MS Am 2077.2

Laughlin, James, 1914-1997. James Laughlin papers, circa 1929-1997: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Am 2077.2
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Title: James Laughlin papers,
Date(s): 1929-1997.
Quantity: 24.5 linear feet (73 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection is primarily in English.
Abstract: Personal papers of James Laughlin, American poet, publisher and founder of the New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

97M-49. Bequest of James Laughlin IV, 1997; received 1998 April 30.
44LM-8F, bMS Am 2077.2 (112). Deposited by James Laughlin, 1944 December 1; bequest 1997.
44NM-1, bMS Am 2077.2 (530). Deposited by James Laughlin, 1944 October 9; bequest 1997. 2006M-12. bMS Am 2077.2 (517a). Gift of William Reese Company; received: 2006 Aug. 16

Processing Information:

Processed by: Bonnie B. Salt; with the assistance of Jackie Dean, Vicki Denby, Mary Hammer, Jermaine Hollins, Michael Newton, and Meghan Schmeltz-Kiel.

Conditions Governing Access:

Most of collection has no restrictions on physical access. Series VII. Audiotapes is restricted from use due to fragile condition. These tapes may not be used without permission of the Curator of Manuscripts.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

James Laughlin Papers, circa 1929-1997 (MS Am 2077.2). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

See also separately cataloged groupings of New Directions Publishing Corporation materials: bMS Am 2077, bMS Am 2077.1, and bMS Am 2077.3.

Biographical / Historical

James Laughlin was born in 1914 in Pittsburgh, Pa., the great-grandson of the founder of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. He was schooled at the Choate School (Wallingford, Conn.), in Switzerland, at Harvard College (Class of 1936 (39)), and spent time in Italy studying with poet Ezra Pound. Laughlin began publishing his short stories and poems while still in his teens. In 1936, while a student at Harvard, Laughlin founded New Directions which was to become the New Directions Publishing Corporation, the publisher of what has been called some of the best and most daring poetry of the 20th century. Laughlin also headed Intercultural Publications, Inc., in New York City from 1952 to 1969, and continued, throughout his life, to produce his own volumes of poetry some of which were published by New Directions. He lectured widely on publishing and gave numerous poetry readings of his own work, as well as reading and lecturing on the poetry of those whose works he published. Additionally, Laughlin was an avid skier who wrote and published on this subject; he was also owner of the Alta Ski Resort (Alta, Utah).
His poetry titles include: "Small Book of Poems" (1948), "Wild Anemone and Other Poems" (1957), "Confidential Report and Other Poems" (1959), "Tabellae" (1986), "Selected Poems, 1935-1985" (1986), "In Another Country: Poems, 1935-1975" (1978), "Owl of Minerva: Poems" (1987), "Phantoms" (1995), "The Collected Poems of James Laughlin" (1994), "Country Road: Poems" (1995), and "The Commonplace Book of Pentastichs" (1998).


Organized into the following seven series:

Scope and Contents

This collection of James Laughlin personal papers includes: personal correspondence, correspondence relating to his writing and lectures; manuscripts and audiotapes of his poetry, prose, lectures and interviews; photographs and manuscripts relating to his interest in skiing; biographical miscellany of all types; and papers dealing with his association with the Asia Society and with the editing and publication of the "Asian Journal" of Thomas Merton. There is very little strictly personal correspondence, though his professional and personal lives are highly intertwined.
The personal papers of James Laughlin have been separated from the files received from his Norfolk, Connecticut office after his death in 1997. The larger group of materials deals more exclusively with the business and publishing concerns of the New Directions Publishing Corporation, and has been cataloged in separate groups as bMS Am 2077 and bMS Am 2077.1. The reader will find that there is still some overlap in content between the various groupings of New Directions material and JL personal papers, and is advised to check all Houghton's holdings relating to New Directions and James Laughlin when searching for specific subjects. [For example: Laughlin's personal investments and bank records are intertwined with his business concerns and therefore most (but not all) such financial materials are located in bMS Am 2077 (Series: New Directions Business Records)].

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