Amy Hildreth Chen. Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2020. 192p. Paper, $33.95 (ISBN 978-1-62534-485-4).

Alexandra Wieland


Published as part of the University of Massachusetts Press series on Studies in Print Culture and History of the Book, Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market is a well-written and fascinating history of how various stakeholders—and their differing motivations—shaped the literary archives trade in the United States of America. Amy Hildreth Chen, who holds a PhD in English from Emory University, previously was an academic librarian at the University of Iowa and now is an independent scholar. She traces the largely overlooked history of the trade in literary papers from its post-World War II origins through to the mid-2010s. The book comprises an introduction, conclusion, and six chapters. After a brief first chapter on the various values implicated in archives (financial, scholarly, and public), Placing Papers examines the literary archives market from the perspective of several key stakeholder groups: authors and their families (chapter 2), agents and dealers (chapter 3), directors and curators (chapter 4), archivists and digital archivists (chapter 5), and, finally, scholars and members of the public (chapter 6).

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