John Thornton: Fellowship Recipient

John Thornton: Fellowship Recipient


The world that Alfred Knopf lived in was still extant in a lot of ways. The personal arrangements that publishers made with their authors, the kind of bonding that they did with their authors. All of that has eroded pretty severely in my lifetime as a professional in the publishing business, but Alfred and Blanche made an enormous network of authors and others related to their needs friendly to themselves and accessible to themselves in various ways. Publishers in literary history are kind of recessive. We know a lot more about authors than we know about publishers and this is a remarkable collection. I can’t think of another publisher that even approaches the size and extent of this collection. So the things that can be found in it are unfindable elsewhere. And they do help to flesh out the story. You can spend a lot of time searching for the name Knopf in the index of a hundred biographies of their authors and you will find an anecdote here and a bit of information there and a lot of reference to the Harry Ransom collection where people got the information. The collection is accounted for in a couple ways. There’s the overview of different large groups of material. The staff files are one thing, individual author files are another thing and in order to examine each folder, of course, you need to ask for each folder, wait until it’s delivered, look through it, return it back, get the next folder. Going through one single box can take you a day or so. 1,526 boxes, one day, 365 days a year, well you can do the math. I wish I could spend 2 years here. I can’t. So I’ll do what the biographer Lytton Strachey who wrote a famous series of biographies called Eminent Victorians said, “He would look at the sources like someone rowing out over a great sea of information and lowering his bucket here and there and pulling up samples and examining them.” So I think the best I can do is to row my boat through the Knopf collection and see what turns up.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

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