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William Carlos Williams research collection
Ms. Coll. 396
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- William Carlos Williams research collection
- circa 1890-1983
- Call Number:
- Ms. Coll. 396
- 4 boxes
- Miscellaneous group of letters and materials concerning William Carlos Williams. Includes correspondence with University of Pennsylvania English professor Sculley Bradley and New Directions publisher James Laughlin. A small group of family papers includes material to and about his wife, Florence. Also includes letters to Williams from Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Richard Wilbur, John F. Kennedy, Pablo Casals, and Hans Enzenberger, among others. The remainder of the collection consists of a small number of writings by Williams, reviews of and advertisements for his works, announcements of readings or lectures by Williams, newspaper clippings and journal articles about Williams, photographs, awards, and a self-portrait of Williams.
Cite as:William Carlos Willaims research collection, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid's Permanent URL:
Scope and Contents
In 1906 William Carlos Williams graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an M.D. He left Penn with not only medical training but also poetic aspirations. About thirty years later a professor of English at the University began to develop a relationship with the poet that eventually led to the accumulation in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of materials associated with Williams and his work, although the bulk of his papers reside at the Beinecke Library at Yale University and the Lockwood Memorial Library at SUNY Buffalo.
The professor was Sculley Bradley, who taught Williams’ son Paul at Penn and was editor of the University’s literary quarterly, The General Magazine. The first series contains papers directly connected with Bradley: his correspondence with Florence and William Carlos Williams, his correspondence with others about Williams, and the speeches that he gave on the occasions of the conferral of an honorary Doctorate of Letters on Williams in 1952 and the dedication of the Collection of Books by William Carlos Williams at the library at Penn in 1965, after Williams’ death. Bradley had been much involved in encouraging the library toward creating such a collection and acting as a channel of communication between the library and the Williams family. At the dedication, Bradley had a conversation with Williams’ younger brother Edgar which in time led to the deposit by Edgar of letters between him and his brother, now Ms. Coll. 395. Of the material in this research collection that had been in the possession of the Williams family, such as correspondence addressed to Florence and William Carlos Williams or reviews of Williams’ works gathered by clipping services, most probably came to the library through Bradley. He also may have been responsible for collecting many of the journal articles in the series of publications concerning Williams, in addition to the one he wrote himself.
The second series focuses on another individual’s relationship over several decades with Williams. James Laughlin, founder of the publishing company New Directions, was the publisher of many Williams works, beginning with White Mule in 1937 and continuing through 1950. Laughlin gave copies of his correspondence with Williams to the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The first letters are written by Laughlin in 1935, the last by Williams in 1961. They address the publication and sale of his works in these years. Laughlin also contributed copies of a Williams typescript of a preface and a typescript of a story by himself about his relationship with Williams. The remaining series are General Correspondence (family and others), Writings, Reviews and Advertisements for Williams’ Works, Programs/Announcements for Lectures or Readings by Williams, Publications concerning Williams (1906 Penn yearbook, journal articles, newspaper clippings), Photographs, Miscellaneous, and an Oversize box containing a large Christmas card from the Williams to Bradley; reviews; photographs; a printed poem; an 1898 passport for Williams, his brother, and his mother; a plaque for the 1949 National Book Award; a gold medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and two other awards. The bulk of this material probably came through Bradley, but there is also correspondence from another English professor (John Miller) that came to the library from a third English professor (Robert Spiller). The 1906 yearbook comes from yet another source. The existence of a “Williams collection” probably also acted as a magnet for miscellaneous material such as newspaper clippings. Also part of this collection is a self-portrait by Williams, ca. 1914. Florence Williams gave this portrait to the library following William Carlos Williams’ death, for which Bradley thanked her in a letter in the collection dated April 2, 1963. This portrait currently hangs in the T. Edward Ross Reading Room of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
This collection documents William Carlos Williams’ sporadic relationship with the University of Pennsylvania, primarily encouraged by Sculley Bradley. It includes some personal papers from the Williams family and a handful of typescripts and galleys for works by Williams. It preserves a few letters to Williams from poets such as Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, and Richard Wilbur, along with notes from Pablo Casals and John F. Kennedy. Through newspaper clippings dating from 1928 to 1958 and journal articles dating from 1952 to 1983, the collection provides a record of the reception of Williams and his work in the United States. The Laughlin papers approach the issue of reception from behind the scenes, in terms of publishing decisions and profits, and also demonstrate Laughlin’s commitment to publishing new poetry from Williams and others at New Directions Publishing.
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Amey A. Hutchins
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.
Controlled Access Headings
- Writings (document genre)
- Williams, William Carlos, 1883-1963
- Authors, American--20th century
- Poets, American--20th century