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Isaac Bashevis Singer:

An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Singer, Isaac Bashevis, 1904-1991
Title: Isaac Bashevis Singer Papers
Dates: 1923-1994
Extent: 176 boxes, 4 oversize boxes, 120 galley folders (77 linear feet)
Abstract: Most of Singer's fictional works and many of his nonfiction essays and reviews are represented in the papers. The Works series includes Singer's short stories, novels, radio scripts, stage and screenplays, articles, reviews, poems, introductions to books by other authors, and lectures. Most of Singer's translated novels and short stories appeared originally in Yiddish in the Jewish Daily Forward (Forverts) and so exist in both Yiddish and English, as well as other languages. Correspondence primarily consists of letters to Singer (although his outgoing letters to Alma Singer and a few others are present) and dates mostly from the 1940s until Singer's death in 1991. Singer's financial and legal papers, photographs and snapshots, notebooks and notes, various clippings and ephemera, and appointment books are also present, as are works about Singer and a variety of works by other authors. However, works by Singer's sister, Ester Kreytman, and brother Israel Joshua Singer, who were also novelists, are not included.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-3849
Language: English, Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Polish, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian
Access: Open for research with the exception of some correspondence restricted until 2025

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase, 1993 (R13091); Purchase, 1997 (R13914); Purchase, 1997 (R14002); Purchase, 1997 (R14063); Purchase, 2001 (R14963); Gift, 1995 (G10378); Gift, 1997 (G11136); Gift, 2000 (G11717)
Processed by: Lisa Jones, 1993; Katherine Mosley, 2004; Translation assistance from Joseph Sherman, Stephen Naron, Sarah Ponichtera, and Ilana Krygier

The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center

Biographical Sketch

Isaac Bashevis Singer was born Icek-Hersz Zynger on July 14, 1904, in Leoncin, Poland. His father, Pinkhos Menakhem Zynger, was a rabbi, and his mother, Batsheve Zylberman Zynger, was the daughter of a rabbi. From 1908 until 1917, the family lived on Krochmalna Street in Warsaw; in 1917, Singer, his mother, and his younger brother moved to his grandfather's shtetl in Bilgoray.
Although he was briefly enrolled in a rabbinical seminary in Warsaw, Singer, like his older brother, novelist Israel Joshua Singer, turned his attention away from the religious culture of his family. In 1923, he became a proofreader at the Yiddish literary journal Literarishe Bleter, co-founded and edited by his brother. Singer's first published story, "In Old Age" ("Oyf der elter"), appeared in that journal in 1925 and won an award in its literary contest. For the next decade, Singer continued to write short stories, articles, and reviews for the Yiddish and Hebrew press, but his primary income came from translations. He had particular success with his Yiddish translations of novels by Erich Maria Remarque, Knut Hamsun, and Thomas Mann.
In 1929, Singer's son by Runia Pontsch, Israel Zamir, was born. His first novel, Satan in Goray, was serialized in the periodical Globus in 1934 and published as a book by the Yiddish section of the Warsaw PEN Club in 1935. Singer left Poland in 1935 and followed I. J. Singer to New York, where both were employed by the Jewish Daily Forward (Forverts), the premier American newspaper of Yiddish language and culture. Forverts maintained a tradition of publishing literature and journalism for the Jewish immigrant culture. This publication became the springboard and showcase for Singer's life work as a writer; he published articles, short stories, and novel serializations, and conducted correspondence with other Yiddish authors under its banner until his death in 1991. Most of his translated novels and stories originally appeared in Forverts, usually under the pseudonym Isaac Bashevis. His other pseudonyms included Isaac Warshofsky and D. Segal.
In 1940, Singer married Alma Haimann Wasserman, an immigrant from Germany. They remained married until his death, although he was involved with other women. In 1943, Singer became a United States citizen. His brother, Israel Joshua Singer, who was a major influence on his life and career, died in the following year.
With the publication in English of his novel The Family Moskat in 1950, Singer gained a new audience, which then grew substantially after his short story "Gimpel the Fool" appeared in translation by Saul Bellow in the Partisan Review in 1953. Subsequent translators included Laurie Colwin, Ruth Schachner Finkel, Mirra Ginsburg, Elaine Gottlieb, Herbert Lottman, Aliza Shevrin, Elizabeth Shub, and his nephew Joseph Singer, among others. Singer continued to write in Yiddish, although the English translations served as the source of foreign translations. Singer usually made the first English translation of a story himself, dictating it to a translator who polished the text. Translations of Singer's short stories were published in Harper's, Commentary, Encounter, Playboy, Esquire, and other periodicals, and primarily in The New Yorker after 1967. Singer's chief English publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, published many collections of his short stories, as well as his best known novels, The Slave (1962), The Manor (1967), The Estate (1969), Enemies: A Love Story (1972), Shosha (1978), Scum (1991), The Certificate (1992), and memoirs, Love and Exile (1984).
The adaptation of Singer's work to the stage and screen began with his Forverts serialization of The Family Moskat, which was simultaneously broadcast live as a weekly radio soap opera on WEVD in New York. In addition to radio dramas, Singer wrote plays and at least five stage versions of his stories, including "Teibele and Her Demon" and "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy." Three of his novels have also been made into films: The Magician of Lublin (1978), Yentl (1983), and Enemies: A Love Story (1989).
Singer did not begin writing for children until he was in his sixties, but his first book, Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories (1966), received a Newbery Honor Book Award, as did The Fearsome Inn (1967) and another book of stories, When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw (1968). In 1970, he won the National Book Award for A Day of Pleasure: Stories of a Boy Growing Up in Warsaw. His works for children attracted some of the most famous illustrators of children's books in America, including Maurice Sendak, Nonny Hogrogian, Eric Carle, Uri Shulevitz, and Margot Zemach, and were translated into more than a dozen languages.
During his career, Singer received innumerable awards, citations, and honors, including honorary degrees from universities worldwide. His work was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978. Singer died in Surfside, Florida, on July 24, 1991.


Dictionary of Literary Biography
  • Volume 6: American Novelists Since World War II, Second Series. James E. Kibler, Jr., ed. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1980.
  • Volume 52: American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction. Glenn E. Estes, ed. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1986.
  • Volume 278: American Novelists Since World War II, Seventh Series. James R. and Wanda H. Giles, eds. Gale Group, 2003.
Hadda, Janet. Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
"Isaac Bashevis Singer." Contemporary Authors Online,, accessed 5 August 2004.
Kresh, Paul. Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Magician of West 86th Street. New York : Dial Press, 1979.

Scope and Contents

The papers of Isaac Bashevis Singer primarily date from his immigration to the U.S. in 1935 until his death in 1991, although a few manuscripts from as early as 1923 and as late as 1995 are present. The collection has been organized in seven series: I. Works (1926-94, nd, 103 boxes), II. Correspondence (1923, 1930-94, nd, 28 boxes), III. Financial and Legal Papers (1940-95, nd, 11 boxes), IV. Photographs and Works of Art (1930-95, nd, 7.5 boxes), V. Personal Files (1935-94, 11 boxes), VI. Works about Singer and His Work (1951-94, 6 boxes), and VII. Works by Other Authors (1775, 1929-91, 9.5 boxes).
Most of Singer's fictional works and many of his nonfiction essays and reviews are represented in the papers. The Works series includes Singer's short stories, novels, radio scripts, stage and screenplays, articles, reviews, poems, introductions to books by other authors, and lectures. Most of Singer's translated novels and short stories appeared originally in Yiddish in the Jewish Daily Forward, (Forverts,) and so exist in both Yiddish and English, as well as other languages. For any given work, there may be handwritten and typescript drafts, including printer's copies; proofs; layout material; dust jackets; tearsheets; clippings of the printed text; translations; advertisements; or reviews. Many works were adapted for radio, the stage, or the screen, and these may also be represented by programs, production photographs, or posters. Numerous unidentified works and fragments, many of which are probably unpublished, are filed at the end of the series.
Correspondence primarily consists of letters to Singer (although his outgoing letters to Alma Singer and a few others are present) and dates mostly from the 1940s until Singer's death in 1991, with a few exceptions. The majority of the letters are from fans, friends, family members, agents, publishers, periodicals, translators, and colleges or organizations arranging lecture appearances. Languages represented in the correspondence include English, Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and Russian. Among notable correspondents are family members Israel Joshua Singer, Ester Kreytman, Runia Pontsch, Israel Zamir, and Batsheve Zylberman; friends and fellow authors Melech Ravitch, Abraham Sutzkever, and Itzhak Yanazowicz; literary agents at Lescher & Lescher; and publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Financial and legal papers provide information about Singer's publishing income; among these are contracts and agreements, royalty and earnings statements, checking and savings account information, and tax files. Passports, copyrights, and estate papers are also present.
Numerous photographs and snapshots of Singer, his family, and friends are present, as are portraits of Singer by various artists and other artwork by well-known artists and admirers.
Notebooks and notes, various clippings and ephemera, and appointment books are among Singer's personal files in the archive. Singer's many awards and honors are represented by diplomas, certificates, programs, and correspondence. Materials relating to Singer's memberships in various organizations include identification cards, receipts, and newsletters. Programs, correspondence, and other items concerning his lecture appearances conclude the personal files.
Works about Singer consist of clippings, interviews, and bibliographies, as well as articles, theses, poems, and books.
Works by other authors include published and unpublished works which for the most part were sent to Singer by their authors, either in admiration of his work, or for his advice or approval. Although Singer's sister, Ester Kreytman, and his brother Israel Joshua Singer were both novelists, their manuscripts are not present.
Books, personal effects, and sound and video recordings have been removed from the archive and cataloged separately.
A Note about Translation:
Translations of titles and information about contents of Yiddish and Hebrew manuscripts was provided by Joseph Sherman, Stephen Naron, Sarah Ponichtera, and Ilana Krygier. Their translation notes are written on yellow paper and are scattered throughout the manuscripts. Spellings of Yiddish titles of Singer's works, and their English equivalents, are primarily taken from bibliographies by Roberta Saltzman (Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Bibliography of His Works in Yiddish and English, 1960-1991, Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2002) and David Neal Miller (Bibliography of Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1924-1949, New York: P. Lang, 1983 ). Sarah Ponichtera also transcribed the names of many Yiddish and Hebrew correspondents.

Series Descriptions

Related Material

Other manuscripts relating to I. B. Singer at the Ransom Center may be found in the Singer Collection as well as the Joann Biondi, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Paul Kresh, Elizabeth Shub, and Dvorah Telushkin papers. Artwork by Sylvia Ary, including a portrait of Singer and her illustrations for some of his short stories, are housed in the Center's Art Collection.

Separated Material

The following books and journal have been removed from the archive and cataloged separately with the Center's book holdings:
  • Berman, Louis A. Vegetarianism & The Jewish Tradition. New York: Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1982
  • Long Shot, vol. 5. New Brunswick, N.J.: Long Shot Productions, 1987
  • Shulevitz, Uri. Writing with Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Children's Books. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1985
The following items have been removed from the archive and housed with the Center's film recordings:
  • VHS tape, labeled 'Singer 631-578-00 59'30" NTSC/VHS'
  • VHS tape, labeled in Yiddish
  • VHS tape of "Zlateh the Goat," Weston Woods, 1973
  • 8mm film reel of "The First Schlemiel," produced by students of John David Flegenhiemer Maxwell at M.D. Silva Intermediate School in Newark, California.
The following items have been removed from the archive and housed with the Center's sound recordings:
  • "Singer," Nobel Prize acceptance speech, interview, [1978], compact disc
  • Singer on WRFM, 1 Dec. 1967, 3-3/4 ips 7" sound reel
  • "Singer on Outlook," 23 Oct. 1984, audio cassette tape
  • "Author Singer with Dick Cavett, NETTV," audio cassette tape
  • "CBC Tuesday Night," July 1976, two audio cassette tapes
  • "Singer/Nobel Winner TV News Capsules in Composite Form...From Tony Janak," audio cassette tape
  • Singer, 29 Jan. 1964, 7" sound reel
  • Singer lecture, "The Kabbala and Modern Man," at 1976 Panarion conference, with Edward F. Edinger's "The Alchemical Solution: A Station on the Way of Individuation," two audio cassettes
  • Singer lecture, Slippery Rock College, 11 March 1970, 7" sound reel
  • Singer lecture, Temple Emanuel, Lynbrook, L.I., 18 August 1965, 7" sound reel
  • Singer in a two hour summer seminar with the Dane Co. Mental Health Center, 1968, 3-3/4 ips 7"sound reel
  • Park Avenue Synagogue, Friday evening services, 2 March 1962, Side 1-Lecture by Rabbi Nadich titled "The Strange World of I. B. Singer," Side 2-Reception in honor of Mr. and Mrs. I.B. Singer, 3-3/4 ips 7" sound reel
  • "Isaac Bashevis Singer Reads in Yiddish: 'Big and Little,' 'Shiddah and Kuziba,' 'The Man Who Came Back,'" 33-1/3 rpm LP recording, two copies
  • "Isaac Bashevis Singer Reads in Yiddish: 'Gimpel the Fool' and 'The Man Who Came Back,'" 33-1/3 rpm LP recording, two copies
  • "Mazel and Shlimazel," Famous Author/Illustrator Filmstrips, two audio cassette tapes
  • "Why Noah Chose the Dove," Famous Author/Illustrator Filmstrips, audio cassette tape
  • "Eli Wallach Reads Isaac Bashevis Singer," Newbery Award Records, 33-1/3 rpm LP recording
  • Dan Eshel reading "Fool's Paradise" from Zlateh the Goat and other Stories by I. B. Singer, 7-1/2 ips 7" sound reel
  • The Magician of Lublin, 5" sound reel
  • "Adlai E. Stevenson: A Portrait through Excerpts from His Most Memorable Speeches," 33-1/3 rpm LP recording
  • "The Play of Herod: A Medieval Musical Drama as presented at the Cloisters, the Metropolitan Museum of Art," New York, 33-1/3 rpm LP record, 2 disc set
  • [Gipsy folk music], USSR "Romen" Theatre Actors' Ensemble, 33-1/3 rpm LP record
  • "Barbra Streisand," 33-1/3 rpm LP recording, promotional copy, cover inscribed to Singer
  • [Barbra Streisand], "Classical Barbra," 33-1/3 rpm LP recording, promotional copy
  • [Barbra Streisand], "People," 33-1/3 rpm LP recording, promotional copy
  • "Bob Wilson and Cosmic Background Radiation," audio cassette tape
  • "Sutherland Brothers & Quiver" and "POCO," audio cassette tape
  • Unidentified Polish recording, audio cassette tape
  • Unidentified 3" sound reel, sent by Advertisers' Broadcasting Co., nd
  • Unidentified 7" sound reel
  • Unidentified 'special events' recording by Custom Recording Co., 33-1/3 rpm LP record, two discs
The following items have been removed from the archive and housed with the Center's personal effects:
  • Academic Regalia
    • Black/white/red
    • Black/white/pale blue
    • Black/white/purple
    • Black/white/gold
    • Black/white
    • Purple/gold
    • Black/gold/gray
    • Black/white/pale blue
    • Navy/blue/white
    • Green/white
    • Burgundy/black/white
    • Pale green/black/white
    • Purple/black/white
    • Green plaid/black/white
    • Gold/black/white
    • Red/black/white
    • Burgundy/black/white
    • Purple/gold/white
    • Burnt orange/white/black
    • Gold/white/black
  • Hats
    • Brown fedora (Chapeau Fle'chet, 1937)
    • Straw hat (Sheldons)
    • Brown fedora (Borsalino)
    • Black fedora
    • Yarmulke
  • Eyeglasses (11 pairs)
  • Miscellaneous
    • Digital watch
    • Medals (Jewish Academy of Arts and Sciences, UCLA, Liberty Award from NYC, Fiction award from Brandeis, Miami Beach award)
    • Wallet full of receipts
    • Clip-on bowtie
    • 2 white handkerchiefs
    • Stamp for depositing checks Sun Bank of Miami
    • 1 pkg. of sacrinpak tablets
    • Rubber stamp (check endorsement)
    • Wrist watch with brown leather strap
    • Letter opener
    • Identification tag
    • Leather key fob with yale key
    • Eyeglass case
    • 2 yellow pills
    • Pair of women's nylons
    • Pair of green socks
    • 8x10 silver-plated picture frame
    • Yellow and blue ribbon
    • 2 Schick razor blades
    • Check #1137 from Patrick Eddington (13 Feb. l984)
    • Wood engraving of man (possibly Jesus?) by G. Simoneaux
    • Plastic square picture box containing 5 photographs
    • Framed menorah stitchery by Aurem Snades
    • Framed text of the Nobel Lecture by Singer (New York Times, 9 Dec. 1978)
  • Typewriters
    • Royal Aristocrat (manual)
    • Royal Quiet Deluxe (manual)
    • Typewriter CBM40 with Yiddish keyboard (manual)
    • Underwood with Yiddish keyboard (manual)
    • Royal with Yiddish keyboard in straw-colored case
  • Awards
    • Sinai Scroll Award (20 Oct. 1979)
    • Wooden stand with circular glass in center (inverted B with leaves)
    • Golden Quill Award (28 April l981) presented by the Golden Slipper Club
    • Medallion – George Frideric Handel 1685-1759 presented to Singer by Edward I. Koch, Mayor of New York City, 23 June 1986
    • Medallion – The National Arts Club Medal of Honor, 1980
    • Medallion – Republican Presidential Task Force Medal of Merit – presented by Ronald Reagan
    • Medallion – The Lotus Club 90th anniversary commemoration
    • Medallion – Frank L. Weil Award, 1984
    • Medallion – Hofstra University Presidential Medal, 5 Dec. 1979
    • College of Arts and Sciences Alumni Association, University of Miami Outstanding Professor, l980
    • The National Conference of Christians & Jews Brotherhood Award, 16 May 1979
    • S.Y. Agnon Gold Medal Award, 1975
    • The Shirley Kravitz Children's Book Award for 1972
    • Jewish Book Council of Greater Los Angeles and the Jewish Centers Association of Los Angeles, 25 November l964
    • The Decalogue Society of Lawyers Award of Merit for the year 1979
    • National Book Award for Children's Literature presented to Isaac Bashevis Singer for A Day of Pleasure, 4 March 1970
    • National Book Award for Fiction presented to Isaac Bashevis Singer on 18 April 1974 for A Crown of Feathers and Other Stories
    • National Institute of Arts and Letters – Singer elected to membership at the annual meeting held in the City of New York, 1965
    • Cvratores – Collegii- Bardiani – Honorary Doctor of Letters
    • Brandeis University Creative Arts Award Commission Medal of Achievement
    • Buber-Rosenzweig medallion 1981
    • Sacred Heart University Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, 19 Nov. 1978
    • Jersey City State College Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, June 1981
    • University of Central Florida Honorary Doctor of Letters, 1986
    • The Anshe Emet Synagogue Rabbi Solomon Goldman Award, 19 Oct. 1979
    • New York University Presidental Citation, 25 April 1979
    • New York University School of Education, Health, Nursing and Art Professionals Annual Award for Creative Leadership, 20 Oct. 1983
    • Gustavus Adolphus College Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Oct. 1980
    • Brooklyn College of the City of New York Honorary Doctor of Letters, June 1981
    • Yiddish Nobel Fest, 9 Dec. 1978, Ungdomsfonden (Jewish Youth Foundation, Sweden)
    • Long Island University Doctor of Letters, Honoris Causa, 9 June 1978
    • New York University Honorary Doctor of Letters, 5 June 1980
    • Carnegie-Mellon University Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, May 1978
    • Collegii of Washingtoniensis et Jeffersoniensis Honorary Doctor of Letters, June 1980
    • University of Connecticut Honorary Doctor of Letters, May 1985
    • Saint James Cathedral Basilica, The Composteia Award, 3 June 1983
    • The Holocaust Humanitarian Award, Holocaust Memorial Committee, 1 June 1986, Holocaust Memorial Hall, Brooklyn, New York
    • The American-Israel Arts, Sciences and Humanities Award, New York City, 30 May 1979
    • The American Jewish Committee and Editors of the Present Tense Second Annual Kenneth B. Smilen/Present Tense Literary Award, 1980
    • Bard College Arts and Letters Award, 14 May 1980
    • The Jewish Vegetarian Society of North America First International Convention, 21 June 1986
    • Lincolnwood Library 1981 Distinguished Writer's Award, 4 May 1981
    • Honorable Menschen Award to Isaac Bashevis Singer for his devotion to the Jewish people, Jewish Identity Workshop, 1991
    • Temple Emanuel of Great Neck (N.Y.) – Presented to Isaac Bashevis Singer Nobel/Laureate in grateful appreciation of his contribution to world literature, 30 Nov. 1978

Index Terms


Alyagon, Ophra.
Ary, Sylvia.
Bay, Marie-Pierre.
Bergner, Herz, 1907-1970.
Carr, Maurice.
Congrat-Butlar, Stefan.
Cukierkopf, Maximo.
Cutler-Shaw, Joyce, 1932- .
Faerstein, Chana.
Farrell, Grace, 1947- .
Farrell, James T. (James Thomas), 1904-1979.
Finkel, Ruth.
Friedman, Eve.
Fuchs, A. M.
Gerber, Doba.
Hamer-Jacklyn, Sarah.
Handel, Natan.
Hemley, Cecil.
Hindus, Milton.
Hirsch, Karl-Georg.
Howe, Irving.
Kershner, Irvin.
Kohner, Frederick.
Korn, Rachel H. (Rachel Häring), b. 1898.
Ḳreyṭman, Ester, 1891-1954.
Levine, Anna Maria.
Lottman, Herbert R.
Lurie, Frida.
Mercier, Vivian, 1919-1989.
Midwood, Barton, 1938- .
Miller, Henry, 1891-1980.
Moskowitz, Ira.
Palatnik, Rosa, 1904-1979.
Perlow, Itzjok, 1911-1980.
Pontsch, Runia.
Pryce-Jones, David, 1936- .
Ravitch, Melech, 1893-1976.
Richter, Conrad, 1890-1968.
Rovit, Honey.
Schwartz, Howard, 1945- .
Sendak, Maurice.
Sheffer, Isaiah.
Shevrin, Aliza.
Shṭuḳer-Payuḳ, Mashe.
Shub, Elizabeth.
Shub, Mona.
Silver, Joan Micklin.
Singer, Alma Haimann Wasserman.
Singer, Batsheve Zylberman.
Singer, Israel Joshua, 1893-1944.
Soyer, Raphael, 1899-1987.
Spiegel, Moshe.
Sutzkever, Abraham, 1913- .
Szczesniak, Boleslaw B.
Tenenbaum, Shea, 1910-1989.
Tussman, Malka Heifetz, 1896-1987.
Vonnegut, Kurt.
Welczer, Anna.
Wescott, Glenway, 1901- .
Whitman, Ruth, 1922- .
Yanasowicz, Itzhak, 1909- .
Zamir, Israel, 1929- .
Zeitlin, Aaron, 1898-1973.


Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
Harper & Row, Publishers.
Lescher & Lescher, Ltd.


Authors, American.
Authors, Yiddish.
Children's stories, Yiddish.
Jewish authors.
Jewish folk literature.
Jewish literature.
Jews -- Social life and customs -- Fiction.
Jews, Polish.
Short stories, Jewish.
Yiddish literature.


Poland -- Social life and customs -- 1918-1945.

Document Types

Bank statements.
Business cards.
Financial records.
Galley proofs.
Greeting cards.
Hanukkah cards.
Hanukkah cards.
Tax records.

Container List