William Gaddis Papers 1902-1998
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Access and Use

Processing Information:

Processed by Crystal Alberts: Summer 2003, 2004

Processed by Benjamin Cooper: Summer 2005

At Fortress FAE, before shipping, the older boxes in which the collection was packed (some of them apparently Gaddis' own liquor boxes), had to be replaced as they were water damaged. Often the shipping cartons into which the materials were placed were smaller than the original boxes, and so were re-numbered using letters of the alphabet. For example, during pre-shipping pre-processing, a box numbered 20 in the original booksellers inventory might be replaced with three cartons numbered 20a, 20b, and 20c. The same process was used with oversize folders, in order to save wear and tear on the materials as they were shipped. There is a shipping inventory that describes all of this. In addition to housing problems, a large portion of the collection was in poor order, but the decision was made to ship the materials and address the organization of the collection at Washington University.

The William Gaddis Papers arrived from Fortress FAE in New York City after having been packed in 42 archival cartons. They were accompanied by 3 pallets of books from his working library. The collection arrived with two inventories: one created by the bookseller and a partial inventory created and maintained by William Gaddis through 1994. The bookseller's inventory roughly followed Gaddis's.

In the course of processing at the university, the box numbers established by the bookseller's inventory were retained with the materials, but processing and preservation issues required a different arrangement with a new enumeration of boxes and folders. When an item was moved from a location in the intial inventory, a separation note was added to describe from where the item was taken and to where it was moved.

Currently the collection is housed in buffered archival folders and 8 1/2 x 14 clamshell manuscript boxes.

The correspondence in the collection was surveyed at Washington University. Two sorts of correspondence files were in the collection. There were files consisting of correspondence alone. These correspondence files were filed in chronological order by year in a correspondence series. Other correspondence within files was left where it was.

The novel drafts were left in the order in which Gaddis and/or the bookseller placed them. Some of the longer drafts were placed in multiple folders where this was necessary for preservation purposes. In certain cases, some of the drafts in the collection were created by Gaddis using strips of paper with typed text taped or glued to other pieces of paper. These were placed in protective mylar sleeves and photocopied. At times the strips had fallen off of the page because of the deterioration of the tape or glue. If this occurred, processors noted that the original order was lost.

The collection contains a large amount of newspaper print materials and faxed items. As Gaddis's works engage popular culture so intensely, these have been retained within the collection. There is no telling which bit of popular culture may have found its way into his novels. The most at risk of these items are being photocopied for preservation purposes. Occasionally, the items are so faded and/or deteriorated that they require a transcription by the processor in order to preserve the information. When this occurs, the processor makes a note that a transciption was made of the original. Rarely, the item is too damaged and/or faded to preserve the information.

Business papers consists of contracts and royalty statements found in correspondence files. These materials were transferred to their own series for preservation purposes.

Personal papers consists of materials related to personal, medical, and educational business, as well as genealogy that were found in correspondence files. These materials were transferred to their own series for preservation purposes.

The audiovisual series consists of cassette tapes, a Beta videocassette, photographs and negatives originally found throughout the collection. They were gathered into a separate series during the processing of the collection for preservation purposes. Most items have a separation note describing from which folder the item was taken.

Bound texts found in the collection, particularly those found in boxes designated by the bookseller as 12, 26-29, 41-42, were moved to Rare Books for cataloging. The books that made up William Gaddis' Working Library were also moved to Rare Books for cataloging. Whenever a bound text was transferred from the collection to Rare Books, a separation note was added.

A limited amount of material in the William Gaddis Papers has been designated by the copyright holders as restricted. As such, these materials were transferred into manuscript boxes with their own numbering system and are found in the series entitled Restricted Materials.

Any items determined to be oversize were transferred from the location they were in when the collection arrived at Washington University to an oversize location for preservation purposes. Generally, separation notes accompany these items.


By accession at end of collection.

Source of Collection:

Purchased from the Estate of William Gaddis ca. March 2002.

Access Restrictions:


Use Restriction:

Users of the collections must read and abide by the University Department of Special Collections Rules for the use of manuscript collection materials form.

Users of the collections who wish to use items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication (as defined in the form) must sign and submit to the Washington University Department of Special Collections a hard copy of the Notification of intent publish manuscript collection materials form.

All publication not covered by fair use restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder.

Copyright to significant portions of the collection held by Matthew and Sarah Gaddis. All inquiries concerning publication should be directed to The Wylie Agency. This information was current as of August 11, 2004.
Adam Eaglin
The Wylie Agency
250 West 57th Street, Suite 2114
New York, NY 10107.