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Chapter 10 - Publishers’ Archives, Authors’ Papers, and Literary Scholarship

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 January 2021

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Summary

Part of the diasporic nature of literary papers arises from the inescapably public aspect of literary production and in particular the process of publication. The entirety of an author's archive of correspondence can never possibly be located in a single place because of the necessary involvement of multiple hands in the pro-duction of texts and the formation of literary lives. Inevitably, debates over the location of individual authors’ papers have focused mainly on the geographical dispersal of discrete collections of material. But manuscripts, letters, and documents of one sort or another written by authors (or relating to them) will always be found within larger archives, including business archives such as those of the book trade. The preservation of authors’ papers in publishers’ archives (the main focus of this essay) has multiple and conflicting implications for the various stakeholders: the creators, owners, preservers, and users of literary papers. Issues of ownership and commercial policy, copyright, privacy, and freedom of access mean that publishers’ archives provoke different sorts of responses to the core questions embraced by this volume.

For authors, the dispersal of correspondence chiefly— but rarely solely— about the business of literature involves a ceding of ownership (if not of copyright) in private acts of communication. Publishers’ archives can reveal minute particulars of the private negotiations between authors and publishers/ editors. They can also reveal the private deliberations within a publishing house between individual publishers and editors, as well as negotiations with outside parties such as literary agents and booksellers. The availability of such material in libraries and universities makes these private negotiations public, placing a special responsibility upon the owners of collections and the professional archivists who act as custodians. It also impacts upon the users of collections. Publishers’ archives can be a rich resource for literary scholarship, but they can also be frustrating to researchers who encounter a situation where freedom of access and expression is controlled by creators and preservers keen to protect their interests— or, in the case of archivists, their professional standards.

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The Future of Literary Archives
Diasporic and Dispersed Collections at Risk
, pp. 115 - 126
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Print publication year: 2018

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