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   Elisabeth Sifton Papers, 1962-2010 [bulk: 1984-2000].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Elisabeth Sifton Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

COinS Metadata available (e.g., for Zotero).

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.:MS#1854
Bib ID:12876292 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Sifton, Elisabeth.
Title:Elisabeth Sifton Papers, 1962-2010 [bulk: 1984-2000].
Physical description:10 linear feet (21 document boxes and 1 record carton).
Language(s):In English
Access: This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. This collection has no restrictions.  More information »



Arranged in four series: Series I: Work life; Series II General publishing correpsondence; Series III: Author-specific papers; Series IV: Planners and phone logs.

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Scope and Content

The Elisabeth Sifton Papers span much of Mrs. Sifton's working life. General correspondence is filed alphabetically by last name and includes correspondence related to the day-to-day business of publising, as well as correspondence related to projects ultimately not realized by Mrs. Sifton. Author-specific files deal with projects that Mrs. Sifton worked extensively on. Some files lack information that remains in the archives of the publishing house where the project was completed. Work life files deal with involvement in various professional associations, classes taught by Mrs. Sifton, and some of Mrs. Sifton's own published writing.

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Using the Collection


Access Restrictions

 This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

      offsite requestMore information and link to off-site request form

This collection has no restrictions.

Restrictions on Use

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); Elisabeth Sifton Papers; 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; machine readable finding aid created by Columbia University Libraries Digital Library Program Division

Processing Information

Papers processed, 10/10/2017 ptl

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion October 13, 2017 Finding aid written in English.
    2017-10-13 File created.

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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.


HeadingCUL Archives:
CUL Collections:
Nat'l / Int'l Archives:
Authors--United States--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Book editorsPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Book editors.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Niebuhr, Reinhold, 1892-1971.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Sifton, Elisabeth.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Stern, Fritz, 1926-2016.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Elisabeth Sifton was born in New York City in 1939; a magna cum laude graduate of Radcliffe College, she also studied at the University of Paris. She began her career in book publishing at Frederick A. Praeger in 1962, a partly academic partly general-interest publisher with a considerable art-book list and a reputation [later established as fact] as being somehow supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. When Praeger was sold to Encyclopedia Britannica, she left it and in 1968 became an editor at The Viking Press; she was named its editor in chief in 1980. In 1983, by which time Viking had been sold to Pearson, the British company that owned Penguin Books, she was named publisher of Elisabeth Sifton Books and vice president of Viking Penguin; her imprint won the Carey-Thomas Award for Creative Publishing in 1986. In 1987-92, she was executive vice president of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., then joined Farrar Straus and Giroux as its senior vice president; she was also Publisher, then Editor-at-Large, of its subsidiary Hill and Wang. Since 2008 she has been retired from active editorial work.

The mother of three son--Sam, Tobias, and John Sifto--Mrs. Sifton was married in 1996 to the historian Fritz Stern. A member of the Freedom to Read Committee of the Association of American Publishers and until this year the advisory council to Princeton’s Department of Comparative Literature, Mrs. Sifton has also served on the board of directors of Union Theological Seminary, of the French-American Foundation, and of the Harvard University Press, as well as on the board of advisers to the Beacon Press and the visiting committees to Harvard's Department of English and American History and to its University Press. Poets, novelists and critics whom Elisabeth Sifton edited and published include John Ashbery, Bruce Chatwin, Robertson Davies, Don DeLillo, Stuart Dybek, Leslie Forbes, Carlos Fuentes, William Gaddis, Allan Gurganus, Richard Howard, Frank Kermode, Peter Matthiessen, J.D. McClatchy, Péter Nádas, R.K. Narayan, Richard Poirier, Gregor von Rezzori, Charles Rosen, William Trevor, Marina Warner, and Geoffrey Wolff.

Other writers whose books Elisabeth Sifton edited and published include Neal Ascherson, Isaiah Berlin, John Brewer, Frederick Brown, Natalie Zemon Davis, Vladimir Dedijer, Andrew Delbanco, Ann Douglas, Ronald Dworkin, Susan Eisenhower, David Gilmour, Philip Gourevitch, Gerald Gunther, James Hershberg, Stanley Hoffmann, Michael Howard, Michael Ignatieff, Roy Jenkins, Stanley Karnow, John Keegan, Sunil Khilnani, Stephen Kinzer, Nicholas Lemann, J.R. MacArthur, Robert MacNeil, Avishai Margalit, Ernest May, Edward Mendelson, Newton Minow, Dan Morgan, Victor Navasky, Michael Novacek, Lynne Olson, Fintan O’Toole, Sydney Schanberg, Jonathan Spence, Thomas Slaughter, Stella Tillyard, Lewis Thomas, Adam Ulam, Henry Wiencek, and Jules Witcover.

Mrs. Sifton is also the author of a book, The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Peace and War [2003], and numerous articles in The Nation and other periodicals. She and Fritz Stern together wrote No Ordinary Men: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State [2013].

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