|The records of McSweeney's document the evolution of a startup quarterly literary
into an influential small publishing house that creates several serials and a growing
catalog of titles under its many book imprints. The bulk of the archive comprises
dummies, art, and proofs used to produce McSweeney's publications. The records are
into four series: Series I. Serials, 2001-2012, undated; Series II. Book Imprints,
(bulk 2002-2013), undated; Series III. Editorial and Administrative Files, circa 1930s-2013
(bulk 2000-2012), undated; and Series IV. 826 National, 2002-2008, undated.
|The McSweeney's materials lacked an overall physical order or arrangement when they
at the Ransom Center. McSweeney's unique history, including a staff primarily consisting
volunteers and interns with few permanent paid editors, all working in shifting capacities
on multiple projects, precludes arranging the material strictly by person, function,
department. Therefore, the arrangement of materials was created by the Ransom Center
reflect the publishing house's two main divisions as represented in this body of material:
serial publishing and book publishing. Also represented are general editorial and
administrative activities as well as McSweeney's involvement with philanthropic projects,
primarily the eight tutoring and writing centers operating under the umbrella organization
826 National. McSweeney's also operates a daily humor website, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, but it is not represented by material
in this archive.
|As the Ransom Center acquired the McSweeney's records from an ongoing business operation,
there aren't many documents associated with the active business aspect of the publishing
house. For example, reports, budgets, business plans, circulation analyses, contracts,
internal memoranda, and legal documents are not present. In addition, there is little
correspondence between editors and staff or editors and authors. One exception is
volume of cover letters that accompanied the unsolicited manuscripts and art submissions
sent to McSweeney's from writers and artists from around the world. The primary strength
the collection resides in the materials that reflect McSweeney's dedication to the
bookmaking, love of language, and focus on the concept of "book-as-object."
|Series I. Serials represents material associated with six serial publications: The Believer, The Goods, Grantland Quarterly, Lucky Peach, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly
Concern, and Wholphin. The series is arranged first
alphabetically by publication title and then chronologically by issue within each
flagship literary journal, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly
Concern, and monthly mainstay the Believer are represented with the bulk of the materials in this
series. Files are not present for every magazine or journal issue, and most of the
that do exist aren't comprehensive; therefore, it is not always possible to follow
issue through the publishing process from submission to final publication. The bulk
material in this series includes some original manuscripts and art, edited and unedited
proofs, article fact checks, cover dummies, and design mockups. Some of the manuscripts
include notes by editor Eli Horowitz and some proofs contain layout remarks by founding
editor Dave Eggers.
|The production files for the monthly arts and culture magazine the Believer, as originally maintained by editor Andi Mudd, included a
colored file folder for each issue with a checklist stapled on the front detailing
of the piece or column, the author, the editor of the piece, the status of the copy
(C/E), illustrations and images (IMGS), fact check status (F/C), and other notes.
original folders were not retained, but the checklist was removed, sleeved and placed
front of the new folder. On occasion, a piece may have been originally planned for
particular issue but was cut or published at a later date; such material may be filed
either issue. Some documents of particular interest include Kevin Moffett's annotated
of Dr. Leonard's catalog used for his essay published in issue 13, postcards included
issue 41 and mailed in by readers for the 2006 Believer Book Award Reader's Survey,
Janeane Garofalo's handwritten "Sedaratives" advice as guest columnist in issue 43,
screenplay Mexico by Werner Herzog considered for, but
ultimately not printed in, the 2012 Film Issue (Number 89).
|There is very little material associated with the syndicated weekly children's puzzle
The Goods. Present are Brian McMullen's drawing that appeared in
issue 9 and the San Francisco Chronicle page where the drawing was
published. The first forty-four issues of the Goods were compiled into a book published in October 2013, and the
proof for that book is filed in oversize box 3.
|McSweeney's was associated with the sports journal Grantland Quarterly for four issues, and the archive contains cover
dummies for issue numbers 1 and 4.
|Lucky Peach, the food journal launched in 2011 and published by
McSweeney's until 2013, is not well-represented in the archive and contains only partial
proofs for issue 1 and the fruit stickers included in issue 2. Of particular interest
hand-drawn logotype and cover lettering by Brian McMullen.
|Most issues of the innovative literary journal Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, from number 8 through number
42, are represented to some degree in this series, and materials document the editing,
design, and production of the journal through manuscripts, edited and unedited proofs,
and cover dummies, color swatches, original art, samples, mockups, and correspondence.
issue has a completely different design, and many issues were guest-edited by writers
artists such as Michael Chabon, Chris Ware, and Paul Maliszewski. Original manuscripts
established writers such as Sherman Alexie, Ann Beattie, Michael Chabon, Roddy Doyle,
Ellison, Denis Johnson, Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olmstead, and Susan
Straight, as well as emerging writers including Jessica Anthony, Daphne Beal, Doug
Adam Levin, and Wells Tower are filed under the numbered issue in which they appeared.
segment doesn't include material for the original first seven issues, but it does
dummies and booklets for the second edition of issue 4 published in 2010. Unsolicited
submission cover letters and some manuscript submissions are filed in boxes 101 through
as part of Series IV. Editorial and Administrative Files.
|As each issue of the Quarterly Concern has a new design, each issue
represented in the archive contains unique material, but there are several items of
particular interest. There were two goals for issue 10, titled McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, guest edited by
author Michael Chabon. The first goal was to introduce writers to genre fiction by
the most popular genre writers to contribute a piece and for non-genre writers to
in a new style. The second goal was to raise money for 826 Valencia tutoring center.
Subscribers of the Quarterly Concern received a version printed by
McSweeney's early Icelandic printer, Oddi, and rights for a separately sold edition
sold to Viking with proceeds going to the tutoring center. Included in the records
folders of proofs containing author queries and authors' edits from contributors Dan
Michael Chabon, Michael Crichton, Harlan Ellison, Karen Joy Fowler, Glen David Gold,
R. King, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Kelly Link, and Rick Moody.
|Also of interest are the twenty-minute stories submissions for issue 12 contributed
authors such as Charles Baxter, Benjamin Cheever, Jennifer Egan, Myla Goldberg, Jonathan
Lethem, David Shields, and Luis Alberto Urrea. A complete list of author submissions
included in the Index of Authors and Artists at the end of this finding aid.
|Material associated with issue 16 provides a good overview of the publishing process
includes original manuscripts from Anne Beattie and Adam Levin with editor's notes,
with copy-edits, printing proofs, color swatches, comb samples, and an early handmade
|Determining fact from fiction is sometimes difficult with McSweeney's publications,
issue 17 (known as the bundle of mail) demonstrated. The Yeti Researcher journal was so realistic, it wasn't uncommon for
people to believe the bundle of mail had been misdelivered and forward it to the fictitious
Sgt. Maria Vasquez at the given address. Folder 17.8 includes one such journal with
handwritten note attached. Also included in this segment is an unopened issue, so
original look and feel of the issue is preserved. An open issue is accessible via
serials section of the Ransom Center Library.
|Issue 33 was published as a full, multi-section, Sunday-edition-sized newspaper called
San Francisco Panorama. The paper included actual sports and comics
sections, a magazine, and investigative journalism with contributions from 218 writers
artists. The archive contains the files on the Bay Bridge and Sarah Palin stories
numerous fact checks. McSweeney's took great care in the design of each issue, and
research went into making a realistic and legitimate newspaper, as evidenced by the
of two boxes of sample newspapers and two boxes of newspaper dummies.
|Infamous issue 36 in the shape of a man's head demonstrates McSweeney's visionary
The archive includes mock-ups of each work included in the issue as well as two dummy
each containing various dummy booklets, postcards, and scrolls.
|Series II. Book Imprints contains production material for many of the books published
McSweeney's eight imprints and is arranged alphabetically by imprint: Believer Books,
Collins Library, McSweeney's Books and McSweeney's Rectangulars, McSweeney's Insatiables,
McSweeney's McMullens, McSweeney's Poetry Series, and Voice of Witness. Within each
the material is in alphabetical order by author. Material within author files is in
chronological order or in the logical order of production. For example, filed first
original submissions or manuscripts, then proofs, followed by materials associated
design of the book. The majority of publicity material is filed within Series III.
and Administrative Files.
|As with the serials, the bulk of this series comprises edited and unedited proofs,
mock-ups, dummy covers and books, and some original manuscripts. Beck's album Song Reader, which was published entirely as vintage sheet music,
contains numerous proofs, some with edits written in an unidentified hand, as well
yearbooks from Austin High School that Beck acquired and submitted to McSweeney's
samples. David Byrne's How Music Works includes an early chapter of Byrne's
manuscript with Eggers's edits, as well as numerous revised proofs. Michael Chabon's
Maps and Legends includes Eggers's original jacket design sketch.
Perhaps the best example of the editorial relationship established between author
is apparent in the multiple drafts and edits between Eli Horowitz and Millard Kaufman
Kaufman's novel Bowl of Cherries.
|William T. Vollmann's seven-volume study of violence, Rising Up and Rising Down, was one of McSweeney's most ambitious
publishing projects. Though many publishing houses were interested in publishing the
4,000-page manuscript with additional pages of annotations, footnotes, and illustrations,
most were daunted by the logistics of publishing such a work. In winter 2001, Eggers
to Vollmann and offered to publish it. At the time, McSweeney's had limited staff,
Horowitz was hired, in part, to oversee the complicated process of editing, fact checking,
and indexing the massive work. The archive contains twenty-one boxes of material including
copy of Vollmann's hand-numbered manuscript, extensive fact checks, drafts with copy-edits
and notes from Vollmann, and Vollmann's hand-picked image files.
|Material associated with McSweeney's McMullens, the children's book imprint that launched
in 2011, contains edited and unedited proofs, dummy books and covers, and dust jacket/poster
proofs. McSweeney's playful experimentation in book design is evident in the mock-up,
proofs, and dummies for Hang Glider & Mud Mask
(Brian McMullen and Jason Jägel, 2012). The original blow dryer, which served as the
inspiration for the heat-sensitive ink design of Jordan Crane's Keep Our Secrets, is housed in the Ransom Center's Personal Effects
|Surviving Justice: American's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated
was the first book published under the non-profit oral history imprint Voice of Witness,
it is the most completely documented work in this segment. The material includes files
each exoneree profiled in the book along with binders containing fact checks with
court documents and articles (for preservation purposes, the material was removed
binder), interview transcripts, drafts, and proofs of the edited interviews. Audio
recordings of many of the interviews were transferred to the Ransom Center's Sound
|The final section of the book imprints series contains "non-McSweeney's anthologies,"
consisting of foreign editions of McSweeney's books published by Hamish Hamilton and
McSweeney's content published by other publishers such as Chronicle Books, Big Picture
Press, Vintage, and Knopf. Also included in this material is a promotional chapbook
story written by Wells Tower. Tower quickly wrote the story about two brothers, primarily
from the perspective of one brother. Not satisfied with the original story, he later
to rewrite the story from the other brother's perspective. Both versions of the story
published first in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern (numbers 23 and 30),
and later in Tower's short story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
|As the primary focus of the McSweeney's Records is the editorial and design processes,
business files are present in very small numbers in Series III. Editorial and Administrative
Files. The series is arranged into four subseries: A. Editor and Staff Files, 2002-2012,
undated; B. Unsolicited Submissions and Correspondence, 2002-2011; C. Marketing and
Publicity, 2000-2013, undated; and D. Art and Design, circa 1930s-2010 (bulk 2005-2010),
undated, and includes correspondence, unsolicited submissions, and other material
with the day-to-day operations of McSweeney's.
|Subseries A. Editor and Staff Files contains material associated with Dave Eggers,
Hoff, Eli Horowitz, Andrew Leland, Brian McMullen, and Chris Ying. Many of McSweeney's
editors began as volunteers and/or interns and worked in different capacities and
on numerous McSweeney's publications and projects, making it difficult to assign them
specific job title or to particular publications. The subseries is ordered alphabetically
last name and concludes with a segment of material associated with various staff and
interns. Materials related to Dave Eggers include his original drawings for the McSweeney's
office at 849 Valencia and an editor's checklist he wrote with publisher Oscar Villalon.
bulk of material associated with Brent Hoff, Managing Editor of the film quarterly
Wholphin, includes over forty film and cinematography magazines and
journals he collected for reference and research. Eli Horowitz held many positions
McSweeney's from volunteer carpenter to editor, designer, managing editor, and publisher;
is also a published author. His file titled "Misc Documents" contains some notes from
work on Bowl of Cherries and The Instructions and includes one of the few contracts in the
archive, with Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren for their book Comedy by the Numbers. Two notebooks kept by Believer editor Andrew Leland are perhaps the most personal items in
the archive. The notebooks begin in the summer of 2003 and contain daily "to-do" lists,
editorial checklists, and other jottings giving a brief glimpse into the creative,
interesting, and mundane aspects of being an editor. Designer and editor Brian McMullen
filled multiple roles at McSweeney's, including artistic director and founding editor
namesake of the children's imprint McSweeney's McMullens. Two items of significant
are the literary journal Dancing Star, which McMullen submitted to McSweeney's as
application, and his original sketch of the McSweeney's McMullens logotype. Editor
Ying worked on several projects, including Voice of Witness publications, and co-founded
co-edits with David Chang (founder/owner of Momofuku group) the food journal Lucky Peach. One file includes his notes and sketches.
|Subseries B. Unsolicited Submissions and Correspondence is composed of editor's
correspondence, fan mail, general letters to McSweeney's, selected subscription cards
(including one completed by David Foster Wallace), contest submissions, and cover
that accompanied the many unsolicited book, short story, and non-fiction manuscripts,
well as poems, comics, and illustrations sent to the editors of McSweeney's. The editorial
correspondence is in alphabetical order by last name and is mostly a small sample
incoming correspondence. Andrew Leland's correspondence file includes an outgoing
(appears to be unsent) containing a letter to one of Leland's former Oberlin College
professors and three issues of the Believer (August 2003, December 2003/January 2004,
2004). A photocopy of each cover and table of contents is filed with the letter in
100.3, and the original issues were transferred to the serials section of the Ransom
Library. McSweeney's original chronological order of short story submissions from
2010 is maintained. Selected correspondence is listed in the Index of Correspondents
end of the finding aid. Submission letters are not indexed.
|Subseries C. Marketing and Publicity contains promotional material, McSweeney's catalogs,
posters for McSweeney's events, book reviews, and press about McSweeney's, as well
printed material, such as subscription cards and rejection cards. The series is in
alphabetical order by subject. Some items of particular interest include the Dzamamamamazd
card game designed by Marcel Dzama and given as a gift to re-subscribers and the Animal Man #1 comic book, which pays homage to the style and format
of the Believer interviews.
|Subseries D. Art and Design includes drawings and art used for merchandise and for
unrealized, or unidentified projects. Included in this series are more than forty
self-portraits drawn by actors, artists, filmmakers, and writers from Jonathan Ames
Silverman. McSweeney's planned to publish a book of self-portraits and many of these
portraits were published in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern
issue 34. This subseries also contains unidentified and/or unused color swatches,
books, covers, and mockups. Cards, photographs, and printed material that were loose
identified are arranged in a "Reference" file, with the presumption that these items
collected as samples for inspiration or other use, but a relationship to a specific
McSweeney's publication or project isn’t apparent.
|Series IV. 826 National contains material associated with the eight 826 writing and
tutoring center chapters located in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Washington D.C.,
Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Though each chapter is independently founded
managed, the umbrella organization 826 National provides support, leadership, and
resources to ensure the success of each chapter. McSweeney's staff and volunteers
on projects that support the centers, including publishing books with all proceeds
benefiting the organization, as well as offering design and editorial assistance with
publications. Included in the archive are postcards depicting Chris Ware's mural
illustrating the development of the human race and its need for different modes of
communication that adorns the exterior of 826 Valencia. Also included are assorted
|Some documents in the McSweeney's records contain personal information and are redacted
restricted to protect an individual's privacy. Examples are Social Security and account
numbers and personal records. The originals were removed and replaced with redacted
photocopies, which have an identifying statement at the top.
|Sticky notes were used frequently for editing purposes and affixed to numerous documents.
For preservation purposes, pages bearing sticky notes were photocopied in order to
the document's original layout. Depending on the nature of the note, the sticky notes
removed but retained either in a plastic or paper sleeve or placed on the photocopy.
|Selected correspondence from throughout the collection is listed in the Index of
Correspondents at the end of the finding aid. In general, fan mail and unsolicited
submission cover letters are not indexed.
|The Index of Writers and Artists with Original Works located at the end of the finding
contains a list of original or transcribed manuscripts, some unsolicited, that were
submitted to McSweeney's for publication or consideration.
|Descriptive terms used in the finding aid:
- Advance proof - A form of book privately released by the
publisher before the book is printed for mass distribution, so errors can be caught
before further printing. It is often sent to reviewers, distributors, book stores,
It generally lacks the final jacket design.
- Bound proof - In this collection, this term is used for a
bound set of 8.5x11 proofs.
- Chapbook - Historically, it is a small book or pamphlet
containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts. The term is still used today
refer to short, inexpensive booklets.
- Copy edits - Edits that improve the formatting, style,
and accuracy of text by correcting errors in spelling, grammar, and structure.
- Cover dummy - A book cover made of the material used in
actual production and shaped to the final form of the printed product, whereby its
physical qualities can be previewed.
- Dummy book - Unprinted or partially printed samples of a
projected publication and made of the material used in actual production to suggest
appearance of the completed work. Most of the dummy books in McSweeney's are white,
blank books or other layouts, such as boxes or slipcases.
- Jacket proof - Proof, usually printed on paper, of book
- Manuscript - Typed or computer printout of a work written
by an author; may be a photocopy.
- Partial Proofs - Incomplete samples or a particular
segment of copy, art, and layout produced at various stages in the production of the
regular edition, in order to correct, add to, or check the development of a work.
- Proofs - Samples of copy, art, and/or layout produced at
various stages in the production of the regular edition, in order to correct, add
check the development of a work. For McSweeney's, this includes computer printouts
the text layout used for copy-editing, color printers proofs used for color correction
and layout, and page proofs.
- Unbound signature proofs - or gatherings, are a group or
section of sheets, folded in the middle, and bound together with other gatherings