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A History of Moore Materials at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the MMDA

Cristanne Miller[1]

posted October 2018


            There is a history behind the gathering and organization of every major archive. There is also a history behind every major editorial project. Both kinds of history involve multiple contingencies and endless possibilities for error. Manuscript materials are also themselves unstable. Especially work written during the modernist period, when cheap paper was widely available, is often fragile or deteriorating, and many manuscripts come to libraries already in compromised condition. Furthermore, practices for archival research were different several decades ago, when the Moore papers were delivered to the Rosenbach Museum & Library, and conditions for scholarly research in small private libraries differed from those at well-funded universities or national archive centers.[2] In short, a history of the Moore materials comprises many stories—of instabilities, accidents, and theft; and of scholars, editors, librarians, the poet’s family, and of literary executors.

While similar stories might be told about other large collections going to small libraries in the mid-twentieth century, the history of the Moore Collection at the Rosenbach Museum & Library is more unusual and dramatic than most—from the fact that Moore donated the entire contents of her living room to the Library to dramatic recovery of uncatalogued manuscripts, theft, and the inadvertent scrambling of pages in some notebooks. We tell this tale not (only) because it is a good story but because it helps to explain why some Moore notebooks are available only in photocopy and why the Marianne Moore Digital Archive (hereafter MMDA) presentation of two poetry notebooks includes a link to an important renumbering document, for anyone comparing MMDA transcriptions with notes taken on the conserved notebooks at the Rosenbach.[3] Our story of Moore’s manuscripts also serves as a cautionary reminder that knowing the history of documents and having personal records taken from original sources is key to accurate scholarly editing.

This is also a story of decades-long collaboration between librarians and scholars in supporting and fruitfully using a huge and initially chaotic archive. Moore scholars I know have the highest regard for the librarians with whom we have worked at the Rosenbach, three of whom have gone on to hold illustrious positions in the profession: Patricia C. Willis as Curator of American Literature at the Beinecke Library, Yale; Ellen Dunlap, Director of the Rosenbach from 1983 to 1992, as president of the American Antiquarian Society; and Leslie Morris as Gore Vidal Curator of Modern Books and Manuscripts at the Houghton Library, Harvard.

In 1968, Marianne Moore sold her papers to the Philip H. and A.S.W. Rosenbach Foundation (later known as the Rosenbach Museum and Library) and bequeathed her furniture and personal possessions for a Marianne Moore Room, because the Rosenbach’s Philadelphia townhouse contained a room with the same proportions as her living room on West 9th Street in Manhattan—right down to the placement of windows and the fireplace. Moore’s archive was in demand by University of Texas at Austin, Yale, and other rare book libraries but, probably in part because of her growing friendship with Clive Driver, she chose the Rosenbach. Moore died in 1972, having named Driver, who was Director of the Rosenbach from 1966 to 1979, the literary executor of her estate—much to the surprise of her family. The family had believed that Marianne Craig Moore, the poet’s niece, would be named literary executor, as she had been in a previous document. According to Linda Leavell, there were already hard feelings between Clive Driver and the family from the last years of Moore’s life, during which Driver came to Moore’s New York apartment several days each week to catalog her papers. The family also distrusted Louise Crane—a friend of the poet’s, who supported Driver’s role.[4] Crane had enlisted Lawrence Brinn to draw up the new will that made Driver the executor.[5] Upon Moore’s death, her papers and belongings were transferred to the Rosenbach—including all furnishings of her living room, from books and art works to a piece of cake stashed in a bottom desk drawer and first discovered years later and an exercise bar, which had hung in a doorway of her apartment.

In 1987, the Moore heirs read in the New York Times about Clive Driver’s unauthorized sale of a John Adams letter from the Rosenbach’s collections and contacted the Rosenbach to inquire why they were not hearing from Driver, in his role as Literary Executor of the Moore Papers.[6] He had not been sending reports or accounts—evidently generating reports was not a task at which he excelled. According to the family, there was an inventory of everything that Driver had taken from Moore’s apartment to the Rosenbach, but when the family inquired about this list following the announcement of the Adams letter theft, the Rosenbach claimed to have no such list and no librarian I have contacted knows of its existence.[7] On the other hand, it is known that the Rosenbach’s official inventory books was altered to indicate that some documents were sold by auction, whereas they had been sold privately by Driver himself. No report or document ever indicated that Driver sold material from the Moore archive. The Moores sued Driver, however, for the return of material he was holding privately in his possession. Director of the Rosenbach Ellen Dunlap also filed a civil suit against Driver for return of 115 missing documents.

Driver had ample opportunity to steal manuscripts. After he retired from all official work at the Rosenbach, in 1983, he was given permission by the Board to spend the night in the Museum when he was in town—since he had moved to Massachusetts and no longer owned accommodation in Philadelphia. On these nights, he was alone in the house. This circumstance, however, was less odd than it now sounds. Because the Museum & Library was housed in what had been the Rosenbach residence, it long contained at least one bedroom and the first directors of the Rosenbach lived in residence there—as Driver himself had for some period. Even after the Rosenbach Director no longer lived in the building, this residential space was available for use.

Generally, during Driver’s day at the Rosenbach, arrangements were less formal and institutionalized than they are now—as was probably the case at other libraries with minimal staff support for research archives. For example, scholars read in a small room on the third floor (no elevator), blocked off from an exhibition and library-tour room only by a folding screen. Readers of the Moore papers always worked from original manuscripts and there was typically no staff person in the room. One used an internal telephone line to request another manuscript or ask a question. Scholarly reading hours coincided more or less with regular business hours at the library, and especially scholars who spent several weeks in succession studying Moore materials might choose to work through the lunch hour or even eat a sack lunch in the kitchen with Rosenbach staff. One was always escorted in person into and out of the reading room but one felt a relationship of trust between librarians and readers in relation to these unique and fragile materials.

Similarly, arrangements having to do with Clive Driver’s personal access to the Moore papers were informal. It is unknown, for example, whether he had entered into an agreement with Moore herself about keeping some material in his possession. His retention of Moore manuscripts, however, does seem to have been premised on a different practical and ethical basis from his theft of Americana manuscripts. Librarians and scholars were told that Driver retained some Moore material because he was writing a biography of the poet. There was apparently no record of what material he held at any given time.[8] According to Patricia C. Willis, the curator of literature at the Rosenbach from 1974 until 1987, only one poetry notebook (that from 1922-1930) was accessible among the Moore Papers during her tenure—suggesting that Driver had the other five in his possession. As rehearsed in the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, in 1989, the Rosenbach’s civil suit was settled and Driver was required to return documents in his possession. Forty-eight documents were known to have been sold by Driver to dealer Paul Richards; ten were still in his possession at the time of the settlement with the Rosenbach.[9] Again, none of the items named in the civil suit or returned in relation to this suit were from the Moore Collection. The Moores also won their suit and Marianne Craig Moore became the estate’s Literary Executor.[10]

According to the family, Driver turned his privately held Moore papers over to their lawyer. The Rosenbach Newsletter (January 1991, no. 18) reported that “some 2,700 items” were returned, including “correspondence; poetry manuscripts; notes for her unfinished memoir, titled Coming about; and the typescript of her unpublished novel. Chronologically the material spans her early family days (1895) to her death in 1972.”  Marianne and Sarah Moore picked up boxes of these documents from their lawyer and drove them to Philadelphia, where they delivered them personally to the Rosenbach. Miscommunication at this point prevailed: the Moores were directed to bring the papers to the back door and noted that no one at the Rosenbach thanked them or otherwise formally acknowledged the return of the documents. Deliveries, however, were generally directed to the alley and back door because parking on DeLancey Place was virtually impossible; staff were rarely present for deliveries. The role of the Moores was publicly acknowledged in the January 1991 Rosenbach Newsletter.

The relationship between the family and the Rosenbach over recent decades has been cordial. Perhaps in part because of this early history of materials in the archive, however, the Moores have been protective guardians of the poet’s unpublished materials. In 1989, the new Literary Executor was quoted as saying, “It will be necessary to review what has been done with unpublished material by Marianne Moore and to plan what should be done with the whole body of this material. Such planning for the Estate will take time and will preclude authorizing or permitting either extensive quotation or extensive paraphrase of unpublished manuscripts, etc., by Marianne Moore.”[11] The Moore family encouraged Bonnie Costello (with Celeste Goodridge and Cristanne Miller) to publish a selection of Moore’s letters (The Selected Letters of Marianne Moore, Knopf, 1997), but they prevented other major editorial enterprises for years.

No public account of Driver’s thefts includes any mention of stolen Moore materials and to our knowledge there is no list of what was in his possession with which to compare the material recovered in 1989. One might surmise that Driver was more likely to have misplaced or lost “borrowed” Moore material than to have stolen it: he appears to have had no intention to sell this material and he did return a massive number of items to the Moores and the Library. Nonetheless, some material remains missing from the archive.

Records at the Rosenbach indicate that some documents previously in its possession and at that time photocopied are now missing—presumably because they were taken by Driver and never returned. Four notebooks were photocopied sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s and are now extant only in that copied form.[12] Because there is neither an inventory of Moore items initially sold to the Rosenbach nor of items taken by Driver rather than going directly to the Library or taken by him later from the archive, it is impossible to know how many items that were never photocopied or catalogued are also missing.

Scholars were reminded of this fact in the mid-1990s, when Melanie Fortunato discovered a cache of stolen letters. A draper with whom Fortunato worked in Allentown, PA, showed her a box of “Civil War letters” that he had recently bought at an auction because he knew of Fortunato’s interest in American history. The box indeed contained letters from the Civil War period (written by Moore’s grandfather, who was then living in Gettysburg), but also correspondence between Moore and Ezra Pound. Fortunato did not know Moore’s work, but she did know Pound’s and realized that the documents were important. After an internet search on Moore, Fortunato contacted Robin G. Schulze because of her proximity at Penn State. Schulze then contacted Linda Leavell, and together they put Fortunato in touch with the Rosenbach. Curator Michael Barsanti contacted the draper and recovered the stolen letters, including several between Moore and Pound.[13] The letters had come from the estate of S. V. (Stanley Virgil) Baum, who had worked at the Rosenbach to help catalog Moore’s correspondence. Shortly after the letters were reacquired, Leavell, Schulze, and Miller gathered at the Rosenbach to judge the significance of this new-found correspondence—unknown to Pound as well as to Moore scholars before their fortuitous recovery.

The current editorial stage of this story began around 2007, when Miller and Schulze hoped to publish an annotated, transcribed print edition of Moore’s most famous and longest poetry notebook (VII.04.04), begun early in 1922 and ending with pages written in 1930. They decided to construct a prototype of their edition before requesting permission from the Moore estate.[14] While using a digitized copy of the notebook at the Rosenbach, it became clear to Miller and Schulze that there was a major discrepancy between the order of pages in the extensive notes they had taken previously, individually, on this notebook, and the order of the digitized pages that followed the conserved and rebound copy of the original—a disordering that could have occurred at any time in the decade before the notebook was conserved. Looking at an early photocopy made during Willis’s years as curator, they confirmed that their notes agreed with the order of the photocopy and that the sequence of pages in the digitized, conserved edition was incorrect. The conservation treatment of this notebook concluded in October of 2005, and digitized images (also numbered incorrectly) were available for scholarly use some time after late July 2004. The Rosenbach used Schulze and Miller’s reordering of the first half of the notebook to correct the problem, returning the notebook to the conservator.[15] In 2017, Miller worked with Willis, as part of her transcription and editing of this notebook, to reorder all pages. Poetry Notebook 07.04.04 will be published through the MMDA in the fall of 2018, together with a chart showing the relationship of Willis’s photocopy numbering, Rosenbach initial conservation re-ordering, and the numbering of images in the online publication. Because the notebook contains several page stubs and fragments, the chart is relatively complex. The Rosenbach will also have access to this chart, to alert scholars to sequence issues. Several pages of this notebook remained in correct sequence in the digitized conserved rebound notebook; others, however, were dramatically out of place. This problem has meant that for some number of years before 2007, every scholar working on this notebook saw the early pages in a sequence in part different from that of Moore’s composition and they continue to see its middle and later pages in partly disordered sequence. Because this notebook contains germinal drafting toward many of Moore’s most famous early poems (“Marriage,” “An Octopus,” and “Silence,” among others) and toward significant later poems (for example, “The Steeplejack,” “The Hero,” and “The Jerboa”), it is heavily used. Any conclusion scholars drew about sequence of composition or Moore’s process of thought in moving from lines or notes on one page to the next were potentially false.

In 2016, in transcribing and editing a 1933-1940 poetry notebook (VII.04.07), Heather White came to a similar conclusion after finding a logical confusion in the sequence of pages in the conserved and rebound, digitized notebook. Fortunately, there was also a photocopy of this notebook that could be used to determine either Moore’s original ordering of pages or at least the order of the pages in the notebook around 1989, when it apparently entered the Rosenbach collection and was photocopied.

These two notebooks were in frail condition and urgently required conservation. Some pages had broken loose from their binding, not surprisingly given that Moore often wrote in cheaply made, repurposed notebooks. By the time of the conservation, some pages of the 1920s notebook earlier photocopied as half pages or large fragments containing several lines had either entirely disintegrated, disappeared, or existed only in one- or two-line fragments.[16] The Rosenbach used one of the premier conservation houses in Philadelphia, the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts, and kept manuscripts under watchful eye throughout the process. There is no telling at what moment the disordering of pages occurred—including, potentially, at the hands of well-meaning scholars looking at the original manuscript, who inadvertently misplaced loose pages or even imagined they were correcting the sequence.

We regard it as one of the more significant functions of the MMDA transcriptions that they present a sequence of pages restored to what we believe was the order of Moore’s composition in two poetry notebooks—or as close as we can come to such an order, judging by our own early notes on these notebooks, early photocopies, and logic.

As previously indicated, this tale of shifting possession of manuscripts, theft, and accidental false ordering of pages in two poetry notebooks provides a dramatic instance of larger issues at play in any editorial work on archival materials—namely the unpredictability and instability that can enter the process, or be revealed, at any moment. The materials themselves are often fragile and the opportunities for introducing human error are legion—even when one is not dealing with convicted felons. Especially in this age of internet access to data produced over centuries, once an error in any form is published it is virtually impossible to extinguish it from the record completely. To take a trivial example, the early misconception that Moore majored in Biology at Bryn Mawr College has been corrected in various places—probably first in the Spring 1981 Marianne Moore Newsletter, which lists her “major” as “history and politics.”[17] Scholars continue to repeat that Moore majored in Biology, however—for example, as recently as 2005, 2008, and 2015, and the website repeats the biology major myth.[18]

We hope this account of the early years of the material in the Moore Papers archive, as influenced by Driver, Baum, the Moore family, general library practices, and perhaps by scholars themselves will provide a clear and accurate record for future scholars. Further, the MMDA hopes to provide a forum for scholarly debate, information, and corrections. Through online publication, it may help to retard further deterioration of unique manuscripts in the Rosenbach archive and through its capacity for including debate and correction it may help to keep critical discussion of these resources as close to the factual record as possible.


[1] Information serving as the basis for this essay comes from several sources: my thanks to Linda Leavell for providing notes on her conversations with the Moore family, especially Moore’s niece, Marianne Craig Moore; to Robin G. Schulze for conversation and notes about her part in manuscript recovery; to Patricia C. Willis and Leslie Morris for email exchanges on this subject; and to Elizabeth Fuller for comments on accuracy. Ellen Dunlap spoke with Fuller, who in turn spoke with me. Leavell, Willis, and Fuller all looked at drafts of the essay.

[2] I generalize on the basis of work conducted over the past almost forty years at various manuscript archives in Germany, Israel, and the United States—including at institutions such as Harvard, Yale, or the New York Public Library and at the Rosenbach in the 1980s, when it was less than half its current size, and to reading privately held manuscripts in the owner’s dining room.

[3] As we continue to study and edit notebooks, we may find others that require the reordering of pages and images. Conversation Notebook 1914-1929 (VII.10.07, old numbering: 1250/24) has a few disordered pages in its photocopy and librarian-numbered pages (the notebook itself is missing), but because Moore was writing in a repurposed bound calendar, it is easy to reorder these few pages by following the calendar dates. The error was detected some time ago by Rosenbach staff member Evelyn Feldman and then caught again by Michael Barsanti and Linda Leavell. See a misquotation in Leavell’s Prismatic Color (148) caused by the disordered pages—pointed out to me by Leavell (email 2017).

[4] Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore (2014), 384-385.

[5] Unrelated to this case, Brinn was later arrested for misuse of clients’ funds.

[7] Sarah Moore did make a card file of all the living room books and the order in which Moore had them, for the Marianne Moore Room.

[8] Patricia C. Willis comments, for example, that she cannot recall whether Moore’s novel was “restricted from use or whether Driver kept it apart from the collection. I recall his telling me that he ‘had some material’ that he kept for a biography but I did not know what the items were” (correspondence with Miller, December 2016). For preservation reasons, Willis photocopied materials that were fragile and/or frequently requested so that they would be read first in photocopy (correspondence May 2018).

[9] Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, volume 62, supplement 25: 205. This article also indicates that Driver was convicted on felony charges from a separate criminal case. According to Elizabeth Fuller, the Rosenbach conducted a thorough check of all records and materials in its Americana Collection and every item they knew was missing eventually turned up in the marketplace. Nothing was unaccounted for.

[10] The January 1989 Rosenbach Newsletter (no. 12) announced that Marianne Craig Moore had been appointed Literary Executor for the Estate of Marianne Moore.

[11] January 1989 Rosenbach Newsletter (no. 12).

[12] Reading Notebook VII.01.02 (1916-1921; originally catalogued as 1250/2), is extant only in photocopy, as are Conversation Notebooks VII.03.10 (1921-28; 1250/26; photocopy is incomplete); VII.10.06 (1915-1919; 1250/23), and VII.10.07 (1914-1921; 1250/24).

[13] The Rosenbach Newsletter announcing the date of the return of these documents and the number of documents returned, is missing from the Rosenbach’s files. I have not been able to locate a copy anywhere. Elizabeth Fuller has said that she has access to this information but has not yet located and sent it to me.

[14] Miller and Schulze were denied permission to publish such an edition at the time. Miller was later granted permission to publish all Moore’s notebooks, edited and annotated, on the MMDA.

[15] Elizabeth Fuller provided dates and records of the treatment process for this notebook, concluding with the return of the reassembled notebook to the Rosenbach on October 11, 2005 and then the Library’s response to the Miller and Schulze re-ordering in 2007 (correspondence January 2 and 5, 2018).

[16] Willis speculates that a number of pages existing only as stubs when she photocopied this notebook had been torn off by Moore herself. This was a stenographer’s notebook, with pages sewn through at the top. In order to remove a front page without dislodging its other half (back page) later in the notebook, one had to tear the page off above or below the stitching—hence the stubs. Several pages of this notebook are cancelled by a single vertical line through the middle of the page. Scholars speculate that Moore cancelled pages after she had taken desired material from them for a later draft. Perhaps she also, for this reason, tore out some pages, or perhaps she removed them for other reasons. For example, Moore used notebooks eclectically. She might have written extraneous notes on some pages, or torn them out to use for other purposes.

[17] Marianne Moore Newsletter V.1 (Spring 1981) 2-3.

[18] See Jeredith Merrin’s essay in the Columbia History of American Poetry (2005); Shirlee Emmons and Wilbur Lewis’s Research the Song (2008); and Joshua Schuster’s The Ecology of Modernism in 2015. Moore did in fact take several courses in Biology and for one year considered it her primary field of study, but at the end of her junior year she changed her focus to history and politics. See also Leavell’s Holding On Upside Down: Moore chose not Biology but “history with politics and economics” (the latter two in a single department) as her focus of study at Bryn Mawr—what we would now call a double major (67, 78).

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