Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1793

John Updike papers


Papers of the American writer John Updike (1932-2009).


  • 1940-2009

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Physical Description

Extent is approximate.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to a majority of this material.

A majority of this collection is shelved offsite. Retrieval requires advance notice. Check with Houghton Public Services staff.

Access to items (359) - (387), (780a), (5434), and (7392) - (7395) is restricted until 2029 October 1. Consult curatorial staff. No copying including photography of restricted items is allowed. Born digital materials are unprocessed; use surrogate only for requests to see physical media carrier. Consult Houghton Technical Services staff.


305 linear feet (382 boxes)
12.65904 Gigabytes

The John Updike Papers includes a variety of materials reflecting his personal, literary and business life. Includes materials documenting his early life, correspondence, autograph manuscript compositions, speeches, interviews legal and business records, biographical materials, fan mail, video tapes, photographs and drawings, clippings on his life and subject and research files he compiled, and much more. Further information on the content of this collection is at the beginning of each series and subseries.

Biographical / Historical

John Updike (1932-2009) was a novelist, critic, short story writer, poet, essayist, and dramatist. He graduated from Harvard College with an AB in 1954.


The collection is arranged into the following series:

  1. I. Compositions
  2. ___A. Early works, 1941-1955
  3. ______1. Pre-college bound works
  4. ______2. Early cartoon drawings
  5. ______3. Early poetry
  6. ______4. Early prose
  7. ______5. Early novels
  8. ______6. Harvard College: Willow [RESTRICTED]
  9. ______7. Harvard College: student papers
  10. ______8. Early miscellany and printed material
  11. ___B. Novels and books
  12. ___C. Short stories
  13. ___D. Essays
  14. ___E. Reviews
  15. ___F. Poetry
  16. ___G. Other compositions
  17. II. Correspondence
  18. ___A. General correspondence
  19. ___B. Other correspondence
  20. ______1. Letters to Plowville and related correspondence
  21. ______2. Letter files complied by John Updike
  22. ______3. Fan mail and invitations to speak
  23. ___C. Family Correspondence
  24. III. Images of John Updike
  25. ___A. Childhood images, by title
  26. ___B. Images, by date
  27. ___C. Images of John Updike as an adult, by photographer
  28. ___D. Images of John Updike as an adult, by title
  29. ___E. Other images
  30. IV. Other papers
  31. V. Audiovisual and digital media
  32. VI. Additions to collection

Please note that several item numbers were inadvertently omitted from this finding aid, thus numbering will not always be sequential.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Special equipment or surrogate required; consult Houghton staff.

Physical Location

b, pf, vault Harvard Depository

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Various accessions. Gifts from John Updike; received 1965-2011.

93M-170. Gift of Dr. Warner Berthoff; received 1994 April 13.

2001M-18 (b). Deposit, then gift of Dr. James Plath; received 2001-2002.

2008M-43. Gift of Werner Berthoff, October 2008.

2008M-83. Partial purchase, and partial gift of Allen and Wallace Shawn; received: 2009 March 27.

2009M-28. Purchase from Edward Hoagland; received: 2009 September 18, October 2. 2009M-36. Gift of Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc.; received: 2009 October 8.

2009M-37. Purchased from the John Updike estate, with funds from the Amy Lowell Trust, Charles Warren American History Fund; received: 2009 September 29.

2010M-62. Gift of Alexander J. Jemal; received: 2010 August 30.

2010M-66. Purchase; received 2010 November 22.

2010M-69; 2011M-7. Purchase; received: 2011 March 1 and July 19.

2012M-39. Gift of Martha Updike; received: 2012 September 6.

2012M-83. Gift of Anthony Tuck-Attard; received: 2012 November 14.

2012M-96. Gift of Jeannette Kretzmann; received: 2012 December 7.

2012M-97. Gift of Martha Updike; received: 2012 December 7.

2012M-122. Purchase; received: 2013 February 2.

2013M-17. Partial purchase, partial gift of David F. Shire; received: 2013 July 25.

2013M-89. Purchase; received 2014 February 7. 2014M-140. Gift of Martha Updike; received: 2015 April 30. 2015M-97. Gift of Martha Updike; received: 2015 December 22. 2015M-134. Purchase; received 2016 April 5. 2016M-74. Purchase; received 2017 January 5. 2018M-088. Purchased from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller in 2018 February.

Additional accessions are noted under "Additions to collection".

Separated Materials

Born-digital material has been separated: Am1793BD

General note

The majority of this collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

Processing Information

Processed by: Jennifer Lyons with Susan Pyzynski, Bonnie Salt and Susan Sutherland. Also with the assistance of Michael Austin, Vicki Denby, Allison Harris, Emilie Hardman, Adrien Hilton, Irina Klyagin, Ashley Nary, Ryan Wheeler, Melanie Wisner, and Susan Wyssen.

Addition processed by Magdaline Lawhorn.

Updike, John. John Updike papers, 1940-2009 (MS Am 1793): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Description rules
Language of description

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.

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