Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Thomas Merton papers, 1923-2014

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#0868
Bib ID 4079099 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Merton, Thomas, 1915-1968
Title Thomas Merton papers, 1923-2014
Physical Description 21 linear feet (43 boxes)
Language(s) English .

The following boxes are located off-site: 21-43. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.



This collection is arranged in 4 series.



Correspondence, manuscripts, documents, photographs, art work, audio cassette, printed materials by and about Thomas Merton. The correspondence covers the years from his study at Columbia to his death in Bangkok. Among the cataloged correspondence are: Daniel Berrigan, Mark Van Doren, Luis Somoza, Jacque Maritain, Aldous Huxley, James Laughlin, Robert Lax, Grover Cleveland Smith, John Howard Griffin, William Henry Shannon and Victoria Ocampo. The extensive manuscript collection was assembled primarily by Sister Thérèse Lentfoehr, Mark Van Doren, and Robert Shepherd. Among the more significant manuscripts are: corrected typescript of THE SEVEN STOREY MOUNTAIN; fragments of his NOVITIATE JOURNAL; notebooks and journals used in THE SIGN OF JONAS; numerous draft of poems; most of his lecture and conference notes which he used while serving as master of scholastics and, later, master of novices. There is an extensive collection of mimeographed articles, many inscribed to Sister Thérèse Lentfoehr; four watercolors by his father, Owen Merton, and many humorous and devotional drawings by Merton; many photographs of Merton, as well as photographs taken by Merton. There is an audio cassette of the radio play by Bruce Stewart entitled ME AND MY SHADOW, produced by the BBC in 1989. The printed material consists of numerous clippings and some offprints, pamphlets, and books

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

The following boxes are located off-site: 21-43. You will need to request this material from the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Permission to quote or publish must be obtained from Thomas Merton's literary executor, James Laughlin, New Directions Publishing Corp., 80 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10011. This permission is required for Ph.D. dissertations if they are microfilmed by University Microfilms or published in hard copy.

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.

The RBML cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not been first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting. If copyright and/or condition restrictions apply, it may not be possible to digitize a requested item. Please note that A/V reformatting is handled by an outside vendor and typically takes 6-8 weeks.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Thomas Merton papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

See Also the Mark VAN DOREN collection

Ownership and Custodial History

Purchase, 1982, 1988.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Merton, Thomas. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1964. Accession number--M-64.

10,200 items: Source of acquisition--Merton Center. Method of acquisition--Purchase; Date of acquisition--07/01/88. Accession number--M-88-07-01.

Sr.Therese addition: Source of acquisition--7/15/2011. Accession number--2011.2012.M006.

Gift of Thomas Merton, 1964.

Publications About Described Materials

THOMAS MERTON: THE POET AND THE CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE [an exhibition catalog]. New York: Columbia University Libraries, 1990.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed Christina Hilton Fenn 1964.

10,200 items Processed 04/18/90.

Processed by Patrick Lawlor, 1990 Series IV added by Patrick Lawlor."

Revision Description

2010-02-16 Legacy finding aid created from Pro Cite.

2013-08-5 FA revised by PTL

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:"
Audiocassettes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drawings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Paintings (visual works) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Authors, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Berrigan, Daniel Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Catholic authors -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Catholics Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clergy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Griffin, John Howard, 1920-1980 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Laughlin, James, 1914-1997 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lax, Robert Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Maritain, Jacques, 1882-1973 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mason, Herbert, 1932- Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Merton, Owen, 1887-1931 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Monks Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Ocampo, Victoria, 1890-1979 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Pennington, M. Basil Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poets, American -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Religious literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Religious poetry Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Rice, Edward Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Smith, Grover, 1923-2014 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Somoza Debayle, Luis, 1922-1967 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Van Doren, Mark, 1894-1972 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Thomas Merton (Father Louis), M.A. Columbia 1939, was a widely read Catholic author and social critic who lived as a member of the Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, the Trappists, from 1941 till his death in Bangkok in 1968.