Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Gregory Corso papers, 1949-1996

Summary Information


Includes published and unpublished writings, artwork, correspondence, and sound recordings created by or related to the Beat poet Gregory Corso.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0285
Bib ID 4078654 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Corso, Gregory
Title Gregory Corso papers, 1949-1996
Physical Description 5 linear feet (10 boxes and 7 oversized folders)
Language(s) English , Italian , Czech .

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.



This collection is arranged in 6 series.



The Gregory Corso Papers contains correspondence, artwork, and published and unpublished writings, as well as photographs and sound recordings of Corso and fellow beat writers. Many of the items in the collection include explanatory notes or annotations that Corso added when preparing to sell these papers.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1955-1979, Undated

    This series contains correspondence written to Corso as well as letters and notes written by Corso to others. The material is arranged alphabetically by correspondent's last name, and then chronologically within each correspondent. Letters written by Corso that remain in the collection are generally items that were written but never posted, rather than carbons of outgoing correspondence.

  • Series II: Photographs, 1962-1967, Undated

    This series contains a small number of photographs, professional portraits as well as snapshopts, of Corso and his friends and associates. There are also a small number of photographs in the correspondence series that were enclosures in letters and remain in their original context; this is noted in the finding aid.

  • Series III: Writings, 1949-1996, Undated

    The writings series, the largest in the collection, is primarily comprised of poetry, with some prose writing. The items in this series are listed individually by title, if supplied, or by the first line of the poem. Also included in this series are a number of notebooks containing poems, poetry fragments, notes, and sketches.

  • Series IV: Artwork, 1954-1977, Undated

    This series contains artwork, mostly sketches and drawings done by Corso, as well as a very few items created by others. There are some larger format items, including oil paintings done by Corso and a large oil portrait of the poet in this series as well. The Robert LaVigne Papers contain some sketches of LaVigne done by Corso, as well as portraits of Corso by LaVigne and Jack Kerouac.

  • Series V: Printed Material, 1958-1972

    The printed material series includes editions of Corso's printed work, including work published in literary journals or magazines as well as anthologies and books of Corso's poetry in translation. Additionally, the series contains several books, journals, and independent literary magazines from Corso's collection including a large number that originally belonged to the San Francisco poet Lenore Kandel. These literary magazines are of particular interest to the researcher studying San Francisco's underground poetry scene in the 1950s and 1960s.

  • Series VI: Sound Recordings, 1966, Undated

    The sound recordings series is comprised of 5 reels of audio tape containing readings by Corso as well as his associates such as Ezra Pound, Lenore Kandel, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, and Michael McClure. Digital access copies are available at the library.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is located on-site.

This collection has no restrictions.

Unique time-based media items have been reformatted and are available onsite via links in the container list. Commercial materials are not routinely digitized. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

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); Gregory Corso papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Material-- At Columbia

Reminiscences of Gregory Nunzio Corso: Oral History, Columbia University Oral History Research Office

Allen Ginsberg Papers, 1943-1991 Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Gregory Corso Collection, 1890-1978, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Method of acquisition--Purchase (26312E; 28027E; 09853F; 637912; 297-5/9/80); Date of acquisition--1980. Accession number--M-80.

Typescript and galley proofs of MINDFIELDS: Source of acquisition--Gotham Book Mart. Method of acquisition--293 (Gen); Date of acquisition--10/02/89. Accession number--M-89-10-02.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged 05/09/89 Christina Hilton Fenn

Typescript and galley proofs of MINDFIELDS. Processed 01/12/90 PL

Collection processed October 2009 by Carrie Hintz

Finding Aid written November 2009 by Carrie Hintz

Revision Description

2009-11-12 File created.

2009-11-24 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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:"
Drawings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Galley proofs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notebooks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Paintings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beats (Persons) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Biderman, Peggy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bohemianism -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Corso, Gregory Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Olson, Charles, 1910-1970 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-2010 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Soyer, Raphael, 1899-1987 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Gregory Nunzio Corso, born to very young Italian immigrants in New York's Greenwich Village, had a troubled childhood. His mother left Corso's father and her son within a year of Gregory's birth, and he spent most of his youth moving between different foster homes and orphanages or living on the street. As a teenager, he landed briefly in jail and spent three months under psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue, but it was his three years incarcerated in New York's Clinton State Prison (as a repeat offender for theft) that proved to be transformative for Corso. In the prison library he discovered Rimbaud and Percy Shelley and it was during this stint in jail that he began to write poetry.

In 1950, upon his release from prison, Corso again began to frequent the bars and cafés of Greenwich Village. It was here that he met Allen Ginsberg who introduced the young poet to Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, and the rest of the original members of the Beat Generation. Corso's commitment to creating spontaneous poetry fit in well with the beats' "New Vision" for American poetry and Corso was quickly integrated into the group of friends, traveling with them to give poetry readings in San Francisco and collaborating with them on various creative projects.

Corso's first book of poetry, The Vestal Lady on Brattle was published in 1955 and gained Corso some critical acclaim and enough money to fund his travels through abroad. He traveled through Europe and set up residence in the Paris boarding house later christened the Beat Hotel and, along with Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Kerouac, traveled to Tangier to help William Burroughs edit the Naked Lunch manuscript.

Corso returned to New York in 1958 in time to see his book of poetry, Gasoline, published as part of City Lights' Pocket Poet series. Though he did write some plays and some prose, most notably the novel The American Express, his prime focus was always on his poetry and he published a number of books of poetry throughout his career and lectured on creative writing and poetry.

Gregory Corso died of complications from prostate cancer in 2001. He was 70 years old.