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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 2346

Houghton Mifflin Company contracts


Contracts (with associated materials) of the Houghton Mifflin Company publishing house of Boston, Massachusetts.


  • 1831-1979
  • Majority of material found in 1880-1940

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

This collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

Conditions Governing Use

Images linked to this finding aid are intended for public access and educational use. This material is owned and/or held by the Houghton Library, and is provided solely for the purpose of teaching or individual research. Any other use, including commercial reuse, mounting on other systems, or other forms of redistribution requires the permission of the curator.


48 linear feet (36 boxes)

Primarily contracts of the publisher Houghton Mifflin Company, but also includes some from its predecessors: Hurd and Houghton (1864-1878); Houghton, Osgood and Company (1878-1880); and Houghton, Mifflin and Company (1880-1908). Correspondence is between the publisher and the authors, or their representatives or contractors. Houghton, Mifflin and Company editors and staff include: C. W. Bramhall, James Thomas Fields, Ferris Greenslet, Franklin Sherman Hoyt, George Harrison Mifflin, E. C. Robinson, Roger Livingston Scaife, and Horace Elisha Scudder. Authors include: Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Willa Cather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Francis Jackson Garrison, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), William Dean Howells, Henry James, Henry Cabot Lodge (1850-1924), Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Mary Noailles Murfree, Scott O'Dell, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Theodore Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau, and many others.

Files include book and journal contracts, along with related materials such as: copyright renewals, assignment of copyrights, copyright certificates, copyright cards, copyright deposit receipts, purchase orders, title pages, correspondence and interoffice memoranda, option agreements, and literary scout agreements. Literary scout agreements are contracts made with persons hired to find publishable material. Also includes business records (disposal of printing plates, remainders, royalties), non-book contracts, and occasionally correspondence not related to contracts.

Correspondence and interoffice memoranda usually concern the fate of printing plates, royalties, remaindering of books and authors' estates and executorships. Documents and correspondence about wills and estates are noted. If a contract is signed by a contractor, editor, illustrator, translator, preface or introduction writer, the author of the book is noted, as well as the contractor.

Biographical / Historical

Houghton Mifflin Company, publishing house of Boston, Massachusetts, traces its roots back to the firm of Ticknor and Fields, the premier "literary" publishing house in the United States during the middle years of the nineteenth century. Ticknor and Fields originated in the firm of Allen and Ticknor, established in 1832. The partners in Ticknor and Fields were William D. Ticknor (one of the partners in Allen and Ticknor) and James T. Fields, who entered the firm as a junior partner in 1843. Henry Oscar Houghton began as a printer in Cambridge, Mass. and established H. O. Houghton and Co. in 1852. Houghton's printing establishment on the Charles River in Cambridge was known as the Riverside Press. In 1864 he formed a publishing partnership in the firm of Hurd and Houghton. In 1878 the business merged with James R. Osgood and Co. as Houghton, Osgood and Co.

After a series of changes, Ticknor and Fields evolved into Houghton, Mifflin and Company. The succession of corporate names was as follows: Allen and Ticknor (1832-1834); William D. Ticknor (1834-1843); William D. Ticknor and Co. (1843-1849); Ticknor, Reed and Fields (1849-1854);Ticknor and Fields (1854-1868); Fields, Osgood and Co. (1868-1871); James R. Osgood and Co. (1871-1878);Houghton, Osgood and Co. (1878-1880); Houghton, Mifflin and Co. (1880-1908). In 1908 the company changed from a partnership to a corporation as the Houghton Mifflin Company. The company became publicly owned in 1967 and was purchased by the French conglomerate, Vivendi Universal SA, in 2001. In 2002 it was acquired by Thomas H. Lee, Bain Capital, and the Blackstone Group.


Arranged alphabetically by author or contractor. Arrangment under contractor is alphabetical by the author of the literary property.

Physical Location

Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

*86M-113. Deposited by Houghton, Mifflin and Company; received: 1986 Oct.; gift 1992.

General note

This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Megan O'Shea and Mary Hammer with the assistance of Jackie Dean, Vicki Denby, and Bonnie B. Salt

Processing Information

This finding aid was revised in 2023 to address outdated and harmful descriptive language. During that revision, contextualizing processing notes were added to the description of multiple items. For more information on reparative archival description at Harvard, see Harvard Library’s Statement on Harmful Language in Archival Description.

Houghton Mifflin Company. Houghton Mifflin Company contracts, 1831-1979 (inclusive), 1880-1940 (bulk): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description
Cataloging funded by the Gladys Kriebel Delmas Foundation, the Ruth Miller Memorial Philanthropic Fund, and Charles A. Rheault.

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.

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