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Voices from the Beinecke Library

The Modern American Novel

The work of the prolific American writer Henry Miller, an iconoclastic figure made famous by his “banned” book Tropic of Cancer (Paris, 1934; New York, 1961) and his relationship with the French writer Anaïs Nin, is represented in the Beinecke’s holdings by a 900-page, four-volume, bound draft of Tropic of Cancer, ca. 1930 – 1932, a gift of Frederick R. Koch, Yale School of Drama, 1961 MFAD, (Frederick R. Koch Collection, 1640 – 1983, GEN MSS 601). A remarkable document, the draft includes collation of various typescript material, some of it heavily revised in Miller’s own hand, thus revealing the arduous work involved in composition as well as the evolution of a major text. Other important Miller materials have since been acquired. They include Miller’s Paris notebooks (three volumes, 1932 – 1936), the only known copy of a first draft (later discarded) of Tropic of Capricorn, Miller’s “little black book,” drafts of his unpublished work “Nexus II,” correspondence with Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, and an extremely rare set of “Mezzotints,” colored broadsides featuring 250-word prose poems, which Miller dreamed up as an early (unsuccessful) money-making venture. The collection highlights Miller’s place in the American avant-garde, transatlantic connections to late modernism, publishing and censorship, literary circles and close friendships, and the writer as visual artist.

Image: Henry Miller, Notes on [D.H.] Lawrence, ca. 1935.

Collection Highlights Exhibited in Multitudes: A Celebration of the Yale Collection of American Literature:  Materials relating to the work of the novelist Henry Miller, including a multi-volume manuscript draft of Tropic of Cancer, his Paris notebooks, and rare “Mezzotint” broadsides. The Modern American Novel -- Checklist & Object Descriptions

Related Exhibition Pages:  Modern Literary Archives; Modernism and the Little Magazine.


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