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The John Barth collection

Identifier: MS-0499

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The collection spans the years 1930 to 2014, and consists of Barth’s writings, correspondence, teaching materials, professional materials, biographical ephemera, reviews, periodicals containing Barth’s work, photographs, and multimedia materials. The bulk of the collection consists of original manuscripts, various typescript drafts with Barth’s handwritten corrections, and proofs of Barth’s published works. The collection does not, however, contain these materials for Barth’s first four novels. Barth’s various drafts give an in-depth look at the author’s writing process and the evolution of works from initial notes to their published forms. More broadly, the collection reveals the evolving critical attitudes toward post-modernism and meta-fiction, as reflected by the plethora of reviews and critical analyses of each of Barth’s works.


  • Creation: 1930 - 2014


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information.

This collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish materials from the collection must be requested from the Special Collections department. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions.

Biographical / Historical

John Simmons Barth, American novelist and short-story writer, was born in 1930 in Cambridge, Maryland. He attended Cambridge High School, where he played drums in the band, and in 1947, he entered the Julliard School of Music, where he studied Elementary Theory and Advanced Orchestration. His literary interest began with pocket paperbacks such as Agatha Christie and John Collier. Inspired, Barth studied journalism at the Johns Hopkins University, ultimately receiving his B.A. in Creative Writing in 1951, and his M.A. from the Hopkins graduate writing program in 1952.

In 1953, Barth took a position teaching in the Department of English at Pennsylvania State University. His first novel, The Floating Opera, was published in 1956. His second novel, The End of the Road, appeared two years later. The Sot-Weed Factor, which garnered significant critical attention, was published in 1960. Barth first achieved commercial success with Giles Goat-Boy, published in 1966. The Sot-Weed Factor and Giles Goat-Boy established Barth as a forerunner of American post-modernist fiction.

Barth taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 1965 to 1973, at which point he returned to Baltimore to take up a post teaching English and Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins. That year, Barth shared the National Book Award for Chimera. In 1974, he was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Distinguished Achievement in American Fiction in 1997, and the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.

Barth’s oeuvre of twenty published books includes novels, novellas, short story collections, and nonfiction. His work has also appeared in numerous periodicals, including The Atlantic, Harper’s, and the New York Times Book Review.

—Excerpts taken from Blair Mahoney’s “Scriptorium” website

Additional works consulted:

Casciato, Arthur D. "John (Simmons) Barth." American Novelists Since World War II: First Series. Ed. Jeffrey Helterman and Richard Layman. Detroit: Gale Research, 1978. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 2. Literature Resource Center. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.


31 Boxes (22 record center cartons, 3 legal size document boxes,1 letter size document box, 1 letter half-size document box, 2 flat boxes (12.5 x 9 x 3 inches), 1 flat box (15.5 x 10.5 x 3 inches), 1 custom box (6.25 x 2.5 x 5 inches), 1 phonograph box)

Language of Materials



The collection includes the papers of John Barth (born 1930), American novelist and short-story writer, who is best-known for his contributions to postmodern literature. The collection spans the years 1930 to 2014 and consists of manuscripts, typescripts, and galley proofs of Barth’s writings; correspondence; reviews; and other professional papers.


The collection is divided into ten series, one of which has been further arranged in subseries. Wherever possible, original order of the collection (exempting ordering to reflect chronology for ease of use) has been maintained. The series and subseries arrangement of the papers is as follows:

Series 1: Writings

Series 2: Correspondence

Subseries 1: Personal Correspondence

Subseries 2: Contracts (Restricted)

Subseries 3: Publication Correspondence (Restricted)

Series 3: Teaching

Series 4: Events

Series 5: Reviews

Series 6: Barthomania Society

Series 7: Biographical Materials

Series 8: Publications

Series 9: Photographs

Series 10: Notebooks

Custodial History note

In 2008, accession number 2007-08.MS.055 was transferred from the Library of Congress to Special Collections. Accession number 2007-08.MS.056 was deposited directly from Barth in May, 2008. In 2011, Barth deposited additional material, accession number 2011-12.MS.010; and again in 2013, accession number 2012-13.MS.031.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was gifted by Cecily Perry on March 17, 2014, and from John Barth, from 2009 Onward.

Related Materials

Special Collections also retains a two-item collection related to John Barth. Please see the finding aid for MS.0314, John Barth Collection.

Johns Barth's master's thesis for the Writing Seminars program is available under the call number JHU ESSAY Barth, John 1952.

Processing Information

In 2009 the first two accessions were rehoused by Kelly Spring and Gabrielle Ponce. Loose manuscripts were placed into archival folders and the folders labeled. When present, original folders were retained. The manuscripts were grouped according to publication title. The collection was assigned manuscript number MS 499. No further arrangement was imposed. A container list was created and the original numbers from the Library of Congress boxes were noted.

In 2014 Archives Fellow Matt Morton processed the entire collection, including the 2011 and 2013 accessions.

The John Barth collection
Matt Morton
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA