January 23, 2022

Princeton University Library Opens Major Portion of Toni Morrison Papers Now Open to Students, Scholars

From the Princeton University Library:

The Princeton University Library has announced that the major portion of the Toni Morrison Papers — part of the permanent library collections since 2014 — is open for research to University students, faculty and scholars worldwide as of this week.

From early handwritten drafts of novels on yellow notepads to an unpublished play, lectures, and literary and professional correspondence, the papers contain archival materials that document the life and work of Morrison, the Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, at Princeton University, and the 1993 Nobel laureate in literature.


The papers — which are held in the Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections — were gathered from multiple locations over more than two decades, beginning with the files recovered by the Library’s Preservation Office after the tragic fire that destroyed Morrison’s home in 1993. In the past 18 months, the most significant of the papers have been carefully organized, described, cataloged and selectively digitized. Research access to these digital files will be provided in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room.

Most important for researchers are the author’s manuscripts, drafts and proofs for the novels “The Bluest Eye” (1970), “Sula” (1973), “Song of Solomon” (1977), “Tar Baby” (1981), “Beloved” (1987), “Jazz” (1992), “Paradise” (1997), “Love” (2003), “A Mercy” (2008), “Home” (2012) and “God Help the Child” (2015). Study of Morrison’s manuscripts illustrates her working methods of writing and revision, and they help trace the genesis of particular works, from early ideas and preliminary research; to handwritten drafts, most often written with No. 2 pencils on legal-size yellow notepads, which contain notes, early draft material, and inserts for later typed and printed versions.


Also valuable for researchers is Morrison’s literary and professional correspondence, including letters from Maya Angelou, Houston Baker, Toni Cade Bambara, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Leon Higginbotham, Randall Kennedy, Ishmael Reed, Alice Walker, and others. Additional literary correspondence is found in Morrison’s selected Random House editorial files, where her authors included James Baldwin, Toni Cade Bambara, Angela Davis and Julius Lester. Morrison also retained drafts, proofs and publication files related to two works by Toni Cade Bambara, which Morrison posthumously edited for publication; as well as photocopies of selected correspondence of James Baldwin, 1957-1986, and materials relating to the Baldwin estate.

By spring 2017, the remaining Morrison Papers will also be available for research, including teaching files from her Princeton office, fan mail, appointment books, photographs, works written in Morrison’s youth, memorabilia and press clippings. Complementing the papers are printed editions of Morrison’s novels and other published books; translations of her works into more than 20 languages; and a selection of annotated books. Morrison’s additional manuscripts and papers will be added over time.

MUCH More About the Toni Morrison Papers

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) 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 Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.