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At a Glance
The collection is arranged into four series.
The papers document Wilkins' work as an editor and a translator, and contain both correspondence and manuscripts related to her career, and to her literary and personal relationships.
A large portion of the papers consists of correspondence. The correspondence is particularly valuable in that contains both incoming correspondence and carbon copies of Wilkins' responses. Important correspondents include Saul Bellow, William F. Buckley, Babette Deutsch, Howard Nemerov, Karl Shapiro, Edgar Smith, and John Updike, and there are also less substantial amounts of correspondence with many other literary figures. The correspondence files include manuscripts, clippings, and other materials.
There are also general correspondence files related to editorial and translation projects filed in Series II: Editorial Files, Manuscripts, and Translation Work, as well as a small file related to Wilkins' teaching work.
The papers also contain additional documentation of Wilkins' work as an editor and translator. In addition to the correspondence files, the papers also include a curriculum vita, which lists most of her translation projects, and subject files related to translation. The papers include some manuscripts related to her translation work, particularly in the case of Robert Musil, where there is a working draft for The Man Without Qualities.
There is also material related to Karl Shapiro, whom Wilkins married in 1985. There are correspondence files, printed materials, proofs, and typescripts related to Shapiro in the collection.
There are few items related to Wilkins, family in the collection, although there is some correspondence with her husbands Thurman Wilkins and Karl Shapiro from the 1980s.
The papers also include a small number of photographs and printed material related to Wilkins.
Using the Collection
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This collection has no restrictions.
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.
Choose one of the following (unbold the name when you choose): Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Name of Collection; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
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About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Papers processed by Catherine C. Ricciardi and Karen Aponte-Velez.
Finding aid written by Catherine C. Ricciardi.
Papers appraised James Goldwasser 2007.
2015-03-31 File created.
2015-03-31 XML document instance created by Catherine C. Ricciardi.
2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Sophie Wilkins (1915-2003) (nee Prombaum) was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 25, 1915, and came to New York City on November 5, 1927.
She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn in 1932, and earned both B.A. and M.A. degrees in Comparative Literature from Brooklyn College, in 1940 and 1942, respectively. She pursued doctoral work at Columbia University from 1950-1955, studying with Lionel Trilling, but she did not earn a degree.
Wilkins worked as an editor, primarily at Alfred A. Knopf, where she worked from 1959-1971. Among her projects, Wilkins edited the memoirs of Edgar Smith, Brief Against Death, and carried on regular correspondence with him, and with William F. Buckley, an advocate for Smith,s cause. Wilkins also worked as a translator. Early in her career, she translated Kafka. She also translated works by Thomas Bernhard, C.W. Ceram, and Robert Musil. After her translation of Musil's Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften, Wilkins was decorated by the government of Austria, which also acknowledged her cultural contributions in 1995.
Wilkins was married to Dr. Alvin Meyer, and the couple had two sons during the 1940s. This marriage failed, and Wilkins worked and pursued graduate studies at Columbia University while raising her sons during the 1950s. She was later married to Thurman Wilkins, an author and professor of English at Queens College, from 1958-1985. She married the poet Karl Shapiro, whom she had known for many years, in 1985. The Shapiros remained married until his death in 2000.
Wilkins died in New York City on May 8, 2003.