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New York Review of Books Records

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: EFB
Date: Oct 1970

Biographical History

The New York Review of Books was begun in New York City in February, 1963. Among those primarily responsible for its inception were Robert Silvers, then on the staff of Harper's Magazine, Barbara Epstein and her husband, Jason Epstein, an editor for Random House, and Elizabeth Hardwick, wife of poet Robert Lowell. The immediate reason for its publication was the newspaper strike, which eliminated one of the means by which publishers advertised their new works to the book-buying market and made them eager for some substitute outlet for such publicity. But there was also a longer range reason--belief that a large audience existed for extensive and critical reviews of books which was not being satisfied by the New York Times.Book Review section or the Saturday Review. The strike provided the ideal opportunity to test the demand for and acceptance of such a book reviewing medium.

Many well-known writers and scholars were convinced to write reviews for nothing, and the first issue was financed by sales of advertising space to publishers. This issue was widely acclaimed as a breath of fresh air for the literary world and sold out rapidly. Its success prompted the founders to attempt a second issue, which also met with praise and produced a comparable sales record. The response accorded both issues thus confirmed them in the decision to begin publication on a continuing basis, and the first regular issue appeared in August, 1963. The format was then, as it is now, a bi-monthly tabloid containing articles, extensive and critical book reviews, poetry, advertisements for the book trade, and other items of literary interest.

The decision to publish on a regular basis necessitated additions to the staff. Among those who now became associated with the venture was A. Whitney Ellsworth, formerly on the staff of the Atlantic Monthly, who took on the responsibilities of publisher.

The circulation of the magazine grew to sixty thousand in 1966 and a survey at that time showed that most of the readership was college educated -- a sizeable percentage also having had some graduate education -- urban, affluent, and highly literate. A large percentage of the readers were associated with universities in one way or another. Approximately forty per cent were concentrated in New England and the middle-Atlantic states, with another sixteen per cent on the Pacific coast.

During the middle sixties, the NYRB became more involved in politics. Articles, reviews and David Levine caricatures were increasingly critical of American culture, society, and foreign policy. The increased opposition to the Vietnam war prompted the NYRB to send Mary McCarthy to South Vietnam for reports on and observations about American involvement there. She also went to North Vietnam in order to describe the effect of the war on the people and government of that country. This involvement in radical politics brought the NYRB a certain amount of notoriety. It would be false to say that it became completely politicized, however, for side by side with radical polemics there continued to be reviews of books on art, music, and literature.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The New York Review of Books Records, 1963-1969, include correspondence, production papers, financial and legal papers, manuscripts, and a miscellany.

Correspondence, 1963-1969, consists of incoming and outgoing letters of the publisher, advertising manager, and business managers. It includes routine business correspondence dealing with printing, distribution, subscription fulfillment, subscribers list exchanges, subscribers' complaints, advertising, and various sales promotions.

Production papers, 1963-1969, consist of editorial printing, distribution, and advertising records. The editorial records include review assignment sheets and various materials related to the publication by the NYRB of Herbert Kohl's Teaching the Unteachables. The printing records consist of invoices which detail the printing costs for each issue, a printing cost analysis, press run statistics, and publication schedules. The distribution records include invoices for fulfillment services, return reports of unsold newsstand copies, and miscellaneous field reports on newsstand sales.

Advertising records consist of an ad prospectus, a readership survey, and a sample of various ad layouts.

Financial and legal papers, 1963-1968, include authors' payment lists, bank statements, contracts, remittance lists and reprint statements from Editor's Choice (an outside business which handles requests for reprinting of material from NYRB), remittance advices from Capital Distributing Company, and some miscellaneous materials. The authors' payment lists consist of lists of writers and reviewers printed in every issue and the amount paid to them for their work. The remittance schedules and reprint lists from Editor's Choice consist of monthly statements to NYRB regarding which of its materials have been reprinted, and the amount paid for permission to reprint. Of interest among the miscellaneous materials are various budgets and cost estimates.

Manuscripts, 1963-1968, consist of tables of contents for various issues, lists of contributors, articles, book reviews, letters, movie reviews, poems, and theater reviews. Most of the manuscripts are typescript revised printer's copies. Included at the end are miscellaneous articles, book reviews, letters, and poems which either could not be assigned by the processor to a particular issue or were not used by the editors, as well as some unidentifiable fragments.

Because all print issues of the New York Review of Books are freely available -- both for searching and browsing -- on the NYRB's website at, the chronological listing of manuscripts does not include names of authors or of books reviewed. Authors and titles are, however, given for unpublished and unused manuscripts.

Authors and reviewers whose work occurs most frequently among these manuscripts are the following:

Robert M. Adams, Henry David Aiken, Noel Annan, Hannah Arendt, Neal Ascherson, W.H. Auden
Geoffrey Barraclough, Bernard Bergonzi, Marius Bewley
J.M. Cameron, Noam Chomsky, Louis A. Coser
Denis Donoghue, F.W. Dupee
D.J. Enright, Jason Epstein
Marius I. Finley, R.W. Flint, Edgar Z. Friedenberg
E.H. Gombrich, Paul Goodman
Stuart Hampshire, Elizabeth Hardwick, Francis Haskell, Robert Heilbroner, Matthew Hodgart, Irving Howe
D.A.N. Jones
Alfred Kazin, Murray Kempton, J.P. Kenyon, Frank Kermode
Walter Laqueur, Christopher Lasch, George Lichtheim
Robert Mazzocco, Mary McCarthy, Hans Morgenthau, Helen Muchnic
Conor Cruise O'Brien
J.H. Plumb, V.S. Pritchett
Phillip Rahv, Christopher Ricks
Ronald Steel, I.F. Stone, Lawrence Stone
A.J.P. Taylor, J. Thompson, H.R. Trevor-Roper
Gore Vidal
J. Weightman
Frances Yates

Miscellany, 1965-1970, includes galley page proofs of a book which appears to have been annotated by a reviewer, but for which no review was found, and a typescript carbon draft of a book of memoirs which seems never to have been used. It also includes various printed indices to the Review.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence, advertising records and financial and legal papers are arranged chronologically.

Within the production papers, editorial records are arranged chronologically; printing and distribution records are arranged alphabetically by type and chronologically within that order.

Manuscripts are arranged chronologically according to the date of the issue in which they appeared, alphabetically by type of material, and alphabetically by author within the various types, except that tables of contents and contributors lists are always placed first. Miscellaneous unused items are placed at the end, arranged first by type (e.g., poems, reviews, etc.) and then alphabetically by author.

Miscellany at the end is arranged alphabetically by author.


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.

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

All print issues of the New York Review of Books are freely available -- both for searching and browsing -- on the NYRB's website at

Subject Headings

Corporate Bodies

New York Review of Books.

Associated Titles

The New York Review of Books.


Books -- Reviews -- Periodicals.
Periodicals -- Publishing.
Publishers and publishing -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Book reviews.
Financial records.
Galley proofs.
Manuscripts for publication.



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

New York Review of Books Records,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of the New York Review of Books, 1969.

Table of Contents


Production papers

Financial and legal papers