May 17, 2022

Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library Houses a History of Publishing

From Columbia News:

Within the Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s (RBML) trove of publishing industry records is a single index card that notes the delivery of a manuscript by an unpublished author titled Go Set a Watchman. It is the only known record of the first draft of a novel that would become the 1960 blockbuster To Kill A Mockingbird.


“A publisher’s archive allows researchers a glimpse of the conversations, compromises and contingencies that determined which ideas were put into circulation at a historical moment,” said Karla Nielsen, the library’s curator of literature, who has organized a small collection of Lee-related items now on view at the library. “They show how literature has been shaped by editorial and marketing departments as well as authors.”


The publishing archives are just one part of a wide-ranging collection that spans 4,000 years, measures 14 miles and includes 500,000 rare books. The publishing records, which include items from agents, editors, book designers and more, shed light on the history of an industry still centered in New York City. Scholars hoping to learn more about James Baldwin’s Native Son and Baldwin’s creative partnership with his editor Sol Stein, for instance, might seek out Stein’s papers.

Read the Complete Article

See Also: RBML Blog 

See Also: Columbia University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library Digital Collections

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.