I'm, Amy Hildreth Chen, the author of Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market
Which is forthcoming next month, June 2020, from the University of Massachusetts Press.
If you would like to check out the book, you can go ahead and follow the url listed on this slide
and you can also hit me up on twitter at @amyhildrethchen. I'm pretty active. So I look forward to seeing you
there. I will try to answer questions if I see them during the presentation.
Otherwise, we will address them at the end. Okay?
I'm very honored that you came and I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
This has been a long project for me, so I'm delighted to be able to share with you
So, i'm here to discuss Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market, forthcoming from the University of massachusetts
Massachusetts Press in June 2020.
To start, I'll give you a brief introduction of who I am, as my background informed my ability to see the significance of this topic
and overcome some of the research challenges I faced.
I obtained a PhD in english in 2013 from Emory.
There, I worked for Kevin Young as a curatorial assistant. I learned how important literary archives are, not just to
researchers, but to writers and families who depend on them for financial support.
I began to see the complex world that moves these personal papers from their original creators to reading rooms
and I noticed how little was said about the people and processes that made that transition possible.
In the literary archives market, those who create the commodity,
authors, have only one opportunity to make a deal. Their papers, which document their life and work,
typically are sold together as a single collection.
Researchers and the public prefer to work with and
to visit complete holdings.
Researchers find the expense and time required to view multiple collections at geographically dispersed repositories too costly,
while the public is less motivated to see a small set of materials.
Likewise, repositories also prefer to purchase complete collections as institutions gain more prestige for major acquisitions.
As a result, stakes are high.
Many writers decide to use executors, such as literary agents or manuscript dealers, to help them obtain the best price.
After all, their families often depend on financial support such sales provide.
But the pressure is not just on authors and their representatives.
Buyers also only have one chance to obtain their preferred collection.
Library directors are keen to make newsworthy acquisitions that will enhance their institution's reputation.
Subject curators know it is rare to gain the opportunity to add to their holdings significantly with a significant single purchase.
And while archivists and digital archivists work for repositories to organize and provide access to collections
once they are successfully obtained, they know that notable holdings can bolster their career
Especially if incoming materials present cultural or technological challenges that will allow them to learn and advance professionally.
These stakeholders concerns represent only their immediate motivations.
Market participants are driven by history, too.
Authors may know that others who sold their papers for top dollar to prestigious places
And they may hope to equal or even best their literary peers
Agents and dealers need to keep their businesses viable which depends not only on continuing to represent the most important writers
But also on maintaining positive and mutual mutually beneficial relationships with repositories
Directors and curators must watch their budgets to ensure that they can make as many significant acquisitions as possible
and their job is to identify the
repositories' pre-existing strengths and build holdings over the course of their career that develop and expand those fields.
Trained to imagine themselves as supporting the work of researchers in the interest of the public,
archivists increasingly recognize that their interventions shape what documents are preserved and thus what narratives can be written
And researchers in the public come to collections and repositories with preconceived notions of how these collections can be interpreted
These stakeholders current motivations and previous experiences generate a dynamic trade in literary papers.
Within the United States, this market for collections of contemporary authors began in 1955 and continues today.
While each collection is as unique as the writer who created it the market's overall shape and direction can be tracked
to show how it evolved from a trade that cheaply met the needs of a new large generation of researchers following world war ii
into the multi-million dollar market scene today.
Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market documents this history by identifying the present and preceding needs of its stakeholders
to argue that in the future the market will consolidate around the most privileged members of each group of stakeholders
in a phenomenon that's widely known as the Matthew Effect.
This talk focuses on the stakeholders i've highlighted in red.
These are the middlemen. And no, I'm not being sexist. They are all men.
So this is Glenn Horowitz and he's a rare book dealer.
Glenn Horowitz began his business in 1979
in New York. He wanted to combine his family's history of selling things with his interest in literature.
Horowitz's big break came
in 1983 when he helped W.S. Merwin transfer his papers to the University of Illinois
At this point, Horowitz found the benefit of targeting buyers with what he called "deep champagne pockets."
By 2016, Horowitz would represent 9 Norton Anthology of American Literature writers.
(And, so, these are writers that are in the data set that I use to generate the book.)
And authors that were not included in this data set.
For example, Horowitz transferred
Nabakov's papers to the New York Public Library for a million dollars in 1991
and Nabakov is not in the data set that I used.
David Mamet's papers to the Ransom center for 1.7 million in 2007,
Alice Walker's to Emory for a million in 2007,
and Bob Dylan's to Tulsa, Oklahoma for between 15 and 20 million in 2016.
The profits from these sales allowed Horowitz to expand to a second location in East Hampton.
Horowitz's success came with detractors. Martin Taylor of the Fales Library at New York University
claimed Horowitz inflated his prices,
yet when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission investigated his sales, the commission was concerned not that he marked up the
papers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt from 3.5 million in 2003 to a handy 8 million in 2004,
but that his buyer purchased the papers with his employer's money.
Although he rarely discusses his philosophy as a dealer,
Horowitz said in 2000 that he does not see the literary archives market conforming to the classical model
animated by a willing seller and a willing
buyer dynamic that Stephen Ennis, the Director of the Harry Ransom Center,
wishes to portray. We'll be discussing Stephen Ennis in just a little bit.
Instead, Horowitz argues the literary archives are valuable because they are non-fungible and non-liquid assets.
Non-fungible assets are goods that are unique and cannot be exchanged
Writer's papers are non-fungible at both a micro and macro level.
Each manuscript is a unique item. So it is non-fungible because one manuscript cannot be substituted for another
The entire collection is then non-fungible because that set of papers cannot be found anywhere else.
Non-liquid assets are those that cannot be immediately translated into currency.
Which is correct as the financial value of writer's papers is predicated not on their intrinsic worth but on the bookseller
or literary agent's ability to convince a buyer to pay a certain price.
Repositories interest and their ability to buy fluctuates depending on a broader set of circumstances
which highlights the status of collections as non-liquid assets.
As a dealer, Horowitz stated that his role is to broker a marriage between an uninformed seller,
the generator of papers or the party who has inherited the papers, and a likely but unsuspecting purchaser,
the research library.
While this statement could seem derogatory, it communicates a common and fundamental problem that economists describe
as asymmetric information.
So now we're going to move
stakeholder in the literary archives market, Andrew Wiley, who is a literary agent.
Literary agents became a profession in England during the late 1800s when shifts in law and technology
began to hurt authors ability to make a living.
Steam printing in the 1840s, the abolition of the newspaper penny tax in 1855,
the elimination of the paper duty in 1861,
and the invention of linotype machines in 1886 radically increased the number of available publications.
As competition increased, publishers began to experience revenue losses and needed to find a way to retain their profit.
And what worked best was paying authors less.
Authors then turned to literary agents
Literary agents found their niche by interpreting the law for the financial benefits of authors rather than publishers.
This choice made them unpopular.
Henry Holt described all agents as "contemptible interlopers"and "pests."
These complaints arose because previous business conventions benefited the publisher.
Agents forced the power dynamics to become more equitable.
Instead of admitting that agents threatened their bottom line by advocating on behalf of writers,
publishers focused their attention on the behavior of agents and criticized them for acting in an ungentlemanly manner.
Revealing that literature was a commodity just like any other
violated the discursive norms of publishing, a mindset that sociologists would describe as a habitus,
that required treating literature as if its profit margin did not matter.
Agents dispensed with this protocol by buying and selling copyrights much as a cotton broker bought and sold cotton.
As agents saw copyright as a good, they were not inclined to indulge in polite behaviors suggesting that publishing literature
was anything more than just another business.
But this attitude cost them social capital.
Criticism directed at literary agents compounded after 1976, when the United States
decreased the tax benefit authors could claim from donating their collections.
The 1969 Tax Reform Act had allowed full tax deductions for literary estates in paragraph
1221, which specified that "a literary,
musical or artistic composition, a letter or memorandum,
or similar property held by a tax payer whose personal effects created such property could leave such papers in his estate
and heirs" could claim a full tax deduction for them.
Accordingly, authors and their executors often were persuaded by these benefits to donate rather than sell their papers.
When the law changed in 1976, authors had less incentive to donate.
Andrew Wiley is the most well-known agent in the literary archives market.
Wiley grew up in a family of publishers and bankers.
He drew from these two fields when he founded the Wiley Agency in 1980 in New York City.
In 1996, he opened a second office in London.
Wiley's successful business model depended on acquiring the rights to authors and then protecting those rights domestically and internationally
His approach paid off.
His client list reads like an international who's who of artists, fashion designers, musicians, politicians,
13 of the Norton writers who are from my data set appear in his client list.
His means of obtaining these authors, by seducing them away from the representation
that helped them in early in their careers,
earned him the nickname The Jackal.
Wiley revels in the nickname, posing for portraits like the one you see here.
So obviously he really likes his reputation.
Harry Ransom, the founder of the Harry Ransom Center,
and Stephen Ennis, the current director of the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
Harry Ransom, an English professor and Assistant Dean, realized that Texas's upstart library could never match the aquarian
antiquarian collections of European and Ivy League universities.
Instead, he thought of a new vision. The University of Texas at Austin should collect the papers of contemporary authors.
To sell his idea, he gave a lecture in which he proposed the need for research institution in Texas
that could serve as the bibliotheque nationale
of the only state that started out as an independent nation.
Ransom's speech proved convincing.
In 1957, the University of Texas at Austin formally established the Humanities Research center, the HRC.
Ransom's pitch to the state of Texas was successful
not only because Texas wanted to prove that it had international cultural capital
but also because the united states as a nation was engaged in the same struggle.
During the Cold War, the United States needed to portray itself as a more attractive option than the Soviet Union
culturally as well as militarily.
The problem was that Europeans were wary of Americans' "shallow business dominated culture"
and felt more sympathetic to the communist values.
American governmental agencies exploited the global appeal of homegrown modernism
to showcase how free speech led to higher artistic achievements.
American artists and writers became the subject of international propaganda.
So Ransom's bid to make texas more visible visible as a culturally rich state
was just one example of a larger scale campaign in the United States to win the Cold War through hard and soft power.
And the affluence provided by oil
found in Texas allowed the HRC to dominate the American literary archives market through a succession of seven directors
who collectively created an aggressive acquisition legacy.
So you can see we're ping-ponging around the most important stakeholders in the market.
And so we're going from
harry Ransom and Stephen Ennis representing the University of Texas at Austin on the demand side --
we started with the supply side. And now we've gone to the demand side, both for Texas and Yale,
and then finally, we'll wrap up with Stanford.
So, these two men represent Yale.
The first is Chauncey Brewster Tinker. And then the second is Donald Gallup on the right.
Texas and Yale provide contrasting examples of the history of the American
literary archives market. Texas began the trade with its early interest in contemporary American literature. Yale,
a latecomer, steadily moved into more recent writing as it grew from a repository that concentrated on 19th century
American literature under Tinker to a repository that embraced the modernists under Gallup on the right.
Gallup's work was not easy.
when he wanted to buy Ezra pound's papers, Gallop worried that he would not be able to find the $200,000
required to purchase the collection.
Texas had the upper hand due to its deeper pockets. Gallup wondered,
"who are we, who own no oil wells, to find two hundred thousand dollars?"
And I have to admit when I was doing this research I found this hilarious
that Yale was whining about Texas having more money because of oil.
So archival research is great.
Yale's primary donors,
E.J Beinecke and F.W. Beinecke had little concern for the papers of 20th century authors and no particular interest in Ezra Pound.
But Gallup eventually did find the money thanks to an anonymous donor, but Texas itself had to consent to the acquisition.
Yale's president, Kingman Brewster, petitioned Harry Ransom on Gallup's behalf,
asking him to defer to Yale's earlier claim on the papers.
Ransom ceded his interest and allowed Gallup to make a successful bid and a relatively rare case of institutional collaboration
Gallup's dedication to Yale helped what became known as the Beinecke
transition from Tinker's earlier treasure room approach to contemporary research library.
But his single-minded determination came at a personal cost.
Gallup led an ascetic lifestyle which allowed him to spend all his time day and night and service to Yale and its collections.
But Gallup was devastated when his efforts were not met by corresponding internal interest.
He said that the failure of the english department faculty to properly appreciate and make use of the resources of this collection for research
was the truth that he found too painful to even think about.
And finally we're going to move to Stanford,
where I have a picture of this current Stanford library, uh,
or the current Stanford university Special Collections and University Archives website.
The website is standing in to represent for William McPheron, who has no good photos of himself on the internet.
So sorry William McPheron,
we are thinking of you.
So Stanford provides an alternative to both collecting models. According to my data,
Stanford neither showed an early nor a late commitment to the field, but rather a brief interest.
Stanford grew its collections faster than any other repository by acquiring five sets of papers in the space of only two years:
Denise Levertov in 1993, Robert Creeley 1993,
Fanny Howe in 1993, Allen Ginsberg in 1994, and Robert Pinsky in 1994.
Stanford's acquisitions showcased the power of a single curator, William McPheron, who acted quickly during a time of institutional transition
William McPheron demonstrates that a university's successful collecting strategy often is the result of a curator's passion
with institutional support
McPheron's long-standing interest in the Black Mountain School not only helped Stanford acquire the papers of Denise Levertov and Robert Creeley,
but also allowed them to achieve renown with an even more significant acquisition:
the papers of Allen Ginsberg.
Ginsburg's lengthy poetics are matched only by the size of his papers.
At 1,000 linear feet, his collection is the largest of all of the authors holdings in my data set.
1059 page finding aid
meticulously records the span of Ginsburg's materials, which include the obligatory journals and correspondence
(that series alone takes up 380 boxes)
alongside more surprising items, like a pair of sneakers Ginsberg saved to demonstrate how harsh Communist Czechoslovakia was.
They looked worn even when new due to being poorly manufactured.
What's notable about the Ginsburg archive is its provenance, not just its size. Colombia kept Ginsberg's materials before Stanford acquired them.
While this fact is not well advertised, Stanford's finding a does offer a clue to the paper's history.
In the scope and contents note,
"wherever Ginsberg's original arrangement of materials was encountered the order was retained.
However, materials previously housed at Columbia university
show signs of having been rearranged significantly.
As a result, several series show evidence of conflicting intellectual arrangements,
one imposed by Ginsburg and his staff another by third parties."
Ginsburg's papers moved from Columbia to Stanford in 1994
because Colombia could not pay the 5 million assessed value.
No university could.
Gansberg had to decide whether to split his papers or to accept a lower value for his holdings.
He chose the latter, deciding that he would obtain the most profit by selling his papers to whichever institution could keep them together
while paying the most.
won when it offered Andrew Wiley, Ginsberg's agent, a million dollars.
Although this price was one-fifth ofGginsburg's assessed value and he had no connection to the institution,
he accepted it on the advice of Wiley and his bibliographer,
Okay, so that takes us through a sample of some of the stakeholders in the literary collections market and like I mentioned
these are only the middlemen, the literal middle men, of the market.
So I want to talk a little bit about the methodology
that I came to
when I was trying to find this information
and therefore how I was able to construct this book.
But first, I want to make sure that I don't have any chats or any questions.
Okay, so I do have one question,
from Brian Watson, thank you,
which asked me "Did I receive any pushback when researching this topic from men or institutions?"
I think that's a great question. I did
not necessarily receive
institutions... I did get
a general question as to
what kind of research I was doing. People didn't understand
(and i'll talk about this in my methodology) that I wasn't interested in seeing the papers themselves.
It's quite strange when you think about it to research literary archives
and not actually go see the archives, but I didn't
because what I was interested in is why the archives went to that institution in the first place. I was interested in
the transfer of that content and so I was often more interested in institutional histories
than the papers themselves, so I didn't necessarily get any
hostility, it was more just
a lack of comprehension of why I would approach the topic this way.
And I often had to explain that I was doing it through a data driven perspective.
So I was, as I'll explain, just entering ones and zeros into a spreadsheet to find the kinds of patterns that
would ultimately lead me to this history.
My second question that I've just gotten is from Katherine D. Harris.
"Do you think that the predominant focus on male literary authors reifies this idea of what is good literature and thereby
thereby reinforces the white male literary canon?"
Um, so I mean, the thing is, is I came up with this history of the literary archives market
because I was working from a specific set of
canonical authors and I defined the canon as being the Norton Anthology of American Literature
if you define the canon differently from me
you will come up with a different history of the archive market. And, in fact, I'm hoping that someone else will.
I would love to get some pushback. I would love to get some different explanations, but I wanted to approach this topic
in the clearest way possible and I didn't want to have to make an argument that my
assessment of the canon was better than anyone else's. I mean i'm still a relatively junior scholar, right?
So I used a teaching anthology to say look
this is what we teach our undergrads that the canon is and therefore I'm going to track
how much it costs for these authors to move their papers to institutions, where they put their papers,
and that will give me the story that I'm interested in learning more about.
And that is a relatively male dominated canon.
However, what I will say and this is something that this talk doesn't get into too much,
but if you buy the book I do talk about it,
that the benefit of being a woman, especially a woman of color, is while it took so
long for them to be
of interest on the market
they automatically started receiving higher values for their papers and they went to higher ranked ARL institutions.
just to rephrase, that if you're a woman of color
probably no one bought your papers until the 90s, which is horrible! White men were starting to be bought in 1955!
your overall placement,
ranking, where you went, was better. Um, so the
statistics are not necessarily always in favor of white men or white women.
They just have a much longer history in the market if that makes sense.
So since i'm getting some methodology questions I'm going to move forward... although i've got to answer Emma's
Emma asked me "did you have trouble gaining access to the sale acquisition information from institutions?" Yes.
Um, in fact, um, normally I cannot access that information. It's private
so I can only access it if it was reported out to the press.
If you want to dig into my footnotes in my book,
you'll see a lot of stories from the New York Times because the New York Times tended to record the sale prices.
But if it wasn't reported to the press, I couldn't get it.
So I mean I would have loved to have done some more statistical analysis of who got paid how much and why?
And I simply couldn't do that research because that information wasn't there. Um, but I provided it when I could.
And then Emma asked a follow-up question: "Why do I think this information is kept so private?"
I think it's complicated.
First off, it's really hard on writers because we live in a capitalist society. So
as soon as you have prices for papers, you can go ahead and create a rank list
of authors' impact,
so maybe not their cultural impact,
not their cultural value,
but their financial value, which is, after all, how we're all measured as actors in a capitalist society.
It makes it extremely hard on repositories
because the price that they can pay in one year is not the price that they can pay in another year.
Even if they want you just as much. I mean, as we've seen with this COVID crisis,
the oil prices go up and down, all sorts of things. The buying power is not stable
What makes one author worth more than another is
very complicated and we can talk about that but it also reflects the buying power of the institutions in that particular moment
so I just I think
I think it would be good to know but I also I really do sympathize with the institutions as someone who's worked in institutions myself
on why that's not something that they want to make public.
Oh man, you guys have great questions, okay, so Jolie Braun asked,
"Aren't public institutions obligated to be transparent about this information?"
I would say
I believe so I know the Ransom Center as a public institution has tried to push back about that information becoming public
because at the end of the day
they don't necessarily have consistent buying power and if authors see that so-and-so got a million,
well, then they're gonna expect a million, but they might not be able to pay that much the next time around.
Um again, it gets complicated quickly.
But you know, I do want to defer that question a little bit just because i'm not a lawyer.
But I will say that the amount of information I provided in my book I
pretty much got from the art market. I think the art market is much more advanced in how it thinks about
based on the
the sheer amount of money that
visual art goes for in comparison to literary manuscripts.
And then... oh nice! I got another name to possibly note from an anonymous tip. "Dr.
Lola --and i'm gonna mispronounce this name-- it's S-z-l-a-d-i-t-s
was the curator at NYPL for the Nabakov archive."
So yeah, there's so many stories that need to be told and there's so many stories that aren't told because
usually we think about the author, we don't think about the people that make that author who we now think about
today. All right, so I'm going to move on and we can keep the conversation going. Your questions are excellent.
I'm just going to jump in and say that I know we are scheduled to end at 4:40.
We'll just keep going over time today. (Oh, sorry!) If you need something early, that's totally fine.
Just stay tuned for the
Youtube link and you'll be able to catch up with this later on, so...
Awesome. Yeah. Well and I think what we did is we substituted
some of the questions, which I think is even better.
So i'm glad that we spent the time on the questions and then yeah
please hang in there if you can and if not, hopefully you'll see us on youtube.
So just to move into the methodology.
I wanted to just give you a hint of the stories behind the data
and I want to let you know how I got to these stories.
Like I mentioned, I worked from the Norton Anthology of American Literature to create my list of canonical authors.
I knew I wanted to study literary archives after watching acquisitions at Emory.
Before, I thought about what made different authors come to a single institution, what made them interested in Emory,
but I realized that the better story was larger and that larger story needed to come from data.
So to create a large enough sample size, I needed a selection criteria
that wasn't just me and the people I was interested in. I used an anthology because I didn't want to get in a debate
I didn't want to have
the basic debate of who's in the canon and who's not and why?
I would love to do a meta survey of who's in the Norton and how stable their rankings are from edition to edition,
but since that study doesn't exist, I'll just tell you that I used the seventh edition.
Then I went to Archive Grid
once I listed all my authors and I looked up where their papers were located. I gave a talk just on this in London
about how our best resource to finding archives in the US is just one guy
working part-time to create ArchiveGrid and we should all be super thankful to him.
You can also just Google literary papers for each author,
but you need to do both together because you might missed content if you just Google and trust me, this happened to me.
Then once I found finding aids -- this one is Allen Ginsberg's on the Online Archive of California --
I looked up the finding aids at each
repository and I started filling in the information in my spreadsheet.
And a lot of the times I did have to contact repository for more information because it's rare that everything is on the finding aid.
For example, here
California was great or Stanford was great about providing who was the archivist but that was not universally documented.
Once I did this work for all of my authors, I had a spreadsheet that looked something like this (indicates screen).
This is a spreadsheet from the Iowa institutional repository.
The messy parts are where the lines have been wrapped around to fit into this screen. Sorry.
I used URLs because finding the finding aid again is actually not that easy. You can see that I use mainly binary
zeros and ones
But also I have ordinal numbers, which are counting numbers like ARL rankings or ages, or nominal numbers
which are the archive linear feet size.
This is a plain text version
of what was originally a nicer tabbed spreadsheet in Excel. I used Excel when I was writing my book
but plain text is
non-proprietary, so this is how the data is stored to make it accessible to others.
As a former librarian, I follow open data practices --
and I want you to as well --
so all of my data can be found on the University of Iowa institutional
repository since I worked at Iowa while I was writing this book.
The data is available now so you can check my work if you wish or come up with your own research using my information.
It's downloadable as a master list or by individual table.
Just look at my name to find it or you can contact me on Twitter and i'll provide you the link.
If you do database research methods, please share your data similarly.
We have nothing to hide and we all have a responsibility to follow best practices.
And no, Sarah Schlipp asked, "did the SNAC Social Networks and Archival Context database
feature in my research in any way?" and I will say no, it did not,
probably it should have, but I did not use that resource.
So all that work then became this type of table. This is a table from my book proof.
Once those tables are created, I looked for patterns or exceptions to patterns
because the best stories are always either the most typical stories or the most exceptional stories.
Once I found those patterns, I wrote the chapters, beginning with the data, findings and then creating the stories,
some of which I began to tell here.
So you can see the patterns in this table that I discussed earlier when I was talking about the collecting strategies of Texas
Yale, and Stanford. You can see that Texas is consistent and early,
Yale is consistent but late, and Stanford is just one big grab.
I didn't talk about Emory or Harvard,
although those two universities do get coverage in my introduction and first chapter, because they have a relatively smaller impact on the market.
You can see here though that my sample size, even with data-driven methods it is quite small.
The Norton anthology has a decent amount of authors in it.
102 for my seventh edition
the authors that had placed papers were only 79 of those 102.
So I am dealing with relatively small sample sizes
and that's why my criteria for choosing the population is really important.
If you want to quibble with me, the best way to do it is for you to find a better population,
run the same data, see what you get, and if it matches what I found.
Have fun with that though,
because teaching anthologies are a great way to establish the canon and I think the only way you can do my population better
is to make the full meta analysis that I suggested earlier.
And, to be honest, doing driven data-driven methods takes a long time.
Simple numbers can be surprisingly hard to obtain. I had to write a lot of emails to a lot of repositories.
Once you use this method though, it's hard to look at anything the same way again.
Now to me data is everything so it's really turned me
into a different type of humanities researcher.
So to conclude that's what I learned and how I learned it.
I hope you take the opportunity to read my book when it comes out
and please also remember to support university presses during this time, whether the University of Massachusetts
Press and my book or any others. They support research and liberal inquiry and their continued existence
in this time period and during this crisis really matters to all of us.
I'm so grateful for their support and for you coming here today,
so, thank you.
And I look forward to answering more questions. And I have two right now, oop, three!
So I'll just jump in answer from the top. Hi Shannon.
Shannon asks, "did you take donations of literary papers into account as well in your Norton anthology data set?
And how many if any were donated not sold?"
Yes, the answer is I did take donations
consideration and that is represented in my book, in the tables that I depict.
Also if you go look at my data set there is a column that's just donated or sold like one or zero
and so that way you're able to see that, yes, not all papers were
sold, um, however that tax
change in the 70s really meant that more authors opted to sell their papers because they could get a financial benefit from it.
And then Agnes asks me "do you have any plans to update the data set to see if new players emerge in the
2020s or if covid19
has an effect to mix things up in repositories?"
That is a great question.
I would love to update the data set just because there's a ton of writers that
I think really are canonical frankly that did not make it into the data set that I used from the seventh edition
and I would be really interested in what even the 2008 crisis,
the long-term tail of that crisis,
and now COVID 19 has on
repositories. I do think that that work will need to be done --
the COVID 19 at least -- will need to be done like five years out or more.
I think right now we're so in the middle of the storm. We're not going to be able to see the impact.
I mean, I would love to do that research and frankly, I could do it a lot more efficiently now that I've done it once,
there was definitely a learning curve,
but we'll see. I mean, I'll admit I'm an independent scholar right now. I have a full-time job,
so, you know, you want to work with me on this let me know.
So then I would like to answer
Christina Colvin's question,
"the difference between Stanford's single grab and Texas's consistency over the decades was surprising to me.
What do you think informed that difference given their respective objectives?"
So Texas was just a lot more transparent about their collecting interests from the beginning.
incredibly insightful about how they were going to make themselves a national and international player in culture
and they knew that the ivy league had locked up
rare books, they've locked up kind of earlier literary papers
and so did England and Ireland and the old world so they knew that the way for them to make their mark was to
collect the things that had not yet begun to be valued and that was 20th century literature.
20th century literary studies wasn't even really a thing until the post-war generation
and a lot of people didn't respect it. So by collecting contemporary work, they were collecting something that other people weren't interested in
and that allowed them to make a lot of acquisitions for cheap
and to also be really a pacesetter in the industry so kudos to the Ransom Center for really
seeing a hole in the market and making a move and I think Stanford just wasn't there in the same way.
Elizabeth Manis asks, "Hello,
could you unpack your comment about data is everything. What is everything before the data you're talking about?"
Okay, so maybe I was being a little off the cuff there.
For me, I think data is everything in the sense that it's easy to tell stories about things
we think we know and I have been a literary scholar, Ive worked in three different special collections
repositories at both public and private
institutions. So I feel like I have a pretty good sense of what's going on from a professional vantage point,
but for me,
what was important is not to write stories
from what I thought I knew, from what I was exposed to, was to see are my assumptions correct?
For example, I was really afraid that the data was going to show
that writers of color were disprivileged against white authors
and I did see that in the sense that they were not collected as early.
It's a very, very white market for the first couple of decades;
authors of color start entering the market,
they get placed at much higher tier repositories
and they're more likely to sell their papers. And so they do really well.
And so it was important for me that my data didn't necessarily back up what story I thought I was gonna tell.
For me, it's been it's a good check
that i'm not
conclusions I might have had, that i'm really letting
the information speak back to me.
Mary Catherine Kenneburt asked, and apologies if I mispronounce your name or others',
"What do you think accounts for the omnipresence of certain dealers in the market?
Does this seem related to your data set, types of authors represented or other factors your research revealed?"
I think that is true.
I am really only
discussing the top tier authors that make it into the Norton anthology. And so if you are in the Norton anthology,
your papers are more likely to be sold. They're more likely to be sought after by top-tier literary agents.
And so they're just more likely to be treated in this manner. If you expand the data set to think about
writers who have maybe extensive critical claim but not as much commercial power,
yeah, I think the story's gone going to be very different. They're going to be getting lower prices
or maybe donating their papers or having different types of arrangements than I portrayed.
I think there's a lot left to do with this type of research
and I do hope someone does that so I think my data set is telling
a very specific portion of a greater narrative.
Yeah. I'll conclude with that. I think I hope that others can do
more research to say what what perspectives other types of authors would have.
Sal Robinson asks, "Do you think that the existence of storage space.. (Oh, this is good!)
... had anything to do with these decisions because of the size of archival collections?I know that this is a concern at my institution."
I want to say absolutely but I do not have anything to back that up.
I know that it was a concern at Iowa because these collections take a lot of space,
space costs a lot of money,
and now that we're starting to -- I know at least RBMS is beginning to think about the environmental effects of climate change --
and COVID19 is changing the financial reality of institutions --
It's not cheap to store materials just like it's not cheap to arrange and describe them
so I think there is something there. That's a really good
hypothesis, but I can't say anything to that based on the work that I did myself.
So it looks like we don't have any more open
questions. This might be a good time to conclude. If no one else has something pressing. Okay, one more.
Agnes asked "were you able to determine how the dealers assign value to the collections?"
The short answer is no.
I called Glenn Horowitz and I had access to his
client list, he gave me permission to see his client list
that was more extensive than was on his website,
but I didn't ask how they assigned value.
I do think that it's a delicate dance between the level of interest that
repositories have, the funding they have available,
what is in the collections? Something else that I think is really important to talk about that
this book wasn't able to cover too much was the affect of born digital holdings
and whether or not that shapes the value of literary archives
so no, I didn't do that type of in-depth research into
how literary agents and rare book dealers make their price
adjustments, but I hope you or someone else will.
Well, thank you so much, Amy. It's been a pleasure having you
and thank you to everybody for joining us. If you want to have any closing words, go ahead, otherwise
we'll see you for the next webinar. There's a list of the offerings coming up on our website bibsocamer.org.
We're always here if you have questions. So thanks again Amy.
Oh, thank you very much and I really appreciate the great questions, everyone.
Yeah, thank you so much, and we'll see you all next time! Take care. Thank you. Bye! Bye!