Press release date: 
Monday, September 27, 1999

The Morgan Library announced on September 27, 1999, that it has acquired the voluminous archives of The Paris Review. Comprising the complete extant editorial, production, and business correspondence, as well as records from over forty years of operation, the archives chronicle one of the liveliest and most respected literary journals of our time. Various materials related to many of this century's most important writers, particularly postwar Americans, are also among the contents. The acquisition of The Paris Review archives not only enhances the Library's ability to mount engaging public exhibitions on a wide variety of literary and cultural themes but also provides scholarly access to these important primary source materials.

A number of authors are represented by correspondence, galley proofs, and other manuscript materials. They include Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Paul Bowles, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Truman Capote, T. S. Eliot, Gabriel Garcìa Marquez, Allen Ginsberg, Nadine Gordimer, Ernest Hemingway, John Irving, James Jones, James Laughlin, Doris Lessing, Norman Mailer, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, Toni Morrison, Iris Murdoch, Ezra Pound, Philip Roth, J. D. Salinger, Neil Simon, Susan Sontag, John Steinbeck, Tom Stoppard, William Trevor, John Updike, Wendy Wasserstein, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams, among many others.

Charles E. Pierce, Jr., Director of the Morgan Library, stated, "The Paris Review is without a doubt among the most important literary journals of the latter half of the twentieth century. The stellar roster of writers whose work has appeared in its pages could well double as a list of the major literary voices of our age. The archives provide a vivid record of the daily life and operation of the Review from its inception to the present and trace the cycle of publication from the initial contact of editor with author to the final printed word.

"These primary source materials contain riveting information on modern and contemporary writers—from Beckett to Mamet, Hemingway to Morrison—and offer a remarkably rich trove both for scholars in their research and for the public who will see these documents in upcoming exhibitions," continued Dr. Pierce. "This newest acquisition builds upon the Library's current holdings of European and American literature and enables us to represent the defining literary works from 1950 to the present as never before."

"The Morgan Library being one of the great public institutions of New York City if not the world, it is a heady feeling indeed to realize that The Paris Review archives rest within its confines," said George Plimpton, Editor of The Paris Review. "We must take care not to get too carried away."

"The archives provide the Library, in one fell swoop, with a representation of modern authors that we could not assemble piecemeal," noted Robert Parks, Robert H. Taylor Curator of Literary and Historical Manuscripts. "The correspondence, annotated typescripts, and other documents tell the fascinating story of a journal always edited with remarkable sensitivity to the writer's craft."

The Paris Review

An international literary quarterly, The Paris Review was founded in Paris in 1953 by Peter Matthiessen and Harold L. Humes. Dissatisfied with the emphasis on criticism in the literary magazines of the time, the two young writers conceived of a new review to feature original works of fiction and poetry rather than "writing about writing." Matthiessen invited George Plimpton, then a student at Cambridge University, to become editor, a position he has held ever since. Subsequent generations of editors have had a hand at editing the magazine as well, lending a vitality rare in a literary undertaking of such longevity.

William Styron, one of the publication's advisory editors, stated the purpose of The Paris Review and defined its editorial policy in a letter in the first issue. "Dear reader," he wrote, "The Paris Review hopes to emphasize creative work—fiction and poetry—not to the exclusion of criticism, but with the aim in mind of merely removing criticism from the dominating place it holds in most literary magazines and putting it pretty much where it belongs, i.e., somewhere near the back of the book. I think The Paris Review should welcome these people into its pages: the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axegrinders. So long as they're good."

The Paris Review upheld these principles. Jack Kerouac's earliest work was first published in its pages, as were the first stories of Nadine Gordimer, Philip Roth, Gina Berriault, Evan S. Connell, Leonard Michaels, Terry Southern, James Salter, George Steiner, Italo Calvino, Richard Ford, and V. S. Naipaul, and as was the poetry of A. Alvarez, W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, and many others. Selections from Samuel Beckett's novel Molloy appeared in the fifth issue, his first work published in the United States. The journal also published a number of excerpts from works now widely read, such as William Styron's Confessions of Nat Turner; Philip Roth's Goodbye, Columbus; Ned Rorem's Paris diaries; Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortuga; Donald Barthelme's "Alice;" and Jim Carroll's Basketball Diaries. In recent years the magazine has published excerpts from Charlie Smith's Shinehawk, Susan Minot's Lust, Mona Simpson's Anywhere But Here, and Jeffrey Eugenides' Virgin Suicides, along with early stories by Raymond Carver, Rick Bass, T. Coraghessan Boyle, and Jay McInerney.

As The Paris Review began to attract attention, works by more established writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, John Updike, Pablo Neruda, Henry Miller, Malcolm Lowry, Allen Ginsberg, Ernest Hemingway, John Hersey, Margaret Atwood, Grace Paley, E. L. Doctorow, Harold Brodkey, William Faulkner, Ezra Pound, and Norman Mailer began to appear alongside those of talented newcomers.

In addition to the focus on creative work, The Paris Review's editors found another alternative to criticism—letting the authors talk about their work. The first issue featured an interview with E. M. Forster, who spoke on the art of fiction, recounting how he first conceived of the classic Marabar Caves sequence in A Passage to India. This was the first in the acclaimed Writers at Work series, which now includes over two hundred interviews ranging from Ernest Hemingway (conducted by George Plimpton—perhaps the best known) and William Faulkner to Joseph Brodsky, Gabriel Garcìa Marquez, and Toni Morrison. These interviews, sometimes unique and usually considered definitive, are a repository of information surrounding the artistic process unparalleled since Giorgio Vasari documented Renaissance careers from apprenticeship to mastery in Lives of the Artists.

The Morgan Library

The Library's collection of literary and historical manuscripts now includes complete manuscripts and working drafts of poetry and prose, as well as correspondence, journals, and other documents, of important British, American, and European authors, artists, scientists, and historical figures from the fifteenth through the twentieth century. Much of the collection comprises single or several examples of important individuals. Some figures are represented in considerable depth by tens or hundreds of items. Among them are Austen, the Brontës, Byron, Dickens, Goethe, Heine, Hawthorne, Lafayette, Keats, Ruskin, Scott, Steinbeck, and Voltaire. Prominent among broad categories that include several thousand items each are artists' letters from the Renaissance to the twentieth century and documents related to British and European rulers from the fifteenth to eighteenth century.

The general pattern of collecting was established by Pierpont Morgan, who, in the 1890s, began to acquire literary and historical manuscripts on a large scale. His aim was not to achieve comprehensiveness in any particular field but rather to assemble primary sources essential to the study of events of historical significance, the lives of notable individuals, and the creation of great literary works. Though essentially interested in representing generations previous to his own, he acquired several contemporary works, including Emile Zola's manuscript of Nana and Mark Twain's manuscripts of Puddn'head Wilson and Life on the Mississippi.

The Library's collection of literary and historical manuscripts has continued to grow since its founding, over seventy-five years ago, through gift and purchase. By collecting with the same eye for quality and rarity as its founder—Pierpont Morgan—the Library has expanded its holdings considerably, now focusing on assembling the finest and most representative works of our own era. A number of important letters and manuscripts of several major twentieth-century figures—Einstein and Freud among others—are included in the collection. Twentieth-century artists are represented with some 450 letters and documents in the Paul Rosenberg collection and over 1,500 letters of Balthus, Chagall, Dubuffet, Giacometti, Miró, Matisse, Pollock, and others. The recent gifts of the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives—an extraordinary assemblage of letters by modern and contemporary artists, drawings, exhibition catalogues, gallery records, photographs, and other materials—and the Carter Burden Collection of American Literature—one of the preeminent private collections of American literature, including prized works of fiction and poetry and correspondence and other materials—have greatly enhanced the Library's resources available to the public and scholars alike. With the magnificent acquisition of the archives of The Paris Review, the Library has made even greater strides in broadening its collection of literary and historical manuscripts of this century as well as strengthening scholarship in a number of disciplines.

For more information, please contact Glory Jones, Director of Communications and Marketing, (212) 685-0008, ext. 319, or at

The Paris Review Archives

The archives of The Paris Review contain the following materials:

  • General editorial correspondence
  • Published editorial (fiction, poetry, interviews, and features); in most cases the publication process can be traced from submission through development, editing, and authorial revision
  • Interview manuscripts, correspondence from the interview subjects, author portraits, and galley revisions by the editors, the interviewers, and the subjects interviewed
  • Interview correspondence and production notes pertaining to The Paris Review's various book publication projects, including Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews, collected in nine volumes, published by Viking Penguin, The Paris Review Anthology, published by W. W. Norton, and, most recently, Women Writers at Work, Beat Writers at Work, and The Writer's Chapbook, all Modern Library publications
  • Unpublished editorial material—stories, interviews, and features that were commissioned or submitted but never published in the magazine
  • Audiotaped interviews with the authors for the magazine's interview series
  • Miscellaneous memorabilia, including photographs, clippings, and bound notebooks
  • Annotated manuscripts from the editorial consideration process
  • Layout boards and signatures
  • Financial and commercial records
  • Forty years of "common books"—bound logs containing telephone messages, memoranda, editorial announcements, minutes, random musings, and office jottings; financial and commercial records; and subscription requests
  • Subscription requests