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Djuna Barnes papers

 Collection 0021-LIT

The University of Maryland Libraries are the primary repository for the archive of Djuna Barnes (1892-1982), who was an avant-garde American writer and artist. Her papers consist of family and personal papers, correspondence, publications, manuscript drafts, newspaper clippings, serials, photographs, and original art work documenting Barnes's career. Significant correspondents in the collection include T. S. Eliot, Emily Coleman, Marianne Moore, Peggy Guggenheim, Dag Hammarskjöld, Kay Boyle, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Robert McAlmon, Laurence Vail, Allan Ross Macdougall, Allen Tate, E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Eugene O'Neill. Some of the books from her personal library are among the holdings of the Libraries' Rare Book collection.


  • 1728-1992
  • Majority of material found within 1910-1975

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open to the public, non-circulating, and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Inquiries about permission to publish the works of Djuna Barnes should be directed to the Authors League Fund, 155 Water Street, #206, Brooklyn, NY 11201 Tel: 212-268-1208, Fax: 212-564-5363 Email:

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


102.00 Linear Feet

1100 Items : Volumes

Scope and Content of Collection

The papers of Djuna Barnes contain correspondence; manuscripts and proofs of novels, short stories, plays, and poetry; published copies of early fiction, nonfiction, plays, and poetry; notes; royalty and financial statements; a wide assortment of printed matter including reviews of her works; photographs, negatives, and slides; and original art works. The material spans the period from 1820 to 1982, with the bulk falling between 1910 and 1975.


Noted journalist and avant-garde author Djuna Barnes was born in Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, on June 12, 1892, the second child and only daughter of Wald and Elizabeth Chappell Barnes. Barnes studied art at the Pratt Institute (1912-1913) and at the Art Student's League of New York (1915-1916).

In 1913, she began working as a freelance journalist and illustrator for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and was soon writing and illustrating features and interviews for the New York Morning Telegraph, the New York Press, and the New York Sun, among other publications. During this period, she became involved in the bohemian artistic milieu of Greenwich Village. She wrote poetry (The Book of Repulsive Women, published in 1915) and several short plays ("Three From the Earth,"? "Kurzy of the Sea," and "An Irish Triangle"), which were produced by the Provincetown Players in 1919 and 1920.

In 1921, Barnes travelled to Europe, then spent almost all of the next twenty years in England and France. She wrote features and interviews for Vanity Fair, McCall's, Charm, and Smart Set, a regular column for Theatre Guild Magazine, and poems and stories for literary magazines such as Dial, transition, and Transatlantic Review. Her book-length writings in this period consist of a collection of her short stories, plays, and poems, A Book (1923), which was revised and republished in 1929 as A Night Among the Horses, the satirical Ladies Almanack (1928), and two novels, Ryder (1928) and Nightwood (1936). Regarded by most critics as her masterpiece, Nightwood was influenced by Barnes's affair with Thelma Wood. The novel was written under the patronage of Peggy Guggenheim and championed by T. S. Eliot, Barnes's editor at Faber and Faber.

In October 1939, Barnes returned to the United States, and, in September 1940, she moved into an apartment at 5 Patchin Place in Greenwich Village, where she resided for the remainder of her life. She wrote the verse play The Antiphon (1958), which was produced in Sweden in 1961 in a version co-translated by United Nations' secretary Dag Hammarskjöld. Another collection of her short stories, Spillway, was published in 1962, the year in which Selected Works (Spillway, The Antiphon, and Nightwood), appeared. During the 1960s and 1970s, Barnes also wrote much poetry, though little was published. Her final work was the verse menagerie Creatures In an Alphabet (1982). Barnes died in New York City on June 18, 1982, at the age of ninety.


The collection is divided into nine series:

Series 1
Family and Personal Papers
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Printed Matter
Series 5
Manuscripts by Others
Series 6
Serial Publications
Series 7
Series 8
Series 9

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to the condition of the collection, users will access the microfilm surrogate for Series I-IV. Permission to view the original papers must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit. Original works of art in Series VIII are fragile and are consulted only by appointment.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the bulk of the collection from Djuna Barnes in 1973, with an additional major purchase in 1977. Between 1980 and 2009, a small number of additional items were incorporated into the collection through purchase and gift.

Existence and Location of Copies

Microfilm of Series I-IV is available for loan at a qualified institution. A researcher may initiate a loan request by contacting their Interlibrary Loan Department.

Related Material

Materials related to the Papers of Djuna Barnes held Special Collections include the Barnes Family Papers, the Papers of Saxon Barnes, the Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, the Papers of James Stern, the Irwin Cohen Collection, the Papers of Phillip Herring, the Chester Page Collection, the Papers of Andrew Field, and the Papers of Frances McCullough. A uniqure recording of Barnes reading from The Antiphon, made by Chester Page in April 1971and acquired with the McCullough papers, is available at Important correspondence of Barnes with Emily Coleman is in the Emily Holmes Coleman Papers at the University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware.

The Rare Books Department has curatorial responsibility for the portion of Barnes's personal library that was acquired with her papers. The Barnes's library contains over 1100 titles and is accessible through the University of Maryland Libraries' online catalog. Please see the description in Series 9: Library for more information.

Processing Information

Since its acquisition by the University of Maryland, the Barnes papers have been processed numerous times in largely piecemeal fashion. In the spring of 1996, all of the collection except the photographs and art underwent major reprocessing. This effort included creating a new series of family and personal papers and merging the two alphabetical runs of correspondence. Materials formerly in the "Typescripts, page proofs, scripts," "Publications," and "Appendix B: Laminated Papers" were brought together into a single "Writings" series. Other work included integrating the unprocessed addenda of the collection (formerly "Appendix A") into existing series and combining the "Clippings," "Pamphlets," and much of the "Miscellaneous" series into a single "Printed Matter" series. In Fall 1996, a new series, "Serial Publications," was created. "Book Catalogs" formerly located under the "Printed Matter" series were relocated into "Serial Publications."

In 1998, the remainder of unprocessed items were integrated into the collection. Also, the photograph and art appendices were made into series and renumbered and rearranged as necessary. Section VI, Cards, and Section VII, Printing Blocks, were added to the art series. The Barnes pen and ink drawings donated in 1997 were also incorporated into the art series. In November 2000, items acquired from a dealer were integrated into the collection.

In July 2001, preparations to microfilm the first four series of the collection began, including some reprocessing. Significant time was devoted to dating previously undated materials and reorganizing the materials accordingly. In Series II, Correspondence, there was a general file for each letter of the alphabet that contained correspondence from multiple individuals. These items were separated and placed into individual, named folders. A list of correspondents, in addition, was compiled for each folder in Series II. Fragile materials were placed in Mylar sleeves, and extremely fragile clippings were backed with Japanese paper before being placed in sleeving. Additional materials, which had been acquired since 1998, were incorporated into the collection. Folded materials were unfolded and moved to a mapcase, and unannotated photocopies of publications were discarded if originals were present in the collection. Several oversize publications that had been arranged by the title of the illustration were moved and refiled under the title of the article, as listed in Douglas Messerli's Djuna Barnes: A Bibliography (Rhinebeck, N.Y.: D. Lewis, 1975).

The arrangement of Series IV, Printed Matter, was discarded at this time; "On Barnes" became "About Barnes"; "On Barnes's Writings" is now titled "About Barnes's Writings"; and "On Others" and "Other" were combined to form "Collected by Barnes." Items within six of the eight "miscellaneous" folders were grouped together under headings, such as book reviews and health, and arranged alphabetically under "Collected by Barnes." In addition, English translations of articles were reunited with their foreign language originals.

An attempt was made to bring some order to Barnes's poetry. When possible, materials within each folder were placed in chronological order, and fragments located in "Poems, Fragments" that were not poetry-related were moved to "Notes, Miscellaneous fragments." Most noticeably, the poems in "Early Poems" were separated into individual folder by title and integrated into the alphabetical schema of the series.

Guide to the Djuna Barnes papers
Processed: March 1977, August 1980, March 1984, Summer 1987. Revised: February 1984, March 1987, August 1987, February 1993, September 1994, February 1995, August 1997, November 2000, June 2001.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Jennie A. Levine, April 2007.
  • 2017-04-19: Finding aid title, finding aid status and agent links revised; related accessions related; finding aid filing title and description rule added by Maya Riser-Kositsky, April 2017.
  • 2017-05-10: Related materials note revised by Maya Riser-Kositsky, May 2017.
  • 2003-05: Revised by Ruth M. Alvarez and Jason Stieber.
  • 2009-10: Revised.
  • 2011-02: Revised.
  • 1998-07: Reprocessed and revised by Patricia J. Rettig.
  • 2002-06: Reprocessed and revised by Jennifer Evans.
  • 1996-10: Reprocessed by Robert Vietrogoski.
  • 2020-12: Series 9: Library added by Caroline Ackiewicz

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742