Colophon Collection of Moderns

About the Friends of the SMU Libraries

Colophon Collection of Moderns

10 Questions & Answers

By Decherd Turner, 1977

10 Questions and Answers / A Brief Interpretative

  1. What is the Colophon Collection of Moderns?

    The Colophon Collection contains approximately 2,000 items - books, broadsides, a few manuscripts and letters - representing those writers whose works are believed to be definitive in establishing the contours of the spirit-soul-mind of man for the period 1950-1975.

  2. When was it established?

    The Committee on Acquisitions of Colophon, The Associates of Southern Methodist University Libraries, started its work by direction of the Board of Directors of Colophon in 1972. The work of putting the present collection together continued until the expiration of the Committee's mandate December 31, 1975.

  3. Why the dates of 1950-1975?

    The quarter-century of 1950-1975 represents one of the greatest periods of social-political-religious revolution in our history. Linguistic permissiveness allowed the entry into public letters of words and word-pictures which would have been more than sufficient in earlier generations to bring the writer to the stake. Creative literature became the chief instrument of protest against the Establishment, the involvements of the Vietnam War, ethnic segregation and suppression, etc.

  4. What is the Colophon Canon?

    The 65 writers whose published works were collected as completely as finances would support are:

    Albee, Edward Fiedler, Leslie A. Plath, Sylvia
    Ashbery, John Ginsberg, Allen Potok, Chaim
    Baldwin, James Griffin, John Howard Purdy, James Malcolm
    Barth, John Simmons Heller, Joseph Pynchon, Thomas
    Barthelme, Donald Herlihy, James Leo Reed, Ishmael
    Berger, Thomas Jones, James Roth, Philip
    Berrigan, Daniel Jones, LeRoi Salinger, Jerome David
    Blackburn, Paul Kelly, Robert Sanders, Ed
    Bly, Robert Kerouac, Jack Snyder, Gary Sherman
    Brautigan, Richard Kesey, Ken Southern, Terry
    Brownstein, Michael King, Larry L. Styron, William
    Bukowski, Charles Loewinsohn, Ronald William Tate, James Vincent
    Clark, Tom MacAdams, Lewis Perry Updike, John
    Corso, Gregory Malamud, Bernard Vonnegut, Kurt
    Creeley, Robert McClure, Michael Wakoski, Diane
    Dawson, Fielding McLuhan, Herbert Marshall Waldman, Anne
    Dickey, James McMurtry, Larry Warsh, Lewis
    Didion, Joan Meltzer, David Whalen, Philip Glenn
    Eastlake, William O’Connor, Flannery Wieners, John
    Eigner, Larry O’Hara, Frank Wolfe, Tom
    Eshleman, Clayton Oates, Joyce Carol Zukofsky, Louis
    Ferlinghetti, Lawrence Percy, Walker
  5. Does the Colophon Collection contain other writers than those on the canon?

    Yes, a small number. Gifts were made to the Collection; and in a few cases, purchases included works outside the canon.

  6. Aside from assembling as complete a Collection of published works as possible of those on the Colophon canon, has there been any special effort within these limits?

    Yes. Special efforts, and dollars, were spent to obtain the first printing of each writer's first published work. Success has been achieved for 40 out of 65 writers.

  7. What contours developed during the building of the Collection?

    From the very beginning of the work of the Committee on Acquisitions, the dates of 1950-1975 were critical. Every writer considered for inclusion had first to pass the test of whether his first published book was in 1950 or later. This rule had to be applied rigorously, and such accounts for the absence from the list of writers whose first works were published in 1949 or earlier. Also it was found after getting into the project that other definitions had to be made to match financial support. Such necessary further refinements limited admission to the Colophon canon to American poets, novelists, dramatists, and essayists. With this tightening of the boundaries, the official canon numbers 65 writers.

  8. What chief distinguishing mark sets the Colophon Collection apart from other collections of moderns in neighbor institutions (The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Tulsa, Washington University at St. Louis)?

    Colophon's emphasis has been on the more limited one of the published work. The collections built in greater depth look upon the published work as the end of the process of creativity, and thus seek after preliminary notes, manuscripts, typescripts, galley proofs, etc. But, due to lateness of entry into this collecting field, and the substantial accomplishments of our neighbor institutions, it has been necessary to confine emphasis to published work. However, a few representative letters, manuscripts, and one poet's rather complete archive are present to lend illustrative light.

  9. What are the future plans for the Colophon Collection?

    Colophon proposes the continuation of its first bibliographic project by adding to the collection those works by and related to the following names:

    Baldwin, James Kelly, Robert Purdy, James Malcolm
    Barth, John MacAdams, Lewis Roth, Philip
    Barthelme, Donald Malamud, Bernard Southern, Terry
    Creeley, Robert McMurtry, Larry Styron, William
    Dickey, James Oates, Joyce Carol Updike, John
  10. Why the reduction of the canon from 65 names to 17?

    Heavy emphasis was given, as the times demanded, to protest poetry in the first chapter of the Colophon collection. The times and verbal fashions have now changed leaving the literature of protest to its greatest period of expression, 1950 - 1975. The names on the reduced canon represent a number of combinations of novelist-poet-essayist which assure a growing edge to the basic collection. However, when resources permit, it is hoped that collections for other writers from the original canon can be complemented.

Read A Brief Interpretative by Decherd Turner, 1977