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   Herman Wouk Papers, 1915-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1940-1960].

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Preferred Citation

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

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

Summary Information


This collection documents the professional work of Pulitzer Prize winning author, Herman Wouk. The bulk of the papers are drafts of manuscripts and plays, including The Caine Mutiny, with many annotations and notes by the author. There is also correspondence between Wouk and his colleagues, in particular his brother, the noted scientist, Victor Wouk.

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1393
Bib ID:4079503 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Wouk, Herman, 1915-
Title:Herman Wouk Papers, 1915-2003 [Bulk Dates: 1940-1960].
Physical description:23.26 linear feet (53 document boxes, one small flat box, two oversized folders).
Language(s):In English.
Access: This collection is located on-site. Portions of this collection are restricted until 2035. Please see the container list for details.  More information »



This collection is arranged in five series.

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Scope and Content

The Herman Wouk Papers span the early portion of Wouk's life, although there is some scant correspondence from the late 1990s. The bulk of the records concern his many writings in the form of articles, books, short stories, plays, and poetry. The second largest series consists of correspondence from admiring fans, colleagues, publishing houses, and family members. In addition, there are personal items, printed material, photographs, and a small amount of audiovisual material. Records documenting Herman Wouk's professional output after the 1950s are located at the Library of Congress.

Series I: Correspondence, 1935-2000

Series I holds letters sent between Wouk and his colleagues at Columbia University, admiring fans, personal friends, publishing houses and journals, and family members. The bulk of the correspondence consists of complimentary letters sent to Wouk in regards to his book Marjorie Morningstar, although there are also some references to The Caine Mutiny. Condolence letters for the death of his son, personal correspondence, and letters from Jewish institutions are found here. This series is arranged alphabetically by the individual’s last name or the name of the institution. Note that there are considerable gaps in this series: the letters are primarily from the 1940s through the late 1950s with some dating from the late 1990s.

Series II: Writings, 1940-1999

This is the largest series in the collection and holds Wouk’s writings. The series has been divided into two subseries, one that consists of articles and books and one for plays. Both subseries contain the text itself in numerous draft forms, research material, publicity and reviews, and working notes. In most cases, there are multiple drafts documenting Wouk’s creative process. These drafts illustrate the progression from preliminary notes to a final piece.

Subseries II.1: Articles and Books, 1943-1999

The bulk of Subseries 1 are manuscripts of books. Titles held in this subseries include The Caine Mutiny, Aurora Dawn, City Boy, Marjorie Morningstar, This Is My God, Youngblood Hawke, Aurora Dawn, The Caine Mutiny, and The Will to Go On. These texts mainly span Wouk’s early literary career, although The Glory was published in the middle 1990s. The manuscripts exist in multiple draft versions that are often both handwritten and typed with extensive rewrites and notes by Wouk. These notes range from the purely theoretical to the comic and illustrate how Wouk crafted his longer writings and the ways in which he molded his ideas. There are also several articles that Wouk wrote for a variety of journals. Article topics range from complimentary pieces about other writers that Wouk respected, portraits of geographical locations, and issues relevant to the American Jewish community.

Subseries II.2: Plays, 1940-1957

Subseries 2 is composed of plays spanning from Wouk’s time in the United States Navy all the way through the mid-1950s. Often, the plays would go through several iterations that would include name changes. In these cases, the final name has been retained. The majority of the plays are comedic in nature and is concerned with topics such as human nature, art, relationships between men and women, and contemporary American society. Some of the plays include an unmarked script as well as the director's marked script. Set sketches, drafts of blocking for the actors, printed material, such as playbills and tickets, and background research notes are also held in this subseries. Of interest in this subseries are several radio scripts written during the early 1940s that address the political situation and foreign policy at that time, often in a comedic way.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

This collection is located on-site.

Portions of this collection are restricted until 2035. Please see the container list for details.

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, 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); Herman Wouk Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material at other Repositories

The Papers of Victor Wouk, 1934-2004 California Institute of Technology, 10208-MS.

Herman Wouk Papers, Library of Congress. This collection consists primarily of material from the early 1960s to the present. Currently the collection is marked "restricted." Researchers may inquire about the possibility of using certain materials.

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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 in 2007 by Lea Osborne

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion December 2, 2008 Finding aid written in English.
    2008-12-02 File created.
    2009-01-13 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor
    2009-04-24 Edited by Lea Osborne

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Drafts (documents).PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Radio scripts.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
American literature--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Auerbach, Red, 1917-2006.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Authors, American.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
City children.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia College (New York, N.Y.)--Students.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Columbia University--Students.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Jewish women in literature.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Judaism--Customs and practices.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Military occupation in literature.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Thompson, Ira.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Trials (Naval offenses)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
United States.--Continental Navy.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945--Fiction.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945--Jews.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wouk, Herman, 1915-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Wouk, Victor.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Herman Wouk, perhaps best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Caine Mutiny, is a prolific author and enthusiastic supporter of Jewish culture. Wouk was born in the Bronx on May 27, 1915 to Abraham Isaac and Esther (neé Levine) Wouk, Russian Jewish immigrants. Wouk attended Townsend Harris Hall and continued his education at Columbia University, where he graduated with a B.A. with general honors in 1934. His interest in writing expanded during his collegiate years and he took advantage of the literary opportunities afforded on campus. He wrote for the Spectator all four years as well as the campus humor magazine, The Jester, becoming editor-in-chief his senior year. Wouk also made a name for himself from his popular variety shows, such as the 1932 one co-written with Arnold Auerbach entitled How Revolting.

After graduation, Herman Wouk continued to employ his comedic skills and was a staff writer for comedian Fred Allen. However, with the onset of World War II, Wouk traveled to Washington D.C. in order to use his talent to support the war effort. He wrote promotional radio scripts for the United States Treasury Department in 1941 to entice Americans to purchase more war bonds. Wouk also began to compose other radio plays featuring soldiers and military themes. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Herman Wouk joined the United States Navy where he served on a destroyer minesweeper called the U.S.S. Zane in the Pacific. Wouk's free time was spent writing within a broad spectrum of genres. He penned poems praising the work of the faceless individuals involved in the war, radio and play scripts, and the beginnings of his novel, Aurora Dawn, published in 1946 after he was discharged. While in the Navy, Wouk married Betty Sarah Brown on December 9, 1945. They had three sons, the first of whom died in childhood.

Herman Wouk continued to produce a stream of books, articles, essays, and plays. Two years after his first novel, Wouk's second The City Boy was published. This was followed by The Caine Mutiny, a book partially culled from Wouk's war experience and which became his first number one bestseller. The accolades did not stop and The Caine Mutiny won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. Other titles followed, Marjorie Morningstar (1955), Youngblood Hawke (1962), Don't Stop the Carnival (1965), The Winds of War (1971), War and Remembrance (1978), Inside, Outside (1985), The Hope (1993), and The Glory (1994). Wouk has also written two studies on the history and the culture of Judaism, This Is My God (1959) and The Will to Live On (2000).

The life of The Caine Mutiny continued to expand for in 1954, Wouk reworked the text into a play, The Caine Mutiny Court Martial. This production toured throughout the United States and spawned further iterations, including a televised production, a film, and a recent Broadway revival. Other books that had extended public lives were The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. Both of these novels became successful television miniseries in the 1980s.

Writing is not all that defines Herman Wouk. He is strongly committed to promoting and supporting Judaism. Wouk spent several years in the late 1950s as a visiting professor at Yeshiva University. He and his wife Betty Sarah traveled to Israel in 1955 where Wouk gave lectures, attended a performance of The Caine Mutiny, and participated in cultural and religious ceremonies. His visit was widely covered in the press. Additionally, in the 1970s Herman Wouk endowed Beit Ephraim, a Jewish communal residence located at his alma mater, Columbia University. He continued to serve on its advisory board and, in 2002, received a Gershom Mendes Seixas Award, for outstanding contribution to Jewish life at Columbia. Herman Wouk is still writing, having published his latest novel, A Hole in Texas, in 2004. He lives with his wife in California.

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