Guide to the Henry Roth (1906-1995) Collection,
1959, 1992-1999

P-694

Processed by Rachel Keegan

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161

Email: reference@ajhs.org

URL: http://www.ajhs.org

© 2014, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Rachel Keegan as MS Word document. May 2001. Electronic finding aid converted to EAD 1.0 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia. December 2001. Description is in English.
April 2005. Converted to EAD 2002. Revised as HenryRothCollection02.xml by Tanya Elder. Removed deprecated elements and attributes, updated repository codes, added language codes, changed doctype declaration, etc. January 2006. Entities removed from EAD finding aid.

Descriptive summary

Creator: Roth, Henry (1906-1995)
Title: Henry Roth Collection
Dates: 1959, 1992-1999
Abstract: The Henry Roth Collection contains papers pertinent to Henry Roth's writing, but collected and donated by other individuals. The items consist of early drafts, revisions, and bound volumes of his Mercy of a Rude Stream series, with notes by Roth and his editor, Robert Weil. In addition to these manuscripts, the collection includes Roth's Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, which contains a list of words hand-written and defined by Roth. Other items in the collection consist of awards and a booklet from Roth's son, Hugh Roth, given to his parents.
Languages: The collection is in English and Italian.
Quantity: 9 boxes and 1 oversized folder. (4.5 linear feet and 1 oversized folder)
Accession number: P-694
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Writer Henry Roth is best known for his literary classic Call it Sleep, published in 1934 when Roth was twenty-eight. Through the eyes of a young boy, the autobiographical novel chronicles the Lower East Side in the early decades of the twentieth century, then home to many Eastern European Jewish immigrants. The novel was well received at publication, but enjoyed even greater acclaim in the 1960s when it was rediscovered and critics labeled it a literary classic. Roth published very infrequently after the publication of Call it Sleep until the 1990s. In 1994, A Star Shines Over Mt. Morris Park appeared, the first novel in the Mercy of a Rude Stream series. According to novelist Leonard Michaels, the publication of the autobiographical series, which follows the life of protagonist Ira Stigman, was akin to J.D. Salinger writing a sequel to A Catcher in the Rye1.

As a writer, Henry Roth drew heavily upon the events of his own life. He was born in Tyszmenicz, Galicia (now the Ukraine) on February 8, 1906. Roth’s father immigrated to New York City in 1907 and his mother followed with rest of the family in 1908. They settled in the Lower East Side where they lived until 1914 when the family relocated to Harlem. Roth began writing while a student at the City College of New York. While there, Roth met poet and literature professor Eda Lou Walton. Walton supported him financially while he finished school and the novel that would be Call it Sleep in 1928. They maintained their relationship until 1938 when Roth met his future wife, composer Muriel Parker. Parker and Roth married in 1939.

Henry and Muriel Roth moved to Boston and then to Maine in 1946. Roth held different jobs including cutting wood for a paper company and working for the Augusta State Mental Hospital as an attendant. Muriel Roth taught at an elementary school. Eventually the two purchased a farm in Maine where they raised two sons and Roth bred ducks and geese. The renewed interest in Call it Sleep in the 1960s enabled the Roths to travel and eventually to settle in Albuquerque, New Mexico where Muriel Roth began to compose again and Henry Roth began to write again. In 1979, Roth commenced a decade’s worth of writing that evolved into the Mercy of a Rude Stream series. Roth did much of this writing while severely debilitated by arthritis.

Muriel Roth died in 1990 and Henry Roth followed her in 1995 having seen the first two volumes of the Mercy of a Rude Stream series published.

Note: For more detailed biographical information about Henry Roth, see the finding aid for the Henry Roth Papers (collection number P-702).

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Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the Henry Roth Collection documents the evolution of the first two volumes of the Mercy of a Rude Stream series from their original drafts to their final versions. The collection consists of thirteen manuscripts of the four volumes of the Mercy of a Rude Stream series, taking the form of original drafts, revisions, and bound galleys. The collection includes annotations of the manuscripts written by Robert Weil, Roth’s editor at St. Martin’s Press. Also of interest is Roth’s Webster New Collegiate Dictionary containing a handwritten list of real and invented words defined by Roth, a memorial booklet written by Hugh Roth for his parents, and the Isaac Bashevis Singer Prize in Fiction.

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Arrangement

Folders are arranged numerically and chronologically in Series I and alphabetically in Series II.

The materials are organized in two series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information, contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

Related materials can be found in the Henry Roth Papers of the American Jewish Historical Society. Other Henry Roth manuscripts can be found at Boston University’s Mugar Library and the New York Public Library.

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Provenance

The Society acquired the collection through three accessions, one (1999.025) a gift from Henry Roth’s editor Robert Weil and the others (2000.0017 and 2000.018) donated by Hugh Roth, Henry Roth’s son.

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Henry Roth Collection; P-694; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

 

Series I: Manuscripts, 1992-1999

The series is in English.
Boxes 1-9. (4 linear feet)
Arrangement:

The folders are arranged numerically by manusript volume, and chronologically within volume number.

Scope and Content:

Series I includes thirteen manuscripts of the first two volumes of the Mercy of a Rude Stream series: A Moon Shines Over Mt. Morris Park and A Diving Rock on the Hudson. The series includes original drafts, revisions and bound galleys and is arranged by volume and chronologically therein. The drafts include editing notes from Roth and his editor at St. Martin’s Press Robert Weil, who donated the manuscripts to the Society. Of note is the edited version of the second volume (boxes 4 and 5), which contains many post-its with notes written by Roth. During processing, pages with post-its were photocopied in order to record the notes’ placement and then the post-its were removed and placed in separate folder. Also included in this series are bound galleys for the third and fourth volumes of the series. Weil annotated a list of the manuscripts when he donated the material. The descriptions are useful to understanding the context of each draft and include some anecdotes about Roth (box 1, folder 1). The folder titles for the series were taken from documentation on each manuscript or Weil’s list.

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Annotations of Manuscripts by Robert Weil 1999
1 2-4 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (original draft) 1992
1 5-7 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (second draft) [1993]
1 8-9 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (copy-edited) [1993]
Box Folder Title Date
2 10-11 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (copy-edited) [1993]
2 12-14 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (first-pass galleys, Weil’s corrections) 1993
2 15-16 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (first-pass galleys, Roth’s corrections) 1993
2 17 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (first-pass galleys, master set) 1993
Box Folder Title Date
3 18 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (first-pass galleys, master set) 1993
3 19 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume I: (bound galleys) [1993]
3 20-23 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (original draft, unedited) 1993
Box Folder Title Date
4 24-33 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (edited version) 1993
Box Folder Title Date
5 34-35 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (edited version) 1993
Box Folder Title Date
8 63 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: removed post-its (restricted)
Box Folder Title Date
5 36-42 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (third version) 1993
Box Folder Title Date
6 43 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (third version) 1993
6 44-47 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (fourth version) 1993
6 48 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (copy-edited version) [1994]
Box Folder Title Date
7 49-51 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (copy-edited version) [1994]
7 52-55 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (first-pass galleys) 1994
7 56 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (first-pass galleys, “live version”) 1994
Box Folder Title Date
8 57-59 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (first-pass galleys, “live version”) 1994
8 60 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume II: (bound galleys) 1995
8 61 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume III: (bound galleys) 1996
8 64 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume III: removed post-its (restricted)
8 62 Mercy of a Rude Stream, Volume IV: (bound galleys) 1998
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Series II: Memorabilia, 1959, 1997-1999

The series is in English and Italian.
Box 9. (0.5 linear foot and 1 oversized folder)
Arrangement:

Items are arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Content:

Series II consists of material donated by Roth’s son Hugh Roth. Of note is Henry Roth’s Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. At the back of the book are several pages of real and invented words, hand-written and defined by Roth. The series also contains awards and a memorial booklet written by Hugh Roth for his parents. This booklet includes a transcription of Roth’s word list.

Box Folder Title Date
9 65 Isaac Bashevis Singer Prize in Fiction 1995
9 66 Memorial booklet for Henry and Muriel Roth 1999
Box Folder Title Date
Premi Nonino poster [oversized] 1987
Box Folder Title Date
9 67 Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary 1959
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Oversized Material, 1987

Box Folder Title Date
OS3 Premi Nonino poster 1987
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