Here’s some uplifting news for any of you out there who fear for the future of the print library. The New York Public Library has just announced its acquisition of the archive of the New York Review of Books, “the nation’s premier intellectual forum offering authoritative debates and reports on culture, economics, and politics.” And it’s gaining “about 3,000 linear feet of manuscript material from the publication” for its Manuscripts and Archives Division.
The NYRB is still indispensable reading for writers and intellectuals everywhere, Yours Truly included. Just a few examples of the kind of gems in the collection, cited in the announcement, are “a telegram from poet Robert Lowell to the Review with his prose poem ‘Judgment Deferred on Lieutenant Calley’,” “unpublished material that was rejected by the Review, including pieces by Joseph Brodsky, Nadine Gordimer, Norman Mailer, Bernard Lewis, John Hollander, and others,” and “A nine-page letter from 1979 headed ‘not for publication’ from Henry Kissinger.” According to the NYPL, “editorial correspondence is in the form of letters, telegrams, telexes, faxes, as well as emails. The archive is also full of drafts and carbons (with handwritten notes from the editors and writers), manuscript and typescript submissions, revisions, article copy, and galleys – all showing the collaborative process of editing a piece that could take several months or sometimes even years.”
Much of that, in due course, will probably be digitized. But you couldn’t wish for a clearer demonstration of how important physical library archives are to intellectual history – and in many cases, actual history. Or of the importance of libraries per se.