University LibrariesDigital CollectionsHomeCatalogResearch PortAsk us!Archives UM HomeSpecial CollectionsSearchAbout Archives UMHelpHow Do I...?Site Index A-ZSearch

Seymour Lawrence papers


Seymour Lawrence papers
Lawrence, Seymour
Collection number:
3.75 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
Literature and Rare Books
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

Seymour Lawrence (1926-1994) was Katherine Anne Porter's publisher, first at Atlantic Monthly Press and later with Seymour Lawrence, Inc., his independent imprint. He was also associated with Alfred Knopf, Dell/Delacorte, E. P. Dutton, and Houghton Mifflin. As editor-in-chief at Atlantic Monthly Press, Lawrence oversaw the publication of Ship of Fools, Porter's novel. The collection consists of correspondence, galley proofs, editing notes, and clippings documenting Lawrence's editorial projects and interactions with various authors. Among the significant correspondents represented in the collection are Katherine Anne Porter, Glenway Wescott, and Mark Van Doren.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Seymour Lawrence papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

Seymour Lawrence, an independent publisher of important American and international writers, was born on February 11, 1926, in New York City, the son of Jack and Sophie L. Lawrence. He graduated from Harvard University in 1948 and began his career in publishing by becoming a college traveler, or academic trade representative, for the Van Nostrand Company, a publisher of college textbooks. In 1950 he became a special assistant to the editor of Atlantic Monthly and by 1952 had risen to the position of associate editor of Atlantic Monthly Press. In succession, he became director and editor-in-chief for Atlantic Monthly. He left Atlantic Monthly in 1964 to become editorial vice-president for Alfred Knopf, Inc., another highly respected publishing house.

He launched his own personal imprint, Seymour Lawrence, Inc., in 1965, with only one book, The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy. His imprint, a small separate publishing division under his name, allowed Lawrence to assume responsibility for finding, nurturing, and publishing new writers. He was well-known throughout the publishing industry as someone who would provide much needed support, whether financial or psychological, to the writers he had discovered. His imprint was a division of the larger publishing company Dell/Delacorte for seventeen years until the company declined to renew his co-publishing agreement in 1982. He continued his career and imprint with the publishing company, E. P. Dutton, Inc., for six years and, in 1988, affiliated with Houghton Mifflin.

Among the distinguished authors published by Mr. Lawrence were Katherine Anne Porter, Kurt Vonnegut, J. P. Donleavy, Thomas Berger, Richard Brautigan, William Saroyan, and Frank Conroy. He also published the works of four authors who won the Nobel Prize for Literature: Miguel Ángel Asturias, Camillo José Cela, Pablo Neruda, and George Seferis. Seymour Lawrence was responsible for publishing such memorable books as: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, Going After Caciato by Tim O'Brien, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

He married Merloyd Ludington on June 21, 1952, and they had two children, a daughter, Macy, and a son, Nicholas. He was divorced in February 1984 and in later years lived with Joan Williams, a novelist and short story writer.

He died on January 4, 1994, from complications suffered during a heart attack which struck him while he was in Florida. The New York Times obituary of Lawrence included the following characterization:

Mr. Lawrence's authors described him as a publisher who was passionately committed to writers and writing, but who was not always tolerant of "misguided reviewers" or the publishing bureaucracy.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The papers of Seymour Lawrence, the majority of which consist of correspondence between Lawrence and Katherine Anne Porter, span the period from 1955 to 1980. The collection also contains correspondence with Glenway Wescott; Cyrilly Abels, Porter's literary agent; Fred Warburg of Martin, Secker & Warburg, Porter's English publishers; artist Ben Shahn; and Mark Van Doren; as well as Little Brown/Atlantic Monthly internal business correspondence and memoranda. In addition the collection includes manuscript pages, the setting copy, galleys, and page proofs of Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools, as well as a synopsis for "No Safe Harbor," an early title for Ship of Fools. The typescript for Porter's A Christmas Story and a mock-up of the book can also be found in the collection. The final segment of the collection is comprised of clippings of reviews and of articles as well as copies of scholarly criticism of Porter's work.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland at College Park Libraries received the papers of Seymour Lawrence in two parts. The first part, consisting of three linear feet of correspondence, manuscript material, galleys, and published materials about Porter, was purchased by the Libraries in 1981. The second portion, of approximately one fourth of a linear foot, was acquired in 1985. This portion included additional correspondence between Lawrence and Porter, Atlantic Monthly, and foreign publishers as well as criticism of Porter's work.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by: Mary Boccaccio, 1982. Addendum incorporated and guide revised by: Karen J. Fishman, 1994. Box list revised: November 2009.

Processing note:

When the first portion of the collection was processed in 1982, it was arranged into one roughly alphabetical series of subjects and correspondents; the material in individual categories was arranged chronologically. When the entire collection was reprocessed in 1994, it was divided into three series, incorporating the materials of the second portion acquired in 1985 into the previously processed collection. All the correspondence was placed in one series and arranged chronologically. All the materials relating to the publication of Ship of Fools and A Christmas Story were separated into a second series. The published material about Porter and her work was placed into a third series. Staples were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Newspaper clippings and magazine articles were copied onto acid-free paper and the originals destroyed. The collection has been placed in acid-free folders in acid-free boxes.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Michael Yates.

Arrangement of Collection

The materials have been divided into three series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1955-1980 (2.5 linear feet)

This series contains letters, postcards, telegrams, memoranda, and greeting cards. Most of the correspondence is that exchanged between Katherine Anne Porter and Seymour Lawrence over the course of twenty-five years. There is also in-house correspondence between Lawrence and his staff at Atlantic Monthly; correspondence between his assistants and Miss Porter; and business correspondence with Cyrilly Abels, Martin, Secker & Warburg, Ltd., and Glenway Wescott. Among other notable correspondents represented in the series are Katherine Cornell, Graham Greene, George Plimpton, and John Prince. Subjects discussed include Miss Porter's health and publishing projects. The correspondence is arranged chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Correspondence, 1955 series 1box 1folder 1
Correspondence, 1955 and undated series 1box 1folder 2
Correspondence, January-June 1956 series 1box 1folder 3
Correspondence, July-December 1956 series 1box 1folder 4
Correspondence, 1957 series 1box 1folder 5
Correspondence, 1958 series 1box 1folder 6
Correspondence, 1959 series 1box 1folder 7
Correspondence, 1960 series 1box 2folder 1
Correspondence, January-June 1961 series 1box 2folder 2
Correspondence, July-September 1961 series 1box 2folder 3
Correspondence, October-December 1961 series 1box 2folder 4
Correspondence, January-February 1962 series 1box 2folder 5
Correspondence, March 1962 series 1box 2folder 6
Correspondence, April 1962 series 1box 2folder 7
Correspondence, May-June 1962 series 1box 2folder 8
Correspondence, July-September 1962 series 1box 3folder 1
Correspondence, October-November 1962 series 1box 3folder 2
Correspondence, December 1962 series 1box 3folder 3
Correspondence, January-March 1963 series 1box 3folder 4
Correspondence, April-June 1963 series 1box 3folder 5
Correspondence, July-December 1963 series 1box 3folder 6
Correspondence, January-June 1964 series 1box 4folder 1
Correspondence, July-December 1964 series 1box 4folder 2
Correspondence, 1965 series 1box 4folder 3
Correspondence, 1966 series 1box 4folder 4
Correspondence, January-June 1967 series 1box 4folder 5
Correspondence, July-December 1967 series 1box 4folder 6
Correspondence, January-July 1968 series 1box 4folder 7
Correspondence, August-December 1968 series 1box 4folder 8
Correspondence, January- May 1969 series 1box 5folder 1
Correspondence, June-December 1969 series 1box 5folder 2
Correspondence, 1970 series 1box 5folder 3
Correspondence, 1971 series 1box 5folder 4
Correspondence, 1972 series 1box 5folder 5
Correspondence, 1973 series 1box 5folder 6
Correspondence, 1974 series 1box 5folder 7
Correspondence, 1975 series 1box 5folder 8
Correspondence, 1976 series 1box 5folder 9
Correspondence, 1977 series 1box 5folder 10
Correspondence, 1978 series 1box 5folder 11
Correspondence, 1979 series 1box 5folder 12
Correspondence, 1980 series 1box 5folder 13
Correspondence, undated series 1box 5folder 14

Series 2: Notes, Manuscripts, and Galleys, 1942?-1967 (0.75 linear feet)

The materials in this series are related to the publication of Ship of Fools and A Christmas Story. Materials concerning Ship of Fools include a synopsis of "No Safe Harbor," an early title for Ship of Fools; miscellaneous undated manuscript pages; manuscripts and galleys for two excerpts published in Atlantic Monthly in March and April 1956; the copy of the manuscript used to set the novel in type for printing with Miss Porter's corrections; and master galleys and page proofs corrected in Miss Porter's hand. The material related to A Christmas Story consists of a carbon copy of the typed manuscript and a mock up of the book showing placement of text and illustrations. The materials are arranged alphabetically by title. The Ship of Fools materials are ordered chronologically.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
A Christmas Story, [1967] series 2box 1folder 1
Ship of Fools -- ("No Safe Harbor" Synopsis), [1942?] series 2box 1folder 2
Ship of Fools -- (Miscellaneous Manuscript pages), 1958-1961 and undated series 2box 1folder 3
Ship of Fools -- (Atlantic Monthly excerpt), March 1956 series 2box 1folder 4
Ship of Fools -- (Atlantic Monthly excerpt), April 1956 series 2box 1folder 5
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [Prelims and pp. 1-57], [1961] series 2box 1folder 6
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [pp. 58-131], [1961] series 2box 1folder 7
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [pp. 132-220], [1961] series 2box 1folder 8
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [pp. 221-299], [1961] series 2box 1folder 9
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [pp. 300-353], [1961] series 2box 1folder 10
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [pp. 354-413], [1961] series 2box 1folder 11
Ship of Fools -- (Setting copy) -- [Additional Inserts and New Conclusion pp. 412-431], [1961] series 2box 1folder 12
Ship of Fools -- (Master galleys-- corrected), [1961] series 2box 1folder 13
Ship of Fools -- (Page proofs [p. 474-end], duplicate set corrected by KAP), [1961] series 2box 1folder 14
Ship of Fools -- (Page proofs, duplicate front matter corrected by KAP), [1961] series 2box 1folder 15
Ship of Fools -- (Master page proofs), [1961] series 2box 1folder 16
Ship of Fools -- (Plate proof corrections by Little, Brown copy editors), [1961] series 2box 1folder 17

Series 3: Secondary Materials on Katherine Anne Porter, 1934-1980 (0.5 linear feet)

This series contains published materials collected by Seymour Lawrence or his staff, including newspaper and magazine pieces on Katherine Anne Porter or her work. These materials include copies of reviews of A Christmas Story, The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter, Hacienda, The Leaning Tower and Other Stories, "Noon Wine," Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and Ship of Fools. There are clippings of biographical pieces on Miss Porter and of reviews of books about her. Also in this series are: After Sundown, a 1963 monograph edited by Monroe F. Cockrell, which includes his correspondence with Miss Porter, written between 1948 and 1962; The Fiction and Criticism of Katherine Anne Porter by Harry John Mooney, Jr.(1957); George Greene's "Brimstone and Roses: Notes on Katherine Anne Porter" (Thought, Autumn 1961); and a copy of "Katherine Anne Porter: The Glories and Errors of her Ways" by Walter Sullivan (Southern Literary Journal, Fall 1970). The materials are arranged in two groups: Materials on Specific Porter Works and General Studies. The materials are arranged alphabetically within each group.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
General Studies -- (Biographical and Critical--Clippings, 1961-1980), 1961-1980 series 3box 1folder 1
General Studies -- (Biographical and Critical--Clippings, 1961-1980), 1963 series 3box 1folder 2
General Studies -- (Biographical and Critical--Clippings, 1961-1980), 1961 series 3box 1folder 3
General Studies -- (Biographical and Critical--Clippings, 1961-1980), 1957 series 3box 1folder 4
General Studies -- (Biographical and Critical--Clippings, 1961-1980), 1970 series 3box 1folder 5
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (A Christmas Story), 1966-1971 series 3box 1folder 6
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter), 1969-1970 series 3box 1folder 7
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (Hacienda, 1934 series 3box 1folder 8
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (The Leaning Tower and Other Stories), 1944 series 3box 1folder 9
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- ("Noon Wine"), 1937 series 3box 1folder 10
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, [circa 1939] series 3box 1folder 11
Materials on Specific Porter Works -- (Ship of Fools), 1962-1963 series 3box 1folder 12

Related Material

Materials related to Seymour Lawrence may be found in the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter also held by the Archives and Manuscripts Department. Correspondence from Seymour Lawrence to Katherine Anne Porter, consisting of eleven folders, dates from 1953 to 1968. The materials can be found in Series I, Boxes 16 and 17.

The Archives and Special Collections Department at the John Davis Williams Library of the University of Mississippi at University, Mississippi, holds a Seymour Lawrence collection.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


Names (Added Entries)