miles has worked as a writer and biographer, and in 1989 he published the first complete biography of Allen Ginsberg. He has also written biographies of Paul McCartney, Frank Zappa, William S Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski, and the band Pink Floyd, as well as editing annotated editions of Ginsberg’s Howl and Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. He has written extensively on the Sixties counterculture, publishing the book Hippie and an essay in I Want to Take You Higher: The Psychedelic Era, 1965-1969.

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