Scope and arrangement
This collection contains the business records of one of New York's oldest literary agencies, Russell and Volkening. Included in the collection are business correspondence; financial material; inventories and submission records of manuscripts submitted to the agency and through the agency to publishers and others; some manuscripts; and other material regarding the business of the agency. The bulk of the collection is represented by correspondence between Diarmuid Russell, Henry Volkening, Timothy Seldes, and other agents and their clients, who included Eudora Welty, Barbara Tuchman, Mavis Gallant, May Sarton, George Plimpton, Anne Petry, Wright Morris, and many others.
Author files make up more than half the records and contain rich correspondence with authors and publishers as well as other materials such as contracts and earnings statements. Highlights include over 600 letters by Eudora Welty spanning almost 50 years; over 200 letters from Barbara Tuchman; large files on Anne Tyler, George Plimpton, and May Sarton; and significant correspondence files with figures such as Reynolds Price, Peter Taylor, Jean Stafford, Peter Davison, A. J. Liebling, Maxine Kumin, and Mavis Gallant. Russell and Volkening shared close relationships with many of their writers, and their correspondence often includes long discussions of work and progress and life matters.
Correspondence with agents, editors, and publishers consists primarily of cover letters for submissions, publishers' responses to submissions, and discussions of subsidiary rights and foreign publications. This material documents the day-to-day business of the agency. Included in the material from the early days of the agency is extensive correspondence with A. M. Heath, the agency's British subagent, which includes lengthy discussions of the foreign publication prospects of particular authors and works.
While Russell and Volkening opened in 1940, the bulk of the correspondence dates from 1959. There are manuscript cards and ledgers dating from 1940 on which document the early business of the agency, but the collection contains very little correspondence with authors from that time.
Correspondence with Russell and Volkening clients Saul Bellow, Annie Dillard, Nadine Gordimer, and Bernard Malamud is not included in this collection and only limited correspondence is available for M. F. K. Fisher (see note below in Series I.A.). However, the manuscript files (Series IV) do contain records of transactions relating to these authors. Consult the Custodial history and Related collections notes at the front of the finding aid for further information.
The Russell and Volkening records are arranged in five series:
This series contains files on authors represented by the Russell and Volkening agency and authors requesting representation. There are two subseries: Chronological files and Alphabetical files. This series contains correspondence between agents and authors and correspondence between agents, publishers, and others regarding the publication, editing, and reviews of works; requests for permission to republish works; correspondence regarding foreign rights; clippings and reviews; royalty statements; contracts; book covers; notes on conversations and about editing of works; manuscript cards (cards recording where and when stories were sent and whether they were purchased or returned to Russell and Volkening); typescripts, some with notes and corrections; and other material.
Russell and Volkening generally separated their correspondence with their clients from correspondence conducting business on behalf of their clients. Russell and Volkening’s correspondence with publishers, periodicals, and other parties, dating from 1940 to 1972, can be found in Series III. Timothy Seldes changed this method and, after 1972, all material regarding clients is filed together.
This series contains the files of Russell and Volkening agents Miriam Altshuler, Jennie Dunham, Gina Maccoby, Joe Regal, Timothy Seldes, and Harriet Wasserman. The bulk of the series is Seldes' files. The material in Series I and Series II is quite similar, the only difference being that multiple agents can be found in one box (sometimes one folder) in Series I, while the material in Series II mainly contains correspondence only with one agent and his/her clients. These files seem to have been kept in the agent's office until he/she determined they were too large or obsolete and then added them to the general author files for the entire agency.
The series contains correspondence between agents and authors and between agents, publishers, and others regarding the publication, editing, and reviews of works; requests for permission to republish works; correspondence regarding foreign rights; clippings and reviews; royalty statements; contracts; book covers; notes on conversations and about editing of works; manuscript cards (cards recording where and when stories were sent and whether they were returned or purchased); typescripts, some with notes and corrections; and other material.
Material that dates before or after the career of an agent at Russell and Volkening concerns royalties, copyrights, and other information for titles and/or clients who were represented by Russell and Volkening at one time. For example, Miriam Altshuler was an agent between1982-1994, but the material in her files dates on either side of that time. Some clients chose to follow an agent when he/she left the agency, but some of their titles were still managed by Russell and Volkening.
This series is divided into four subseries: Firms; Literary agencies; Financial files; and Legal agreements. The series includes correspondence with publishers, periodicals, film companies, television companies, and literary agencies. As stated above, Diarmuid Russell and Henry Volkening generally separated their correspondence with clients from their correspondence on behalf of clients, and this series primarily contains the latter. However, the Legal agreements subseries includes a small amount of correspondence with authors.
This series is divided into three subseries: Agreement summary books; Author contract cards; and Manuscript files. These files contain information about manuscripts received by Russell and Volkening, publishers and periodicals to whom the manuscripts were sent, and incomes paid to authors for the manuscripts that were sold. This series documents how manuscripts were tracked within the agency, from the assignment of a number in the manuscript registers to the number of publishers and periodicals a manuscript might be sent before it was sold. Also documented in this series are the advances, royalties, and percentages paid on each sale.
The Miscellaneous files contain address books, one of clients and one of firms with whom Russell and Volkening conducted business; bookkeeping instructions on how to record incomes for authors; and material relating to a lawsuit between Russell and Volkening and Candida Donadio, an agent with the firm from 1961 to 1968 who sought a share of commissions and royalties upon her departure. These files contain correspondence between Russell, Donadio, and lawyers representing both parties; legal agreements; clients' lists; and documentation regarding contracts to be transferred from Russell and Volkening to Donadio.