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   Barney Rosset papers, 1841-2011 [Bulk Dates: 1935-2011].

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Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Barney Rosset 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#1543
Bib ID:7953908 View CLIO record
Creator(s):Rosset, Barney
Title:Barney Rosset papers, 1841-2011 [Bulk Dates: 1935-2011].
Physical description:69.42 linear ft. (68 record cartons, 1 document box; 1 tube box)
Language(s): Material is in English, French and Italian
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 »



This collection is arranged in VII series:

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Scope and Content

The material in this collection was originally housed in binders in Barney Rosset's New York apartment, and cover his personal and professional endeavors as a radical publisher, intellectual, and overall man of letters. It consists of writings, letters, photographs, interviews, films, catalogs, publishing files related to both Grove Press and Evergreen Review, and extensive biographical information on Rosset. The entire collection has been rehoused into archival quality boxes and folders. Each binder had been labeled, generally with some sort of topical or chronological designation. In most cases the binder labels will be retained as file titles, and the subdivisions within binders have become folders and retained, to a great extent, the titles assigned to them by the creator. In some cases the staff of the RBML altered or elaborated on existing folder titles for general clarity and ease of research. In some cases, the collection contains both original and typed (or transcribed) copies, the latter often taking the form of computer printouts that were originally held in binders marked "Master" or "Master Disk" to indicate their contents were on computer disks. These original binder titles have been kept throughout the finding aid.

Series I: Biographical and Early Material, 1936-2003

This series is comprised of Barney Rosset's personal, family, and early papers, including documents gathered and created during his high school and college years, and biographical information. Class notes, clippings, correspondence, grades, and materials related to Rosset's early ventures, such as the Anti-Everything Club, can be found in this series.

Series II: Chronological Materials, 1879-2005

This series preserves the creator's chronological arrangement and contains correspondence, writings, personal notes, journals, army documents, interviews, photographs, clippings, ephemera, bibliographic and materials related to Grove Press, as well as extensive intelligence files on Rosset compiled by various branches of American intelligence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Series III: Photographs & Posters , 1895-2008

The chronological arrangement of this series follows the order in which the original binders were serialized. The photographs, negatives, and printouts reproducing scanned images were transferred to folders but generally kept in the plastic sheets in which they came unless these had been damaged or were deemed unsuitable. Inserted among some of the photographs are correspondence, notes, and print matter. The photographs range from personal, family souvenirs to events related to Rosset's professional life as publisher where many famous literati can be seen. The series notably includes photographs Rosset took in China during World War II. As a result of the original arrangement and its labels given by Rosset, some of the folder titles are identical, but their contents are not necessarily duplicates.

Series IV: Subject Files, 1841-2011

The largest of the collection, this series contains drafts, correspondence, clippings, photographs, and notes gathered by Rosset over the years, reflecting his interests, tastes, concerns, both professional and personal. Included here are Rosset's FOIA files, the notes and drafts of his Autobiography, The Subject is Left-Handed , materials related to his 1948 documentary Strange Victory, correspondence with friends, lovers, colleagues, publishers, authors and artists, his travel documents, including original print matter Rosset collected, his passports, licenses, etc., as well as materials about/from Grove Press, Evergreen Review, Grove Film, and a trove of interviews and press about Rosset. The dates correspond largely to the notations made on the original binders, even when the documents have been transcribed and printed at a later date. Materials are often a combination of originals and transcriptions, or photocopies, or printouts, without originals.

Subseries IV.1. Grove Press, 1950-2008

Grove Press catalogs, book lists, correspondence, financial information, sales, editorial files, Authors files, print matter, business and promotional files, Random House files, and documents regarding the Grove Press Records at Syracuse University. Correspondence and related materials to Grove Press authors have been filed as in the original arrangement (some were labeled under "Authors" and others under "Correspondence"). Subseries includes Grove "Discussion Guides" providing detailed information about many of Grove's most notable titles.

Subseries IV.2. Interviews and Articles, 1953-2006

Transcripts, printouts, and correspondence of interviews involving Barney Rosset, and published articles related to Rosset. The original arrangement lead to some duplication of materials that were given different titles.

Series V: Samuel Beckett Material, 1935-2007

This series gathers materials related to the Nobel Prize-winning Irish writer, Samuel Beckett, such as correspondence, writings, photographs, and print matter. It has been further arranged into two sub-series, Correspondence and Beckett-related materials, affairs, and projects.

Subseries V.1: Correspondence, 1953-2005

Photocopies, transcriptions, with some originals of the correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Barney Rosset. This series also contains correspondence by Beckett sent to other recipients than Rosset, including French letters, as well as files related to an edition of selected letters between Beckett and Rosset by Stan Gontarski.

Subseries V.2: Related Projects, Works, and Affairs, 1949-2007

Consists of print matter related to Beckett projects, writings and staged plays, correspondence, photographs, and some audio-visual materials in various formats. Information on Beckett play productions (including Eleutheria), the public television Beckett Project, Beckett's Film, revivals, and other projects can be found here.

Series VI: Audio Visual Materials, 1938-2008

Largely organized by media format, this series consists mostly VHS tapes, but also contains DVDs, CDs, Beta tapes, 7 inch-Magnetic Audio Reels, along with a few 5 inch reels. 2 Inch Tape, reels, DV Cam, MiniDV, Floppy Disks. There seems to have been an effort by the creator to transfer older formats into digital media, as the titles some of the items are duplicated through being digitally transferred. The reels and other magnetic formats have been put in cold storage.

Series VII: Files Used for Autobiography, 1936-2011

This series was acquired shortly after Rosset's passing and contains his working files for his intended autobiography, The Subject is Left-Handed. Included here are background materials on Rosset, drafts of chapters, ephemera, photographs, audio-visual in various media formats, and correspondence. The folder titles have been retained but the files have been arranged in alphabetical order.

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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); Barney Rosset Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Selected Related Material-- at Columbia

William S. Burroughs Papers Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Oral history interview with Barney Rosset, 2011. Columbia University Libraries.

Selected Related Material-- at Other Repositories

The Grove Press Records Syracuse University

Samuel Beckett Papers Harry Ransom Humanities Center

William S. Burroughs Papers Berg Collection, New York Public 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 2011-2012 Jean-Christophe Cloutier (GSAS, 2013) and Jeana Evans (GSAS 2012)

Finding aid written 11/2012 Jean-Christophe Cloutier

Machine readable finding aid generated from MARC-AMC source via XSLT conversion November 27, 2012 Finding aid written in English.
    2012-11-27 xml document instance created by Carrie Hintz

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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:
American literature--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beat generation.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Blue Moon Books.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Book censorshipPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Booksellers and bookselling.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Censorship--United States--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Erotica--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Evergreen review (New York)PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Film festivals--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Grove PressPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Grove Press--History--20th century.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Grove Press.--Film DivisionPortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Lawrence, D.H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Obscenity (Law)--United States--Cases.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Ōe, Kenzaburō, 1 935-PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Pornography--United States.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Publishers and publishing.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID
Rosset, Barney.PortalCLIOArchiveGRID

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History / Biographical Note

Biographical Note

Maverick and iconoclast American publisher Barney Rosset was born in Chicago in the "year of modernism," 1922. He is chiefly remembered as the owner, publisher, and editor of Grove Press (from 1951 to 1986) and Evergreen Review. In 1940 he spent a year at Swarthmore College and then entered the US Army in 1942. In 1948, after having served as an officer in the Army Photographic Company in China until his return to New York in 1946, Rosset produced Strange Victory, a groundbreaking documentary about postwar racial discrimination in the United States. In 1949, he married the American abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell. They later divorced. Rosset was married four more times; his marriages to Hannelore Eckert, Cristina Agnini and Elisabeth Krug ended in divorce. Rosset was married to the former Astrid Myers at the time of this passing.

Acquiring Grove in 1951 while he was still an undergraduate at the New School, Rosset turned the small New York publishing house into one of the most innovative and daring outlet of avant-garde literature, enjoying a heyday of national impact from 1959, when Rosset published the first unexpurgated edition of D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, and well into the 1980s. Through Rosset's efforts, in 1964 the Supreme Court granted Grove the right to publish Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, which was a landmark case for free speech under the first amendment in the United States. Rosset was instrumental in bringing the works of Samuel Beckett, a lifelong friend, to an American and international audience, beginning in 1952 with the English translation of Waiting for Godot and ending with Beckett's last work, Stirrings Still in 1988 (which he dedicated to Rosset), under the imprint of his new company Foxrock. Under his supervision, Grove published many other key figures of twentieth-century literature and intellectual history on both sides of the Atlantic (and the Pacific), notably William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Albert Camus, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Egene Ionesco, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X, Jorge Luis Borges, Margerite Duras, Jean Genet, David Mamet, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, John Rechy, Khushwant Singh, Will Self, Sherman Alexie, Kenzaburo Oe, Winterson, Yoshimoto.

Rosset also published the magazine Evergreen Review as an adjunct to Grove from 1957 to 1973, and also developed Grove's own film distribution for avant-garde films by directors such as Jean-Luc Godard and Oshima. Through Grove's International Film Festival in New York, Rosset distributed the controversial Swedish film, I Am Curious (Yellow) , then breaking all American box office records for foreign films. Other ventures include the Evergreen Theatre Inc., BlueMoon Books, and Foxrock. In 2008, a documentary feature entitled Obscene (Dir. Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O'Connor) about Barney Rosset's life and work was released. Barney Rosset passed away in 2012 at the age of 89.

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