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Peter Matthiessen:

A Preliminary Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center

Creator: Matthiessen, Peter, 1927-
Title: Peter Matthiessen Papers
Dates: 1958-1995
Extent: 58 Boxes, 5 Oversize Boxes, 2 Oversize Flat Files, 15 Galley Files (32.58 Linear Feet)
Abstract: The collection covers Matthiessen's forty-year career as novelist, naturalist, explorer, nature writer, and environmentalist. The materials include typescript drafts, galleys, page proofs, holograph notebooks, scrapbooks, correspondence, articles, reviews, slides, and photographs.
Access:

Open for research




Acquisition:

Reg. No. 13525

Processed by:

Liz Murray, 1996

Repository:

Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin


This collection of works by Peter Matthiessen is the first accession of his writings to be acquired by the HRHRC. The material described here reflects Matthiessen's forty-year career as novelist, naturalist, explorer, nature writer, and environmentalist. Many of his works are represented, ranging from fiction and non-fiction to magazine articles, and contributions to the works of others. The collection provides numerous typescript drafts, galleys, page proofs, holograph notebooks, scrapbooks, correspondence, articles, reviews, slides, and photographs. Thematically, Matthiessen describes native peoples and their causes, vanishing cultures and habitats, and the influence of Zen Buddhism in his life and writings. The collection is organized into three series: Works, Personal, and Writings of Others.

Matthiessen's fiction and nonfiction manuscripts are arranged by title under Subseries A of the first series, Works. Correspondence, research material, and reviews are present for many titles, in addition to material spanning the writing process from holograph notebooks to galleys. Subseries B comprises articles, essays, and other writings. Included are articles written for The New Yorker, Audubon, and New York Times Magazine, as well as Matthiessen's introduction to George Catlin's North American Indians. Matthiessen's interest in family history is found in his contribution to Evelyn D. Ward's Children of Bladensfield and his essay "Homegoing," tracing his lineage to the island of Föhr. Travel slides for various trips are found at the end of the collection, along with slides of selected dust jackets, magazine covers, and title pages of shorter works.

The second series, Personal, includes autobiographical and bibliographical sketches, biographical newspaper articles and interviews, awards, honors, and miscellaneous material.

Two works of other individuals are present in the third series: Larry Gross's screenplay of "Killing Mister Watson" and a humorous article by George Plimpton, Matthiessen's friend and Paris Review colleague.

Numerous magazine issues containing articles written by and about Matthiessen were received with this collection, along with the book ¡Baja! for which Matthiessen wrote the introduction. His many articles appear over a thirty year period in an eclectic array of titles from Sports Illustrated and Architectural Digest to Audubon and National Geographic. These materials have been transferred to the HRC book collection. A small jigsaw puzzle made from a photograph of the author walking in a Buddhist cemetery has been transferred to the HRC personal effects collection.

With the exception of some deteriorating tape and glue, minor water and mold damage, aging newspaper clippings, and what appears to be bullet penetration in one manuscript, the collection is in good condition. Much of the original organization, imposed by the dealer, has been retained, along with the item descriptions which correspond to the dealer's collection list. Some of the larger holdings of draft typescripts such as those for Killing Mister Watson, while kept in the order as received, remain in rough order.

Additional material is expected.