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Guide to the William Miller Abrahams Papers, ca. 1945-1998
Special Collections M1125  
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: William Miller Abrahams Papers,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1945-1998
    Collection number: Special Collections M1125
    Creator: Abrahams, William Miller, 1919-
    Extent: 42 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Gift of Peter Stansky, 2000.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item], William Miller Abrahams Papers, M1125, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    A poet and a novelist, William Abrahams became one of the leading literary editors in the American publishing scene. He worked with many renowned writers including Joyce Carol Oates, Lillian Hellman, Diane Johnson, Brian Moore, Thomas Flanagan, and Pauline Kael. Beginning as a poet, Abrahams released his first novel Interval in Carolina (1945) to good reviews. He followed with By the Beautiful Sea (1947) and Imperial Waltz (1954) before beginning a career in editing for Atlantic Monthly Press in 1963. In 1965 he began supervising the O. Henry Awards, editing annual anthologies of the best entries, which he continued until his retirement in 1996. Abrahams also produced four non-fiction works that he co-authored with historian Peter Stansky, Journey to the Frontier; Two Roads to the Spanish Civil War (1966), The Unknown Orwell (1972), Orwell: The Transformation (1980), and London's Burning: Life, Death, and Art in the Second World War (1994).
    In addition to his editorial career, Abrahams also served as a trustee for the Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett Literary Estates, and as a member of the William Saroyan Foundation. Abrahams' longstanding relationship with Hellman as both editor and friend, subsequently led to his being named official biographer for Hellman in 1983. Abrahams worked sporadically on the Hellman biography until his death in 1998, never reaching completion due to his extensive editorial commitments and deteriorating health.

    Scope and Content

    The William Abrahams Papers include material on books that Abrahams edited under his own imprint for such presses as the Atlantic Monthly Press, Holt Rhinehart and Winston, and E. P. Dutton. The papers contain working drafts, typescripts, research notes, and correspondence. Financial reports and correspondence relating to his service as literary trustee are also present, along with research files on both Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett. Additionally, a collection of the books Abrahams edited during his distinguished career, and the texts he co-authored with historian Peter Stansky are available.
    The papers are divided into 4 series: 1. Editorial Files, 2. Trustee Files, 3. Hellman Biography Material, 4. Personal Files.
    Wherever Abrahams' original arrangement of materials was encountered, the order was retained. A substantial amount of the material, however, showed little sign of a concise intellectual schema, and therefore required an imposed order. Where possible, arrangement notes for the specific series will indicate which portions retain Abrahams' original arrangement and which reflect an ordering imposed by the processor.