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Grove Press Records

An inventory of its records at Syracuse University


Finding aid created by: -
Date: 26 Feb 1993



Biographical History

Grove Press began as a small independent publisher in New York City's Greenwich Village in 1949. Within three decades, it grew into a multimillion-dollar publishing company recognized as one of the twentieth century's great avant-garde publishing houses.

When Barney Rosset purchased Grove Press in 1951 after its establishment by John Balcomb and Robert Phelps, it had published only a handful of books. Ten years into Rosset's tenure as publisher, Grove's catalog included over five hundred titles, and the publishing house continued its expansion. Looking beyond books, Grove operated a film distribution business, a book club, a theater, the Evergreen Review magazine, and eventually became a publicly traded company. For a time, Grove even experimented with publishing children's books.

One of Grove's most well-known accomplishments was in introducing American audiences to European avant-garde theater. From Alfred Jarry's late nineteenth-century experimental works The Ubu Plays to the absurdist plays of Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, and Tom Stoppard, as well as the epic theater of Bertolt Brecht, Grove frequently sought to disseminate new drama in affordable paperback editions.

Rosset's interest in another artistic genre, film, led Grove Press to enter the film distribution business in 1966 when it purchased Cinema 16, the New York City film society founded by Amos and Marcia Vogel in 1947. The acquisition gave Grove access to many experimental films such as those by Maya Deren and Stan Brakhage. By the early 1970s, the Grove Press Film Division catalog included over four hundred domestic and international short and feature films, documentaries, experimental films, animations, and classic Charlie Chaplin and Georges Méliès films.

Rejecting mainstream notions of obscenity, morality, and decency, Grove also gained a reputation as a controversial publisher committed to fighting censorship as it published some of the most well-known banned books. Grove's success in publishing D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1959) despite attempts to censor the work by the Post Office paved the way for Rosset to publish another contested work that was ultimately cleared by the courts, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1961) and defend the Evergreen Review. After winning several battles over the printed page, Grove built on these victories and successfully defended the screening of Vilgot Sjöman's Swedish film I Am Curious (Yellow).

Censorship was not the only social convention Grove had a role in shifting. The defining movements of the 1960s -- the antiwar, civil rights, black power, counterculture, and student movements in the United States, along with revolutions around the globe -- were debated, exposed, and discussed in Grove's publications as was the sexual revolution. Grove's books challenged prevailing attitudes about sex through dozens of erotic books, many by "anonymous" authors; introduced the layperson to new directions in psychology through Eric Berne's Games People Play; and gave voice to revolutionaries around the world, including Che Guevara and Malcolm X.

While Grove was successful in fighting censorship and obscenity laws and introducing groundbreaking works to American readers, internal conflicts and challenges such as efforts to unionize the staff and feminist criticisms confronted Grove in the 1970s, as well as the departures of long-time editors Dick Seaver and Fred Jordan. After many celebrated achievements and a peak in staff numbers and office size, Grove reorganized and downsized its operations. Ann Getty and British publisher George Weidenfeld purchased Grove Press in 1985 for a reported two million dollars. Rosset left in 1986 and continued to pursue publishing and an Internet-only version of Evergreen Review until his death in 2012. Grove continues to exist today as part of publisher Grove Atlantic.


Scope and Contents of the Collection

The network of interrelationships between Grove and its authors was both dense and complex. Some authors whose books were published by Grove also wrote for Evergreen Review or were involved in their film projects. Occasionally Grove would ask one author to read another author's book and give their opinion, either formally or informally, or to write an introduction for it. Grove editors often built personal relationships with their authors. For all these reasons, material relating to one author or organization may be found in several places.

William Burroughs is a good example. Files relating to Burroughs' books are in boxes 169-178, but Burroughs also wrote prefaces or introductions to J.G. Ballard's Love and Napalm (Box 71) and Larry Sloman's Reefer Madness (Box 662). He corresponded with Grove authors Don Allen (Box 4) and Maurice Girodias (Box 297), and with Grove generally (Box 890). Grove asked him to review Justine: Philosophy in the Bedroom (Box 620) and he provided feedback on Alexander Trocchi's Cain's Book. John Rechy wrote a letter on his behalf (Box 584). þPieces by him appear in an issue of Leroi Jones' Floating Bear (Box 392) and in a dozen issues of Evergreen Review (4/11, 5/20, 6/22, 6/25, 7/29, 8/32, 8/34, 11/46, 12/52, 12/60, 13/67, and 15/94).

For this reason, the researcher is advised to search the entire finding aid for occurrences of the name(s) of interest. With most web browsers, CTRL-F will bring up a search box.

The Grove Press Records are divided into eight series.

Barney Rosset personal papers is a small group of materials related to the personal life of Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset. It contains correspondence, lecture notes, invitations and similar items.

The two Books series comprise the bulk of the collection. Books - Book files (by author) contains editorial and production records for books published by Grove Press, arranged alphabetically by author and within that by title. These materials reveal Grove's practices as a publisher and document the history behind Grove's books in addition to the personal relationships Grove staff members had with many of their authors, particularly Samuel Beckett. Anything generated or used in the process of publishing a book may be included, but the most common types of material are:

The material in the collection pertaining to each book varies widely in both type of material and volume. For some titles, researchers can trace the book's history from initial contact with the author and contract negotiations through production and printing to newspaper clippings of book reviews following publication and publication of later editions. For other titles, extant materials are scarce. In some cases there is material for books that Grove considered (and may have had under contract) but did not end up publishing.

Books - Correspondence-subject files contains additional material related to Grove's publishing activities in general, including the company's network of literary agents and book scouts. There is correspondence with agents, booksellers, and publishers, book- and publishing-related organizations (American Book Publishers Council, Colorado Booksellers Association, Illinois Freedom to Read Committee, International Publishers Congress, etc.), as well as material on various topics of interest to the company (book rack displays, censorship, college adoptions of Grove titles, foreign translation rights, Polish and Yugoslav writers, etc.). There is also material related to Grove's children's books, and to special series and imprints such as Profile Books and Evergreen Pilot Books (a.k.a. Writers and Critics). Of particular interest are letters from readers or the general public that Grove deemed worthy of keeping (Compliments; Crank and derogatory letters; Humorous letters). There is also correspondence with some notable individuals, such as poets John Ashbery and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, authors Laurent de Brunhoff and Archibald Macleish, photographer Emil Cadoo, and book dealer Jeff Rund. Numerous folders of manuscript logs, reader's reports, and rejections give insight into the type of material Grove accepted and why.

The Business files series contains administrative, corporate, and legal records pertaining to Grove Press and its various business ventures including theatre ownership. The bulk of this series relates to Grove's finances, personnel, real estate, and sales, as well as legal issues (particularly obscenity cases), the company's stock, and its business partnership with Random House and Whirlwind Book Company. Day to day operations of the Grove office are documented in memos, phone message logs, and calendars kept by Barney Rosset.

The Evergreen Records series contains material related to Grove's short-lived foray into the recording business, including contracts, correspondence, and other material. The collection also contains a number of LPs (33-1/3 rpm phonodiscs) issued by Grove.

The Evergreen Review series documents the operation and production of Grove's literary magazine, the Evergreen Review. This series is divided into two subseries. The first subseries, By issue, contains material relating to all 98 issues of the magazine, including correspondence with contributing authors, layouts, advertising, and publicity. The second subseries, Correspondence-subject files, contains material related to the magazine generally. This includes organizations (Association of Literary Magazines of America, Globe Mail Agency, National Organization for Women, etc.), events (Australian seizure, Bread Loaf Writers Conference), individuals (Samuel Beckett, Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John Lahr, Henryk Musialowicz, Tennessee Williams), and topics (complimentary subscriptions, complaints, index to issues #1-31, instructions for running Evergreen Review, legal issues, letters to the editor, publicity for the magazine in general, etc.). Also included here are manuscripts accepted but (apparently) never used, some by notable authors such as James Agee, Bertolt Brecht, Dianne di Prima, Eugene Ionesco, Octavio Paz, Larry Rivers, and Jose Yglesias. There is also, naturally, material relating to subscriptions including renewal lists and subscriber card files. A small amount of financial material completes this series.

The Films series documents Grove's role as a distributor of avant-garde and experimental short and feature length films. This series is divided into three subseries. Correspondence-subject files, contains material related to the magazine generally, including film companies, film festivals, film catalogs, etc. Of particular interest is a slide carousel with accompanying script labeled "Presentation to Volkswagen on behalf of Grove Press film distribution plan." The other two subseries, Feature films and Short films, contains material relating to Grove's feature-length productions and short films, respectively. Typical material includes contract, correspondence, film stills, lab invoices for printing, publicity, and royalty statements. For some films, there is information (mainly royalty statements) about distribution by the Cinema 16 Film Library which Grove purchased. The collection also includes more than fifty 16mm film prints of both feature-length and short films.

Publicity includes advertisements for Grove imprints (Black Cat, Evergreen Playscript, etc.), media coverage of the company and/or its productions, book exhibits, catalogs, files of clippings on censorship and obscenity and the impeachment of Justice William O. Douglas, various themed mailings such as "Survival Kit for Our Generation" and "Black Experience", order forms, and publicity photos of published books. Several scrapbooks spanning 1957 to 1963 contain press releases, advertisements, catalogs, order forms, photographs, book covers, and similar material, as well as one ("The Acid File") consisting entirely of copies of articles and clippings about LSD.


Arrangement of the Collection

Series are arranged alphabetically by series title. Book files (by author) are arranged alphabetically by author; all other series are arranged alphabetically by title or topic.


Restrictions

Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

One folder of resumes are restricted until 2057. Three boxes of stock certificates w/SSNs are restricted until 2057. Redacted copies are available for use by researchers.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.


Related Material

Published editions of Grove Press books have been transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. Please refer to the Classic Catalog for a complete listing.

Selected items from the collection have been digitized, and are available via SCRC Online, our digital portal.

For additional material related to Grove Press, see also the following:

Barney Rosset's personal papers are housed at the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Library, which also has a small Grove Press Collection.


Subject Headings

Persons

Allen, Donald Merriam, 1912-
Arsan, Emmanuelle.
Ayckbourn, Alan, 1939-
Baraka, Amiri, 1934-2014.
Beckett, Samuel, 1906-1989.
Berne, Eric, 1924-
Bowles, Paul, 1910-1999.
Broughton, James, 1913-1999.
Burroughs, William S., 1914-1997.
Duras, Marguerite.
Fowlie, Wallace, 1908-1998.
Frank, Robert.
Genet, Jean, 1910-1986.
Ginsberg, Allen, 1926-1997.
Girodias, Maurice.
Gombrowicz, Witold.
Goytisolo, Juan.
Hentoff, Nat.
Hodeir, André, 1921-2011.
Ionesco, Eugène.
Jordan, Fred.
Kerouac, Jack, 1922-1969.
Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930 -- Censorship.
Lawrence, D. H. (David Herbert), 1885-1930.
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980 Censorship.
Neruda, Pablo, 1904-1973.
O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966.
Olson, Charles, 1910-1970.
Orton, Joe.
Pinter, Harold, 1930-2008.
Reavey, George, 1907-1976.
Rechy, John.
Rexroth, Kenneth, 1905-1982.
Robbe-Grillet, Alain, 1922-2008.
Rosset, Barney.
Rumaker, Michael, 1932-
Schmidt, Judith.
Seaver, Richard.
Selby, Hubert.
Sorrentino, Gilbert.
Tutuola, Amos.
Tyler, Parker.
Ungerer, Tomi, 1931-
Wainhouse, Austryn.
Watts, Alan, 1915-1973.

Corporate Bodies

Grove Press. -- Archives.
Grove Press. -- Film Division.

Associated Titles

Evergreen review.

Subjects

Literature, Experimental.
American poetry -- 20th century.
Authors and publishers.
Authors, American.
Authors, French.
Avant-garde (Aesthetics) -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
Avant-garde cinema.
Beat generation -- Poetry.
Censorship -- Law and legislation -- United States.
Censorship -- United States -- Cases.
Obscenity (Law) -- United States.
Periodicals -- Publishing -- United States.
Publishers and publishing -- United States -- History -- 20th century.

Genres and Forms

16mm.
Audiotapes.
Book reviews.
Books.
Catalogs.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Contracts.
Correspondence.
Film stills.
Financial statements.
Galley proofs.
Legal files.
Manuscripts for publication.
Motion pictures (visual works)
Negatives (photographs)
Phonograph records.
Photographs.
Publishers' catalogs.
Royalty statements.
Scrapbooks.
Slides (photographs)

Occupations

Authors.
Editors.
Publishers.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Grove Press Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of Grove Press, 1967-1987.


Table of Contents

Barney Rosset, personal

Books - Book files (by author)

Books - Correspondence-subject files

Business files

Evergreen Records

Evergreen Review

Films

Publicity


Inventory

Note on alternate formats:

Selected items from the collection have been digitized, and are available via SCRC Online, our digital portal.