New book: Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market

Just out from the University of Massachusetts Press is Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market by Amy Hildreth Chen. This new work will be of great interest to anyone concerned with the political economy of literary archives and how the US market for writers’ papers developed in the second half of the twentieth century.

Chen spoke about her book in the American Antiquarian Society’s Virtual Book Talks on 27 August 2020 at 2pm (EDT). The talk is now available on Youtube. Chen offers some compelling analysis in it of what draws us to work on literary manuscripts and of our continuing desire to handle originals over digital surrogates. Keep listening through the Q & A as things just get more interesting.

From the publishers’ website:

“The market for contemporary authors’ archives began when research libraries needed to cheaply provide primary sources for the swelling number of students and faculty following World War II. Demand soon grew, and while writers and their families found new opportunities to make money, so too did book dealers and literary agents with the foresight to pivot their businesses to serve living authors. Public interest surrounding celebrity writers had exploded by the late twentieth century, and as Placing Papers illustrates, even the best funded institutions were forced to contend with the facts that acquiring contemporary literary archives had become cost prohibitive and increasingly competitive.

Amy Hildreth Chen offers the history of how this multimillion dollar business developed from the mid-twentieth century onward and considers what impact authors, literary agents, curators, archivists, and others have had on this burgeoning economy”.

Studies in Print Culture and the History of the Book ...

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Outside the Literary Archives Market 

Chapter 1: Inside the Literary Archives Market 

Chapter 2: Brand Authors and Families

Chapter 3: Profit Agents and Dealer

Chapter 4: Competition Directors and Curators

Chapter 5: Provenance Archivists and Digital Archivists

Chapter 6: Access Scholars and the Public

Conclusion: The Matthew Effect



  • Paperback (9781625344854) Published: June 2020
  • Hardcover (9781625344847) Published: May 2020