|Rare Book & Manuscript Library|
Table of Contents
Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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Series I: Catalogued Correspondence and Manuscripts
Series II: Editorial Files
Series III: General Correspondence
At a Glance
In 2021, a basic intellectual order was imposed on the collection. The order is roughly based on the original divisions from the typed finding aid.
The collection consists of the editorial and production archives of Random House, Inc. from its founding in 1925 to the 1990s. The correspondence and editorial files include many of the prominent novelists and short story writers from 20th-century American and European literature: Saul Bellow; Erskine Caldwell; Truman Capote; William Faulkner; Sinclair Lewis; André Malraux; Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder. Among the poets there are files for W. H. Auden; Allen Ginsberg; Robinson Jeffers; Robert Lowell; and Stephen Spender. In the area of theater there are files for Maxwell Anderson; Moss Hart; Lillian Hellman; Eugene O'Neill; and Tennessee Williams. Random House transacted business with many fine presses and noted typographers and the archives contain files for Nonesuch Press, Grabhorn Press and Golden Cockerel Press, as wll as for Bruce Rogers, Valenti Angelo, and Edwin, Jane, and Robert Grabhorn.
Random House published James Joyce's ULYSSES. Because of its alleged obscenity, it was only legally admitted into the United States after a long battle by Random House in the courts ending in 1934. The Random House Archives contain letters and documents relating to this famous case.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Other Finding Aids
More information about cataloged material (series I) can be found in the physical card catalog at RBML.
The PDF finding aid that was scanned from the typed finding aid was the primary way of navigating this collection for decades. For historical reference, users can access the document here: http://www.columbia.edu/cu/libraries/inside/projects/findingaids/scans/pdfs/ldpd_rbml_4079581.pdf.
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.
The majority of this collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. Cataloged correspondence and manuscripts (Boxes Cat 1 - Cat 55) and Toni Morrison's editorial files (Boxes 1265-1275, 1509-1533, and 1683-1684) are on-site.
This is a large collection. The arrangement reflects decades of organization, from the editors, secretaries, and records managers at Random House who created and used the records, to the stewards at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library who preserve and make them accessible using ever-evolving archival best practices. This electronic finding aid takes these historical arrangement practices, imposes a basic order, and makes the folder titles searchable. The best way to look for relevant material is to call up the full container list (here, or using the "View All" link to the left) and use your browser's Find function (Ctrl+F on Windows, Command+F on Mac).
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Random House records; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Random House UK records are found at the University of Reading: https://collections.reading.ac.uk/special-collections/collections/random-house/
The imprints collection (about 6000 titles) from Random House and Modern Library are managed in as a separate collection, the Random House publications (https://clio.columbia.edu/archives/15840726).
Alternate Form Available
Pearl S. Buck letters are on: microfilm. William Carlos Williams cataloged letters and manuscripts; Karen Blixen's cataloged and uncataloged correspondence; Irwin Shaw's cataloged correspondence and manuscripts; William Saroyan's cataloged correspondence; John Dixon Carr's letters; W.H. Auden's letters; William Goyen's letters; and John O'Hara's letters are on: microfilm.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Random House, Inc., 1970, 1974, 1977-1979, 1986-1989, 1992, 1999
Archive: Source of acquisition--Random House. Method of acquisition--Gift.
11 New Modern Library items: Source of acquisition--Random House. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--06/30/1992. Accession number--M-92-06-30.
4 catalogs: Source of acquisition--Random House. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1999. Accession number--M-1999.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Archive Entered in AMC 11/27/1990. 11 New Modern Library items Processed HR 07/17/1992. 4 catalogs Processed HR 06/23/2000.
Starting in the 1970s, archivists created typewritten description for each accession, with the document for every new accession stapled to the back of the existing description. This document served as the primary access point for non-cataloged material, and was heavily annotated. In 2010, this document was scanned into a PDF file and published online. In 2019, Columbia student Molly Boord examined the boxes and edited an OCR version of the PDF into a Word document. In 2020 and 2021, Kevin Schlottmann worked from the Word document to impose an arrangement and imported the description into ArchiveSpace.
The Toni Morrison editorial files in the Random House records were reprocessed by Celeste Brewer in September-December 2021. A finding aid concordance documenting any changes in location or description made when the materials were reprocessed is available upon request.
The materials were previously housed in what appeared to be the original letter-size folders. These were placed in legal-sized manuscript boxes, some of which were over- or under-filled. Heavy use and repeated shipment to and from off-site storage further contributed to damage to the physical materials. During reprocessing, all folders were replaced with acid-free legal size folders. Annotated original folders were retained; all others were discarded. Photographs and torn documents were stored in polyester sleeves. Damaged boxes were replaced.
It also appears that some materials were shifted out of order by previous users, especially in the most heavily used folders, such as the Lucille Clifton, Henry Dumas, Angela Davis, and Black Book files. These were sorted and refiled in reverse chronological order in the appropriate folders, based on the order and organization of more lightly used files.
Boxes 1255-1275 previously contained a mixture of Toni Morrison's and Robert Loomis's editorial files, arranged in a single alphabetical sequence by the author's last name. However, there is no evidence that each of these groups of material are related. They seem to have been stored together because they arrived at the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the same time. For ease of retrieval, these materials were physically separated. Loomis's editorial files are now located in Boxes 1255-1264, and Morrison's are now located in Boxes 1265-1275. Two more boxes were also added to the group of Morrison's materials in order to relieve overstuffing. These were numbered 1683 and 1684.