Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Allen Ginsberg papers, 1943-1991, bulk 1945-1976

Summary Information


Papers of Allen Ginsberg, American poet and one of the founders of the beat generation. The collection contains correspondence, manuscripts, and publications created by Ginsberg and his associates. Note that the main body of Ginsberg's papers is found at Stanford University.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0487
Bib ID 4078809 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 ; Ball, Gordon
Title Allen Ginsberg papers, 1943-1991, bulk 1945-1976
Physical Description 11.25 linear feet (26 boxes 1 oversized document box)
Language(s) English .

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.



This collection is arranged in 5 series.



The Allen Ginsberg papers contain correspondence, artwork, manuscripts, and printed material by and about Ginsberg, including the manuscript for "Indian Journals" and the manuscript for a collection of Ginsberg's lectures entitled "Allen Verbatim." The collection also contains a significant number of artworks and manuscripts by Ginsberg's friends and associates, including William Burroughs's "Interzone" (Naked Lunch) manuscript. There are a very small number of audio recordings included in the collection as well- a recording of an interview with Ginsberg a reel to reel tape of Ginsberg singing poems of William Blake.

1987 Addition: Letters from Allen Ginsberg to Imamu Amiri Baraka.

1991 Addition: Two tape recordings on the subject of William Blake.

1993 Addition: Books & periodicals.

1998 Addition: Letters from Allen Ginsberg to Arthur Knight.

  • Series I: Correspondence, 1943-1982

    This series consists of correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and his friends, family and associated. Included is early correspondence between Ginsberg and his friends and fellow writers William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, and Gregory Corso as well as letters including poetry critiques from his Columbia University professors Lionel Trilling and Mark Van Doren. There is also a significant amount of correspondence between Allen Ginsberg and his father, the poet Louis Ginsberg.

  • Series II: Writings and Manuscripts, 1950-1974

    This series includes manuscripts of writing both by Ginsberg and by his friends and collaborators, including the manuscript for Ginsberg's Indian Journals and the galleys for Howl and Other Poems. There are a number of Gregory Corso's poetry manuscripts as well as some poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, and some examples of Jack Kerouac's poetry and prose, including a scroll that includes a partial draft of Mexico City Blues.

    Of particular interest and importance in this series is William S. Burroughs's "Interzone" manuscript-- the working title of what was later published as Naked Lunch. The manuscript was submitted to City Lights Publishing, but rejected and returned to Allen Ginsberg who was acting as Burroughs's literary agent.

  • Series III: Artwork and Photographs, 1961-1968, undated

    This series is comprised of drawings and sketched executed by Ginsberg and his friends. There are also a small number of photographs of Ginsberg in this series.

  • Series IV: Sound Recordings and Recording Projects, 1967-1971

    This series is comprised of records relating to Ginsberg's audio recordings with Barry Miles on the Zapple label. Most of the documents in this series relate to the planning and recording of Gnsberg's "Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, Tuned by Allen Ginsberg."

    There are also two audio reels in this series, one of Ginsberg performing the poems of William Blake and a recording of an interview with Ginsberg wherein he talks about the hallucinogenic visions of Blake that he has while a college student in New York.

  • Series V: Printed Material, 1956-1991

    The Printed Material series is comprised primarily of small literary magazines and newsletters that were either collected by Allen Ginsberg, include his work, or include articles or biographical sketches about him. Included are examples of the Poetry Project Newsletter and issues of Unmuzzled Ox. There are a small number of books owned by or with contributions by Ginsberg, most notable the first edition of Howl and Other Poems published by City Lights in 1954.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection has no restrictions.

This collection is located on-site.

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); Allen Ginsberg Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Barry Miles Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Peter Orlovsky Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

William S. Burroughs Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Gregory Corso Papers, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.

Allen Ginsberg Papers, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas.

Allen Ginsberg Papers, Department of Special Collections Green Library Stanford University Libraries.


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

Alternate Form Available

W.H. Auden, William Carlos Williams, and William Burroughs letters are on: microfilm.

Ownership and Custodial History

Gift of the Paterson NJ Public Library, 1974.

Gift of Stanley Wertheim, 1986.

Gift of Aram Boyajian, 1992.

Gift of Allen Ginsberg, 1993.

The main body of Ginsberg's personal papers were on deposit at the Columbia Rare Book and Manuscript Library from the late 1960s until 1993. While the papers were at Columbia, the RBML acquired related materials through gift and purchase. In 1993, Ginsberg sold the papers for Stanford University, where they remain today. The collection here represents items acquired by gift and purchase.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--1976. Accession number--M-76.

2 tape recordings: Source of acquisition--Boyjiam, Aram. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--01/08/1992. Accession number--M-01-08-92.

Printed materials: Source of acquisition--Ginsberg, Allen. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--10/--/1993. Accession number--M-10-93.

AG letters to A. Knight & replies: Source of acquisition--2293B & 6537B(Bancroft). Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--05/26/1998. Accession number--M-98-05-26.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 06/--/1989.

2 tape recordings Processed HR 01/15/1992.

Printed materials Processed HR 02/08/1995.

AG letters to A. Knight & replies Cataloged HR 10/08/1998.

Revision Description

2010-05-22 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:"
Audiotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drawings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Galley proofs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Journals Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Manuscripts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Videotapes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Authors Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Barzun, Jacques, 1907-2012 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Beats (Persons) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bohemianism -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bowles, Paul, 1910-1999 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cassady, Carolyn Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cassady, Neal Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Charters, Ann Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Corso, Gregory Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Di Prima, Diane Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ginsberg, Louis, 1895-1976 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
India -- Description and travel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Literature publishing Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
McClure, Michael Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Miles, Barry, 1943- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Orlovsky, Peter, 1933-2010 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Trilling, Lionel, 1905-1975 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Allen Ginsberg, born Irwin Allen Ginsberg, grew up in Paterson New Jersey with his parents, Louis and Naomi Ginsberg and his brother Eugene Brooks. Both of Allen's parents were to be major influences on him and his work-- his father, a poet and high school English teacher, was one of his earliest and most constant readers and critics. His mother's mental illness would profoundly affect Ginsberg as well, though in a very different way, ultimately inspiring Ginsberg's poem "Kaddish: for Naomi Ginsberg 1894-1956.".

Ginsberg left Paterson for New York City when he was accepted to Columbia University as an undergraduate. He entered University in the Fall of 1943 and soon met fellow Columbia student, Lucien Carr who would introduce Ginsberg to Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. This group of friends would form the nucleus of the Beat Generation. Though a brilliant student, Ginsberg was expelled from Columbia in 1945 for scrawling an obscenity on his window and for engaging in homosexual sex. He did, however, return to the University the next year and completed his BA in 1948.

After Ginsberg's graduation he remained in New York City and his apartment became a meeting place and crash pad for his group of friends, including Herbert Huncke-- a drug addict, petty thief, and Times Square habitue. When the apartment was busted containing Huncke's stolen goods, Huncke took the jail time, but Ginsberg was still implicated. Rather than go to jail, Ginsberg plead that he was psychologically unfit to stand trial and was sent to the Columbia Psychiatric Institute for an eight month sentence. It was here that he met Carl Solomon, to whom he would dedicate the poem "Howl.".

After he was released from the psychiatric hospital, Ginsberg remained in New York for a few years, starting to write and working odd jobs, before he moved to San Francisco in 1953. Once he was in San Francisco, he met a group of California artists and poets including Philip Whalen, Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and became involved in the San Francisco Renaissance movement that was taking place on the west coast literary scene. It was in San Francisco that Ginsberg first wrote "Howl" and read it for the first time at the 1955 Six Gallery reading hosted by Kenneth Rexroth. It was also in San Francisco that Ginsberg met Peter Orlovsky who would be his lover, collaborator, and companion throughout the rest of his life.

Ginsberg spent the next few years nominally based in New York City, but traveling widely. He visited William Burroughs in Tangier, Morocco and famously lived in Paris at "The Beat Hotel" at 9 Rue Git-le-coeur with Gregory Corso and Willaim Burroughs where he helped assemble Burroughs's The Naked Lunch manuscript. He and Peter Orlovsky spent the greater part of 1962-1963 in India. This experience would be the basis for his non-fiction book Indian Journals. He moved back to New York, living in both the city and a farm house in Cherry Valley in upstate New York where he based his non-profit artists' relief fund, The Committee on Poetry.

In 1974 Ginsberg helped to found the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics of the Naropa Institute where he was also a member of the faculty. He returned to teach at his alma mater as a visiting professor in 1968 and took a teaching position at Brooklyn College which he retained until his death of liver cancer in 1997.