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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 3358

Woodberry Poetry Room collection of commercial phonograph records

Overview

Comprised of over 1,000 commercial phonograph records collected throughout the course of the Woodberry Poetry Room’s history. The majority of the collection is composed of twentieth-century English-language recordings of poetry, literature, theater, and music. The collection also includes a smaller quantity of literary recordings in twenty additional languages--predominantly French, German, and Spanish. 

Dates

  • 1937-1978 and undated

Language of Materials

Predominantly in English. There are also substantial holdings in French, German, and Spanish, as well as smaller numbers in Danish, Finnish, Gaelic, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Latin, Navajo, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbian, Swedish, Welsh, and Yiddish.   

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to the public for research. To access the collection, please schedule an appointment with the curatorial staff at poetryrm@fas.harvard.edu. Physical access is limited to in-room use.

Conditions Governing Use

Due to the fragility of the media, playback of the discs is dependent upon a condition assessment by the curator. Digital reference copies of individual items may be available upon request.

Extent

27 linear feet (approximately 1150 phonograph records)

Series I: Poetry and Literature in English 

Composed primarily of twentieth-century English-language poetry read by the author, as well as historical literary works performed by twentieth-century speakers, this part of the collection includes recordings by W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, E. E. Cummings, T. S. Eliot, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Archibald MacLeish, Marianne Moore, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Edith Sitwell, Gertrude Stein, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, and William Butler Yeats, among many others. Significant record labels include Argo (The English Poets from Chaucer to Yeats), Caedmon, Carillon, Decca Records (Yale Series of Recorded Poets), Folkways, the Library of Congress Recording Laboratory (Twentieth Century Poetry in English), the National Council of Teachers of English (Contemporary Poets Series), and Spoken Arts (The Spoken Arts Treasury of 100 Modern American Poets).  

In addition to poetry recordings, this series also includes, in smaller numbers: recordings of fiction, classical literature (in translation), scripture (in translation), interviews and conversations with writers and critics, and lectures on writing and literature.  

This series contains approximately 600 distinct recordings, with recording dates ranging from 1937-1976. Anthologies and compilations are arranged alphabetically by title. Single-author readings are arranged alphabetically by last name. 

Series II: Theater and Music in English 

Composed primarily of recordings of twentieth-century performances of English-language plays and musicals, this series also includes smaller numbers of lectures on theater and/or music, songs and musical works in which poems constitute the lyrics, and radio plays. 

More than half of the listings in this series are of performances of Shakespeare’s plays. Twentieth-century playwrights of note include Oscar Wilde, Anton Chekhov, Carson McCullers, Samuel Beckett, Eugene O’Neill, and Harold Pinter. The series also features authors from the Irish Renaissance including Sean O’Casey, John Millington Synge and James Joyce. There is also a small quantity of classical works, especially of Sophocles. Musical theater contributions especially highlight the collaborations between Bertholt Brecht and Kurt Weill.  

This series contains approximately 250 distinct recordings, with recording dates ranging from 1938 to 1973. 

Series III: Poetry and Literature in French, German, Spanish, and Additional Languages  

Composed predominantly of recordings of poetry and literature in French, German, and Spanish, as well as smaller numbers in Danish, Finnish, Gaelic, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Latin, Navajo, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbian, Swedish, Welsh, and Yiddish.   

Among the featured authors are Moliere, Stendhal, Victor Hugo, Jean de la Fontaine, and Albert Camus (in French); Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, Rainer Maria Rilke, Hermann Hesse, and Thomas Mann (in German); and Federico García Lorca and Octavio Paz (in Spanish). 

This series contains approximately 250 distinct recordings, with recording dates ranging from 1943 to 1968. The numbers of recordings in each language are as follows: Danish – 1, Finnish – 3, French – 78, Gaelic – 4, German – 75, Greek – 13, Hebrew – 2, Icelandic – 3, Italian – 4, Latin – 7, Navajo- 1, Persian – 1, Portuguese – 3, Russian – 10, Sanskrit – 1, Serbian – 2, Spanish – 34, Swedish – 1, Welsh – 6, and Yiddish – 1.  

Series IV: Miscellaneous Recordings in English.

Arrangement

Arranged into the following series: I) Poetry and Literature in English, II) Theater and Music in English, III) Poetry and Literature in French, German, Spanish, and Additional Languages, and IV) Miscellaneous Recordings in English. 

Physical Location

The collection is shelved in the Woodberry Poetry Room.  

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reference copies of individual items may be available upon request.

Title
Woodberry Poetry Room collection of commercial phonograph records, 1937-1978 and undated (MS Am 3358): Guide
Status
completed
Date
April 2, 2021
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS)
Language of description
eng
EAD ID
hou03341

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

Contact:
Harvard Yard
Harvard University
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2440