Rare Book & Manuscript Library

Herman Wouk papers, 1915-2003, bulk 1940-1960

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, 1915-2019
Title Herman Wouk papers, 1915-2003, bulk 1940-1960
Physical Description 23.26 linear feet (53 document boxes 1 small flat box 2 oversized folders)
Language(s) English .
Access You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Portions of this collection are restricted until 2035. Please see the container list for details. In addition, boxes 6-12, 39-46, and 50-52 are entirely closed.



This collection is arranged in five series.



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.

  • Series III: Subject Files, 1915-2003

    Series III contains topical files such as documents relating to Wouk's work on the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign, speeches, printed material, records from Wouk's time in the United States Navy including coursework, notes, and drawings. There is also a small amount of personal documents in the form of newspaper articles about Wouk, records pertaining to his United States citizenship, and religious documents. Of particular interest are two oversized posters from Israel, one advertising a 1955 performance of The Caine Mutiny " by the Habimah Theatre Troupe and the other a 1967 lecture given by Herman Wouk for the Hebrew Writer's Union entitled "American Jewry and Israel."

  • Series IV: Photographs, 1940-1959

    Photographs of Herman Wouk, Victor Wouk, other family members, friends and admirers are held in this series. The bulk of the photographs are in regards to Wouk's writings. Examples are research photographs taken of specific military and geographical locations and production shots from plays and radio broadcasts.

  • Series V: Audio Visual Material, 1951-1980

    Series V is composed of audio visual material in a variety of formats. Most of the recordings are of Wouk himself giving lectures, addresses, or reading from his works. Also in this series are an educational filmstrip with accompanying audio cassette soundtrack for The Caine Mutiny classroom materials and recordings of the original soundtracks from the movie version of Marjorie Morningstar and the television production of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located on-site.

Portions of this collection are restricted until 2035. Please see the container list for details. In addition, boxes 6-12, 39-46, and 50-52 are entirely closed.

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); 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.


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

Source of acquisition--Wouk, Herman. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1955. Accession number--M-56-01-24.

Method of acquisition--Parts of the collection were a purchase from Ira Thompson.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed Lea Osborne 2007.

Cataloged Lynn A. Grove 09/--/1989.

Revision Description

2008-12-02 File created.

2009-01-13 xml document instance created by Patrick Lawlor

2009-04-24 Edited by Lea Osborne

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:"
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Drafts (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Poems Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radio scripts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Screenplays Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
American literature -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Auerbach, Red, 1917-2006 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Authors, American Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
City children Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia College (New York, N.Y.) -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University -- Students Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Jewish women in literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Judaism -- Customs and practices Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Judaism -- Relations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Military occupation in literature Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mutiny Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Thompson, Ira Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Trials (Naval offenses) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States. Continental Navy Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- Fiction Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
World War, 1939-1945 -- Jews Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wouk, Herman, 1915-2019 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wouk, Victor Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

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.