Scope and arrangement
The records 1941 through 1961 are representative of only a very small portion of the Knopf Publishing Company. The bulk of the records are located at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. NYPL records are incomplete for the dates represented. The strength of the collection lies in two series. Series one, Alfred A. Knopf's General Correspondence, 1914-1951, and Series seven, Typescripts of Knopf's publications, 1937-1944. Series two and three which represents manuscript records and reader's reports are the two most interesting series of the collection because there is a "who's who" list of established or non established authors works rejected by Knopf. Eventually many of these authors found their way into print either through Knopf or some other publishing company. Some of the rejected works and authors include the following: Lewis Carroll by Walter de la Mare, Epistle to Prometheus by Babette Deutch, Tortilla flat by John Grove (John Steinbeck), A house in the world (there were several other rejections) by Langston Hughes, Bob-Bon buddy by Langston Hughes and Arno Bontemps, Amerika by Franz Kafka, Mirage by Nella Larson [Imes], Vachel Lindsay by Edgar Lee Masters, Napoleon, the hundred days by Benito Mussolini, Barbezon Plaza by Anais Nin, Jefferson and/to Mussolini by Ezra Pound and lastly, Aus meinem leben... Albert Schweitzer. It should be noted with regard to Series two and three, the authors manuscripts were returned to the sender. Finally there is a smattering of H. L. Mencken's letters scattered throughout the collection, notably with regard to Mencken's capacity to recommend authors for publication.
The Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. records are arranged in seven series:
The correspondence is mainly from individuals who had some interaction with the Knopf Publishing Co. with regard to publishing manuscripts or other business dealings. Occasionally, there are copies of Alfred Knopf's letters. A subsection Commonwealth vs Gordon et al (Grabhorn Press) contain thank you notes from individuals for the gift of this book. Commonwealth vs Gordon et al relates the case of five Philadelphia booksellers brought to trial on January 3, 1949, for violating Pennsylvania statute, which prohibits the sale of obscene books. Alfred and Blanche Knopf had five hundred copies printed for the Christmas of 1949 that was distributed to friends and colleagues.
The series contains information forms on those author's whose work was rejected by Knopf, Inc. There are two forms. The first form is a Manuscript Record. This is a pre-printed form of Knopf, Inc. which is filed by the editor who read the manuscript. It contains basic information including the author's name, title of book, which agent submitted the work, by whom read, the rejection date and so forth. This form is usually accompanied by a blue sheet entitled Reader's Report. This latter sheet was used for internal information only. It includes a series of questions such as "If you recommend us to publish the book give your chief reason in a single sentence." Occasionally correspondence and book jackets are included.
Records for the year 1938 were not received from Knopf. This series, similar to Series II contains a pre-printed Manuscript Record of Knopf, Inc. and also a Reader's Report for many of the authors. See also description for Series II.
The focus of this series is the correspondence of rejected authors by Knopf, Inc. to the author or author's agent. There is also incoming correspondence from the author or author's agent that occasionally includes outlines of proposed books. Most of the rejected authors resided in the United States and to a lesser extend abroad. In some cases, the author was rejected multiple times over a span of years. Noted rejected correspondents include Babette Deutch; Clare Booth Luce; Charles Neider of The New Yorker and Civil War historian Shelby Foote. Foote's first attempt at publishing Tournament (1940) was rejected by Knopf. This book would be published nine years later by New York Dial Press in 1949.
Series contains an information sheet (similar to Series I and II) generated by Knopf, Inc. This white sheet is a basic checklist about the rejected manuscript. In some instances correspondence is attached. Noted authors are Frank Baum, Ray Bradbury, Langston Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Charles H. Schultz.
Series contains newspaper and magazine clippings of book reviews of authors published by Knopf. These clippings are representative samples of reviews that appeared around the United States and abroad. There is some correspondence, samples of book jackets, and publicity sheets by Knopf Inc. that features the author's latest published work.
Series is representative of a small selection of Knopf's authors for the years 1937 through 1944. The typescripts are the bulk of the series. To a lesser extent, some typescripts are accompanied with galley proofs, front matter and illustrations. There is the occasional photograph of the author, dust jacket or other related theme. Individuals represented in this series include Raymond Chandler, Sigmund Freud, Rex Ingram, Thomas Mann, H. L. Mencken and Rex Stout.