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Carlton Lake:

An Inventory of His Collection of French Manuscripts at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Lake, Carlton, 1915-2006
Title: Carlton Lake Collection of French Manuscripts
Dates: 1377-2000, undated (bulk 1895-1940)
Extent: 303 document boxes, 25 oversize boxes, 16 bound volumes, 5 galley folders, 96 oversized folders (127.26 linear feet)
Abstract: For over six decades, Carlton Lake acquired approximately 350,000 French literary materials, including manuscripts, photographs, works of art, broadsides, galleys, musical scores, and others. The majority of the papers represent French writers, musicians, and artists of the late 19th and early 20th century, though included are earlier materials, such as letters from the era of Napoleon.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-04960
Language: French, English, German, Russian, and Spanish
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. Permission from copyright holders must accompany photoduplication requests for material created by Pierre Albert-Birot, Jean Cocteau, Robert Desnos, Marcel Duchamp, Helen Hessel, James Joyce, and Henri-Pierre Roché. For more information please see the Ransom Center's Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation Carlton Lake Collection of French Manuscripts (Manuscript Collection MS-04960). Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
Acquisition: Purchases and gifts, 1966-2002 (R3087, R4833, R5161, R4833, R5881-5886, R7146-7149, G846, G2284, R13375, G101713, G12083)
Processed by: Monique Daviau, Richard Workman, and Catherine Stollar, 2004

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Over a period of six decades, Carlton Lake gathered together what has become the most extensive collection of modern French literary research materials anywhere outside of Paris. He collected books, photographs, artwork, and other original documents in addition to manuscripts, covers a broad range of French writers, artists, and musicians, such as Guillaume Apollinaire, Samuel Beckett, André Breton, Albert Camus, Céline, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Debussy, Marcel Duchamp, André Gide, Alfred Jarry, Henri Matisse, Picasso, Ravel, Jean-Paul Sartre, Erik Satie, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Valéry.
Carlton Lake was born in Brockton, Massachusetts on September 7, 1915. He attended Boston University and graduated summa cum laude in 1936, and in 1937 received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps. After the war, he pursued his doctorate at New York University, but ultimately abandoned his dissertation to become a freelance writer.
From 1950 to 1965 he was Paris art critic for The Christian Science Monitor. He also contributed to a number of other American and European periodicals, such as The New Yorker, The New York Times, Town and Country, and The Atlantic Monthly,which published his interviews with such artists as Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Henry Moore, and Giacometti. Lake also co-edited A Dictionary of Modern Painting in 1956 and wrote, edited, and translated books about Marc Chagall, Picasso, and Salvador Dali.
Carlton Lake came to the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin in 1968, ultimately serving as Curator of the French Collection, Acting Director, and Executive Curator. His impressive collection of French materials was added to the Ransom Center collections in the late 1960s. In 1976, the collection was the subject of a major exhibition, Baudelaire to Beckett, which focused international scholarly attention on its strong manuscript resources, which number approximately 350,000 pieces in all. Since then, other significant exhibitions based on Carlton Lake Collection material have been devoted to Samuel Beckett (1984) and Henri Pierre Roché (1991). In addition, art and literary materials from the Collection have been loaned to many French, European, and American exhibitions held by such institutions as the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the Grolier Club, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The Lake Collection has also been a principal source for two literary exhibitions held at the Centre Pompidou: Paris -New York, and Les Réalismes.
In 1985 he was decorated by the French government and inducted into L'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres with the rank of Chevalier; later he became an Officier. In 1990, he published his memoirs, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist, detailing his adventures purchasing and collecting French literary materials. In 2003, Lake retired from the Ransom Center with the title of Executive Curator Emeritus. Lake died on May 5, 2006 at the age of ninety.


Ashton, Linda. Biography of Carlton Lake. Unpublished.
Lake, Carlton. Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist. New York: New Directions, 1990.


Supplementing the container list contained in this finding aid are several indices, listing the authors and titles of works, authors and recipients of correspondence, photographic subjects, and artwork present in the collection. Figures represented only by legal papers, financial documents, or other materials that are not works or correspondence have not been included in the indices. Inscriptions are not indexed. Visiting cards bearing handwritten notes to a named person were indexed as correspondence; the remaining cards were not indexed, but may be found as a group filed under Lake, Carlton, French visiting cards.

Scope and Contents

The Carlton Lake Collection contains approximately 350,000 items relating to French art, literature, and music, spanning 1377-2000 (bulk 1895-1940). The majority of the collection consists of papers of numerous French writers, musicians, and artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and includes manuscripts, correspondence, photographs, artwork, music scores, and other materials. The collection is strongest for the period known as the Belle Époque, (roughly 1895-1914) and for the years during and after World War I (especially the 1920s and 1930s). Among the earlier materials are Napoleonic-era letters. While the majority of the materials were written in the French language, English, German, Russian, and Spanish language materials are also present.
The Lake Collection is arranged in a single alphabetical sequence by creator name; for each creator, materials are subdivided into manuscript works, outgoing and incoming letters, and other materials. The materials present in the other category include a wide variety of items, such address books, announcements, broadsides, calendars, catalogs, certificates, clippings, contracts, collages, diaries, dossiers, drawings, ephemera, financial records, funeral notices, insurance policies, invitations, journals, legal papers, lists, menus, order forms, passports, photographs, postcards, posters, production files, programs, proofs, quotations, receipts, record books, research notes, scrapbooks, signs, telegrams, tickets, and visiting cards.
A large portion of this collection was previously accessible only through a card catalog, but has now been re-cataloged as part of a retrospective conversion project. At the same time, a number of uncataloged accessions were also cataloged and integrated into the existing collection. Two groups of previously restricted papers concerning Pablo Picasso and Paul Valéry are now open and available.
Among the numerous important literary and cultural figures and organizations represented in the collection are Pierre Albert-Birot, Guillaume Apollinaire, Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Charles Baudelaire, Samuel Beckett, André Breton, Albert Camus, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, René Char, Paul Claudel, Jean Cocteau, Colette, Maurice Darantière, Marcel Duchamp, Editions J.O. Fourcade, Paul Eluard, Léon-Paul Fargue, Paul Fort, Jean Genet, André Gide, Georges Hugnet, Valentine Hugo, Alfred Jarry, Georges Jean-Aubry, James Joyce, Librairie Dorbon-aîné, Pierre Louÿs, Stéphane Mallarmé, André Malraux, Henry Miller, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Proust, Maurice Raynal, Arthur Rimbaud, Henri-Pierre Roché, Maurice Saillet, Saint-John Perse, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Jean-Paul Sartre, Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Valéry, Paul Verlaine, Emile Vuillermoz, and Emile Zola.
A number of significant musical scores, letters, conductor's notes, and other manuscripts created by approximately one hundred composers are also found in the Lake Collection. Among these composers are Georges Auric, Hector Berlioz, Ernest Chasson, Claude Debussy, Paul Dukas, Gabriel Fauré, Franz Liszt, Maurice Ravel, Albert Roussel, Camille Saint-Saëns, Erik Satie, Igor Stravinsky, and Giuseppe Verdi.
Some of the highlights of the Lake Collection include:
Pierre Albert-Birot (1876-1967): the complete archive for the avant-garde review SIC (1916-1919); contains maquettes, page proofs, tear sheets, manuscripts, correspondence, and other original materials relating to Albert-Birot's founding and editorship of the magazine.
Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918): manuscript of the prologue of Les Mamelles de Tirésias; letters, handwritten notes, and other documents relating to the play and its production; manuscripts of works written for his column "La Vie anecdotique."
Louis Aragon (1897-1982): letters, manuscripts of poems and prose pieces, including a typescript of Le Cahier noir, a long and searching "reflection on love" related to his novel, La Défense de l'infini.
Antonin Artaud (1895-1948): significant correspondences with his publisher and other friends reflecting his disintegration into mental illness.
Georges Bataille (1897-1962): manuscripts of two of his major works, L'Orestie and Dianus [Histoire de rats. (Journal de Dianus)].
Baudelaire, Charles (1821-1867): the proof sheet of "Les Litanies de Satan" from Les Fleurs du mal (1857), with extensive corrections in Baudelaire's hand; handwritten manuscript of "La Charogne."
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989): multiple drafts of "Ceiling" and "The Way" ("8") as well as manuscripts of some of Beckett's other later works; letters to Georges Belmont and Rick Cluchey, and information on the 1992 and 1993 publications of his Dream of Fair to Middling Women.
André Breton (1896-1966): manuscripts relating to the Surrealist movement, including "13 études," "La Béauté sera convulsive ou ne sera pas," "Automatisme de la variante," and "Lumière Noire."
Albert Camus (1913-1960): manuscripts and letters, including manuscript of Le Malentendu and corrected page proofs of Les Justes; and manuscript of Discours de Suède, Camus's acceptance speech of the Nobel Prize.
Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1894-1961): the complete manuscript of Guignol's Band and its sequel, Le Pont de Londres, in combinations of handwritten manuscript, typescript, and corrected typescript with handwritten additions, totaling 4,022 pages; handwritten manuscript of Scandale aux abysses; also a moving correspondence with his friend Mourlet covering the war years and Céline’s exile in Denmark.
René Char (1907-1988): letters, including a large correspondence with Valentine Hugo, intimate friend of most of the surrealists; manuscripts of many of his major poems, including "Crésus" and "La Récolte injuriée."
Paul Claudel (1868-1955): manuscript of one of Claudel's essential works, Cinq grandes odes, which is eighty-eight pages. (Except for the first ode, the original manuscript of which has never been found, this manuscript is complete.)
Jean Cocteau (1889-1963): Cocteau's own archive covering approximately the period from the early 1900s to the mid 1930s and containing multiple drafts and publishing states of many of his major works (Vocabulaire, Le Coq et l'arlequin, Le Potomak, Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance, La Noce massacrée, Les Enfants terribles), notebooks with poems and plans for future works, and numerous correspondences with the leading figures of the era, including a large and witty exchange with Max Jacob.
Colette (1873-1954): manuscripts and letters of Sidonie Gabrielle Colette and her husband Willy (Henri Gauthier-Villars) include the manuscript of her novel Chéri, as well as other manuscripts and correspondence.
Paul Eluard (1895-1952): manuscripts of numerous poems; a handwritten manuscript of definitions prepared by Eluard and Breton for the Dictionnaire abrégé du surréalisme; letters, including a large, important correspondence with his lifelong friend from childhood, the binder A. J. Gonon.
Jean Genet (1910-1986): four heavily corrected draft versions of the play Haute Surveillance; complete manuscript of Genet's masterpiece, Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs.
André Gide (1869-1951): manuscript and corrected typescript of Isabelle; handwritten manuscript in two notebooks of Le Journal des Faux-monnayeurs; manuscript of L'École des femmes; an important correspondence with Eugène Rouart of over 300 letters and accompanying documents.
Georges Hugnet (1906-1974): handwritten and typed manuscripts, correspondence, printed material, photographs, collages, and artwork document the surrealist artist and poet Georges Hugnet's life and work. Included is a handwritten manuscript for Non vouloir (1940), one of the earliest French Resistance publications, as well as handwritten manuscripts, page proofs, and a published copy of Tout beau mon coeur that together illustrate the process of book production in the mid-1940s.
Valentine Hugo (1887-1968): a major portion of the archive of one of the most active figures of the French art and literary world. Correspondence, manuscripts, notes, journals, diaries, artwork, legal, financial and personal documents, photographs, printed material, and photocopies document her life. A large portion the materials relate to Jean Hugo, Valentine's husband.
Alfred Jarry (1873-1907): manuscripts for Léda, Le Mousse, Par la taille, Le Moutardier du pape, and La Papesse Jeanne; letters and documents relating to Ubu Roi, including a correspondence with Lugné-Poe in which Jarry proposes that Lugné-Poe produce the play.
Georges Jean-Aubry (1882-1950): a sizable portion of the papers of the versatile critic of art, music, and literature.
Librairie Dorbon-aîné: letters received by this firm, a Paris publisher and bookseller, and also Editions J.O. Fourcade, another Paris publisher, illustrate the business of selling books. This collection is dominated by received correspondence, but also includes financial and legal records, manuscripts, promotional materials, and publicity art work.
Pierre Louÿs (1870-1925): manuscripts, correspondence, and assorted personal and third-party papers of the French poet and novelist shed considerable light on his professional and private life.
Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898): handwritten letters to Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Huysmans, Coppée, Charles Morice, Edmund Gosse, John Payne, York Powell, Edouard Dujardin, Félix Fénéon, Courteline, Henri Cazalis, and Henry Roujon, among others, plus draft of a letter to Rimbaud's mother Marie Catharine Rimbaud.
André Malraux (1901-1976): complete set of galley proofs for La Condition humaine, heavily corrected by Malraux and with handwritten additions in his hand; complete handwritten manuscript of L'Espoir.
Marcel Proust (1871-1922): handwritten manuscript and proof fragments of À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs, plus another proof fragment, heavily revised; letters, in particular an interesting collection of seventy-eight notes from Proust to his housekeeper Céleste Albaret.
Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891): collection of numerous documents relating to Rimbaud's life and poetry, including manuscripts, letters, drawings, corrected proofs and similar materials by Rimbaud's sister, Isabelle; his brother-in-law, Paterne Berrichon, poet and artist; his teacher Georges Izambard, and other poets such as Paul Verlaine, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Claudel.
Henri-Pierre Roché (1879-1959): complete archive of the author of the novels Jules et Jim and Deux Anglaises et le continent, both of which were made into films by François Truffaut, including manuscripts of all of Roché's works, handwritten diaries and notebooks kept by Roché over his lifetime, as well as transcriptions for most typed by Truffaut's secretaries, documents relating to Roché's interests in the art world, and voluminous correspondences with such contemporaries as Guillaume Apollinaire, Georges Auric, Constantin Brancusi, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau, Marcel Duchamp, Marie Laurencin, Pablo Picasso, John Quinn, Albert Roussel, Gertrude Stein, Erik Satie, and Wols.
Maurice Saillet (1914-1990) Collection: an important group of materials documenting Sylvia Beach's personal life, her Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and her activities as the first publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses.
Saint-John Perse (Alexis Saint-Léger Léger, 1887-1975): corrected page proofs of Éloges, the book that established Saint-John Perse as a major poet; typescript, with handwritten emendations, of his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
Jean-Paul Sarte (1905-1980): manuscripts for over a dozen of his works, most of them political in nature, including Joseph Lebon (synopsis for a play based on the French Revolution), Liberté - Egalité (philosophical and historical study of the French Revolution); Questions de méthode, and L'Enfant et les groupes.
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946): her manuscripts, correspondence, financial and legal documents, address books, and personal papers were collected by Alice B. Toklas after Stein's death in 1946. Included are manuscripts or proofs of three works by Stein, Composition as Explanation, "From Dark to Day," and Before the Flowers of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded. The bulk of the collection comprises Toklas's incoming correspondence from approximately 250 correspondents.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901): papers from the family archive, consisting of nearly 400 handwritten letters by the artist, his mother, his grandmother, and other members of the immediate family, depicting the daily environment of a large and eccentric household constantly on the move from one family château to another, as well as the artistic development of the young Lautrec.
Paul Valéry (1871-1945): manuscripts for numerous poems and prose pieces, including a handwritten and typed manuscript for a discourse on history; a large number of letters and correspondences, notably a group of personal letters to John Middleton Murry in which Valéry discusses his feelings about poetry in general, about his own work, and about other writers--among them Baudelaire, Poe, and Gide--who interested him in particular; and another significant group of letters to Georges Jean-Aubry
In addition to this finding aid, several of the larger components of this collection have been described in additional individual finding aids: Samuel Beckett (3 boxes), Jean Cocteau (11 boxes), Françoise Gilot (9 boxes), Georges Hugnet (18.5 boxes), Valentine Hugo (21 boxes), Librairie Dorbon-aîné (13 boxes), Pierre Louÿs (9 boxes), Music (264 items), Henri-Pierre Roché (47 boxes), Maurice Saillet (4 boxes), and Gertrude Stein (9 boxes).

Related Material

Five early Lake Collection manuscripts dating from 1377-1698 are housed with the Ransom Center's Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts Collection (numbers HRC 121-125). Other segments of the Carlton Lake Collection at the Ransom Center are available in the Library, the Art Collection, the Photography Collection , the Personal Effects Collection, the Sound Recordings Collection, and the Vertical File Collection. Also held at the Ransom Center are separate collections of works by Samuel Beckett and Gertrude Stein. Related works and letters by authors found in the Lake Collection may also be found in the Artine Artinian Collection, which also contains a variety of French literary materials

Carlton Lake Collection--Container List