The John Updike Archive, a vast collection of manuscripts, correspondence, books, photographs, artwork and other papers, has been acquired by Houghton Library. The Archive forms the definitive collection of Updike material, said Leslie Morris, Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at Houghton Library, and will make the library the center for studies on the author’s life and work.
“Many scholars would argue that John Updike is one of, if not the, novelist of the late 20th century,” Morris said. “No one can really write about the American novel without taking Updike into consideration.”
Although portions of the Archive were given to the library during Updike’s lifetime, and have been available for research at Houghton since 1970, they represented only a small fraction of the full collection. For decades, Updike had been depositing his papers, including manuscripts, correspondence, research files, and even golf score cards, in the library, but the material was available only with the author’s permission, and was not integrated with the material the library owned.
Cataloging the newly acquired material so it can be used by scholars is now one of the library’s “highest priorities,” since the Archive will not be available for research until that process is completed, Morris said. However, scholars will still be able to access materials given to the library by Updike before 1970, including early short story manuscripts written for the New Yorker; Telephone Poles, Updike’s early poetry collection; and nearly complete documentation on the creation of the novel that brought him his first taste of fame, Rabbit, Run (1960).
When the cataloging of the Archive is completed, the Updike Archive will offer students and scholars unparalleled insight into the working life of the man hailed as America’s last true man of letters.
Read the full press release here.
Above: Updike at home. Image © Martha Updike, John Updike Papers, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
Right: Modern Books and Manuscripts student assistant Taylor Ferracane (left) and Assistant Curator Heather Cole unpack boxes of books from Updike’s collection.