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Seymour Lawrence papers

 Collection 0002-LIT

Seymour Lawrence (1926-1994) was Katherine Anne Porter's publisher, first at Atlantic Monthly Press and later with Seymour Lawrence, Inc., his independent imprint. He was also associated with Alfred Knopf, Dell/Delacorte, E. P. Dutton, and Houghton Mifflin. As editor-in-chief at Atlantic Monthly Press, Lawrence oversaw the publication of Ship of Fools, Porter's novel. The collection consists of correspondence, galley proofs, editing notes, and clippings documenting Lawrence's editorial projects and interactions with various authors. Among the significant correspondents represented in the collection are Katherine Anne Porter, Glenway Wescott, and Mark Van Doren.


  • 1955-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1955-1969

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

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.

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.


3.75 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The papers of Seymour Lawrence, the majority of which consist of correspondence between Lawrence and Katherine Anne Porter, span the period from 1955 to 1980. The collection also contains correspondence with Glenway Wescott; Cyrilly Abels, Porter's literary agent; Fred Warburg of Martin, Secker & Warburg, Porter's English publishers; artist Ben Shahn; and Mark Van Doren; as well as Little Brown/Atlantic Monthly internal business correspondence and memoranda. In addition the collection includes manuscript pages, the setting copy, galleys, and page proofs of Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools, as well as a synopsis for "No Safe Harbor," an early title for Ship of Fools. The typescript for Porter's A Christmas Story and a mock-up of the book can also be found in the collection. The final segment of the collection is comprised of clippings of reviews and of articles as well as copies of scholarly criticism of Porter's work.


Seymour Lawrence, an independent publisher of important American and international writers, was born on February 11, 1926, in New York City, the son of Jack and Sophie L. Lawrence. He graduated from Harvard University in 1948 and began his career in publishing by becoming a college traveler, or academic trade representative, for the Van Nostrand Company, a publisher of college textbooks. In 1950 he became a special assistant to the editor of Atlantic Monthly and by 1952 had risen to the position of associate editor of Atlantic Monthly Press. In succession, he became director and editor-in-chief for Atlantic Monthly. He left Atlantic Monthly in 1964 to become editorial vice-president for Alfred Knopf, Inc., another highly respected publishing house.

He launched his own personal imprint, Seymour Lawrence, Inc., in 1965, with only one book, The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy. His imprint, a small separate publishing division under his name, allowed Lawrence to assume responsibility for finding, nurturing, and publishing new writers. He was well-known throughout the publishing industry as someone who would provide much needed support, whether financial or psychological, to the writers he had discovered. His imprint was a division of the larger publishing company Dell/Delacorte for seventeen years until the company declined to renew his co-publishing agreement in 1982. He continued his career and imprint with the publishing company, E. P. Dutton, Inc., for six years and, in 1988, affiliated with Houghton Mifflin.

Among the distinguished authors published by Mr. Lawrence were Katherine Anne Porter, Kurt Vonnegut, J. P. Donleavy, Thomas Berger, Richard Brautigan, William Saroyan, and Frank Conroy. He also published the works of four authors who won the Nobel Prize for Literature: Miguel Ángel Asturias, Camillo José Cela, Pablo Neruda, and George Seferis. Seymour Lawrence was responsible for publishing such memorable books as: Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter, Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan, Going After Caciato by Tim O'Brien, Little Big Man by Thomas Berger, Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda, and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

He married Merloyd Ludington on June 21, 1952, and they had two children, a daughter, Macy, and a son, Nicholas. He was divorced in February 1984 and in later years lived with Joan Williams, a novelist and short story writer.

He died on January 4, 1994, from complications suffered during a heart attack which struck him while he was in Florida. The New York Times obituary of Lawrence included the following characterization:

Mr. Lawrence's authors described him as a publisher who was passionately committed to writers and writing, but who was not always tolerant of "misguided reviewers" or the publishing bureaucracy.


The materials have been divided into three series.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland at College Park Libraries received the papers of Seymour Lawrence in two parts. The first part, consisting of three linear feet of correspondence, manuscript material, galleys, and published materials about Porter, was purchased by the Libraries in 1981. The second portion, of approximately one fourth of a linear foot, was acquired in 1985. This portion included additional correspondence between Lawrence and Porter, Atlantic Monthly, and foreign publishers as well as criticism of Porter's work.

Related Material

Materials related to Seymour Lawrence may be found in the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter also held by the Archives and Manuscripts Department. Correspondence from Seymour Lawrence to Katherine Anne Porter, consisting of eleven folders, dates from 1953 to 1968. The materials can be found in Series I, Boxes 16 and 17.

The Archives and Special Collections Department at the John Davis Williams Library of the University of Mississippi at University, Mississippi, holds a Seymour Lawrence collection.

Processing Information

When the first portion of the collection was processed in 1982, it was arranged into one roughly alphabetical series of subjects and correspondents; the material in individual categories was arranged chronologically. When the entire collection was reprocessed in 1994, it was divided into three series, incorporating the materials of the second portion acquired in 1985 into the previously processed collection. All the correspondence was placed in one series and arranged chronologically. All the materials relating to the publication of Ship of Fools and A Christmas Story were separated into a second series. The published material about Porter and her work was placed into a third series. Staples were removed and replaced with plastic clips. Newspaper clippings and magazine articles were copied onto acid-free paper and the originals destroyed. The collection has been placed in acid-free folders in acid-free boxes.

Guide to the Seymour Lawrence papers
Processed by Mary Boccaccio.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

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