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Finding Aid to the Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers, 1919-2003
BANC MSS 90/30 c  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Lawrence Ferlinghetti Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1919-2003
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 90/30 c
    Collector: Ferlinghetti, Lawrence
    Extent: Number of containers: 64 boxes, 6 oversize boxes, 26 oversize folders and 1 volume Linear feet: [ca. 28]
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
    Abstract: Literary manuscripts: Notes, poetry fragments, single poems, poetry collections, plays, and prose works of fiction and non-fiction, largely holograph mss. and typescripts with holograph revisions; travel journals dating from 1960-1986; notebooks; musical compositions by various composers based on poems of Ferlinghetti.

    Personal papers: Clippings of work by Ferlinghetti and clippings about Ferlinghetti; a small amount of correspondence; posters, fliers, programs and catalogs from events in which Ferlinghetti participated.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Japanese, Russian, and Yugoslavian

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library.
    Those copyrights held by Lawrence Ferlinghetti have been retained by him.
    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Lawrence Ferlinghetti papers, BANC MSS 90/30 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: City Lights Books records,
    Date: 1953-1970,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 72/107 c
    Title: City Lights Books records: additions,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 77/89 c
    Title: Lawrence Ferlinghetti interview with Richard A. Ogar,
    Date: March 25, 1967,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 80/52 c
    Title: Lawrence Ferlinghetti correspondence with Tram Coombs,
    Date: 1957-1964,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 88/131 c
    Title: Viva Ferlinghetti scrapbook : San Francisco, Calif.,
    Date: 1994
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 97/146 c

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Audio and video tapes have been transferred to the Microforms Division of The Bancroft Library.
    • Photographs have been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • Selected original artwork has been transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased by The Bancroft Library from the author in March 1978, with funds from various donors. Additions acquired in 1989, with funds provided by the Friends of The Bancroft Library, the Richard Henry Chabot Dieckman Fund, and the Peter and Rosell Harvey Memorial Fund. Additions were also received in 1995, and are on-going.


    Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet, editor, and publisher, was born in March of 1919 in Yonkers, N.Y., the son of Charles S. and Clemence Ferling. From 1920 to 1924, he lived in France with his aunt, and after their return to the U.S., was educated in New York, at the Riverside Country School (1927-28) and Bronxville Public School (1929-33). Ferlinghetti attended high school at Mount Hermon School in Greenfield, Mass. (1933-37), then received a B.A. in Journalism from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1941, his M.A. in Literature from Columbia University in 1948, and his Doctorat de l'Université from The Sorbonne, Paris in 1949. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1941 to 1945, and attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Ferlinghetti married Selden Kirby-Smith in 1951, and has two children, Julie and Lorenzo.
    Ferlinghetti moved to San Francisco in the early 1950s, and in 1953, after a short period as a French literature teacher, he founded City Lights Books with Peter L. Martin. In 1955, City Lights Publishing initiated the Pocket Poets Series with a collection of Ferlinghetti's own poems, Pictures of the Gone World. This was followed by publication of works by Kenneth Patchen, Kenneth Rexroth, and in 1957, Allen Ginsberg's Howl. City Lights' distribution of this controversial work provoked an obscenity trial which attracted international attention. In his struggle against censorship, Ferlinghetti became a public figure representing the San Francisco literary renaissance and the Beat Poet's movement.
    Throughout his career Ferlinghetti has championed the avant-garde, opting for social engagement and literary experimentation in both his own work and that of the authors he publishes. His own poetry reflects the raw, uninhibited style common to the Beat generation. Ferlinghetti's best-known volume is A Coney Island of the Mind (New Directions, 1958); other poetry collections include Starting from San Francisco (1961), The Secret Meaning of Things (1969), Open Eye, Open Heart (1973), Landscapes of Living and Dying (1979), Endless life: The Selected Poems (1981), Over all the Obscene Boundaries (1984), and These are My Rivers (1995).
    Ferlinghetti is also the author of two novels, Her (1960) and Love in the Days of Rage (1988), as well as two collections of experimental theater pieces. His interest in oral poetry has made him a favorite of audiences world-wide; several examples of his public readings and jazz/poetry collaborations are available commercially. A lifelong interest in painting in recent years has led to gallery showings of his works and the publication of a collection of drawings, Leaves of Life: Fifty Drawings from the Model (1984). In 1988, Ferlinghetti, in collaboration with Nancy J. Peters, published Literary San Francisco: A Pictorial History from the Beginning to the Present.
    In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, biographer Larry Smith sums up Ferlinghetti's achievements: "as a poet and publisher, as a catalyst for cultural and literary innovation for several generations, [Ferlinghetti] is one of the key forces of contemporary writing. He extends the significance of the Beat perspective by the engaged stance of his life and work and by the powerful and popular art he has wrought."

    Scope and Content

    The Lawrence Ferlinghetti Papers, 1919-2003, contain a wealth of manuscript material, some of it never published, spanning the entire creative output of this San Francisco-based poet and publisher. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1970s to 1980s, but also includes Ferlinghetti's early prose works from 1948 to 1954, significant works from the late 1960s, and a variety of materials from 1990 to the present. These papers complement The Bancroft Library's other extensive holdings documenting the life and work of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
    The collection consists chiefly of literary manuscripts, including poetry and prose, both fiction and non-fiction, in various stages of completion. Bill Morgan's, Lawrence Ferlinghetti: A Comprehensive Bibliography to 1980 (New York, 1982) was used to establish titles and publication dates. All titles in this collection have been indexed under final title, as well as all variant and working titles. Among Ferlinghetti's writings are also numerous journals and notebooks documenting Ferlinghetti's travels from 1947 to 1994, along with a small amount of original art work.
    An extensive array of correspondence, both family and professional, includes letters from fans, professional colleagues, and literary agents. Ferlinghetti's personal papers provide information about his early life and evolving career. This is expanded in his professional papers, which includes significant materials documenting his professional contributions and the impact of his work on society. Finally, the collection includes numerous clipping files which span the full range of Ferlinghetti's career.