LZ Library

Library list compiled by Celia Zukofsky

Library list at the Harry Ransom Center

Louis Zukofsky’s Marginalia – Paul Zukofsky


Near the end of “A”-14, composed in 1964, LZ remarks: “I have // exchanged 10 books / I won’t need / (how else afforded) // for The Book / Of the Dead” (357)—an apt caution against expecting a complete reconstruction of LZ’s library. Nonetheless, a large number of his books survive in two groups: 1) his personal library at his residence in Port Jefferson, Long Island at the time of his death (other than those books destroyed or discarded), which remains in the possession of Paul Zukofsky, and 2) volumes included as part of the sale of his papers to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas. In addition, there are also a significant, although undetermined number of volumes given to Paul, but read and used by LZ, that remain part of Paul’s library. Not only do these books taken together account for the majority of the working sources LZ used in “A” and elsewhere, particularly after World War II, but a high percentage contain varying amounts of marginalia and markings (see below). LZ was not a book collector and his was a working library, much of it consisting of popular and inexpensive editions. He had penchant for small portable volumes, especially the Loeb Classical Library and The Temple Classics editions.


The list compiled by Celia was done between May 1978 and her own death in 1980, and thus represents his library at the time of his death plus subsequent volumes and journal issues specifically dedicated to him that CZ received. Also there is considerable overlap with books “owned” by Celia and Paul. Celia’s inventory was written on library cards, which were subsequently transcribed onto computer and put into tabular form by Robert Zamsky; I have regularized and lightly augmented the bibliographical information, particularly with regard to translators. Near the end of his life, LZ seems to have gone through his library and ascribed dates in many books, apparently indicating when he first acquired and/or read them, but these dates were based on memory and its vagaries, so must be taken with that in mind. In 1981 a frozen pipe explosion at the 306 East Broadway house in Port Jefferson ruined or damaged many of the books, and notations on their condition was added to Celia’s list.


The list of books held by the HRC was complied by Cathy Henderson as part of her “Supplement to Marcella Booth’s A Catalogue of the LZ Manuscript Collection (1975),” published by the HRC in 1987. This list is by no means complete: Henderson mentions that there are more than 700 items not included: “books signed or inscribed to LZ by their authors, magazines or anthologies containing contributions by LZ, and publications containing references to LZ.” Henderson catalogues two groups of books: materials used in Bottom, evidently working from a list supplied by LZ, and those additional volumes that contain inscriptions or marginalia by LZ. Of course the Bottom list is not complete, since LZ retained many of the books he used in that project. I am responsible for arranging Henderson’s information into tabular form.


While it may prove occasionally awkward, the separation of the two library lists has been preserved primarily because this represents a sorting by LZ himself, but also in recognition of the distribution of labor by those who have compiled and edited the lists. At this point, these lists have not been double-checked against the surviving books or library cards and there are some puzzling details, incompleteness in Henderson’s lists and no doubt errors that have crept in during the process of transcription. Nevertheless, they give an indication of some of LZ’s reading inclinations, major sources and a guide to further research into the marginalia. Finally, special thanks to Paul Zukofsky for supplying much of the above background information and his support for the project.


Louis Zukofsky’s Marginalia

by Paul Zukofsky


There remains one virtually unexplored territory in basic research on Louis Zukofsky. This is the marginalia, or writings, annotations, and other markings in the margins of the books in his library. The project was originally conceived by my mother, Celia Zukofsky who, after my father’s death, and after listing all the books remaining in my father’s library, incompletely transcribed the marginalia from Thomas Hardy’s “The Dynasts,” and the “Queen of Cornwall”; as well as from Dryden’s “Don Sebastian,” and Butler’s “Way of All Flesh.” This first attempt was supposed to take its place alongside my mother’s compilation “American Friends,” but the project never came to fruition due to my mother’s death in 1980. Photocopies of the thirty-three page typescript still exist. Digital scans of the images of the three books my mother began with have been made.

My father frequently, even inveterately, marked in his library, those lines or phrases that appealed to, or interested him. While his marginalia are in no way as extensive as, for example, those of Coleridge, nor as discursive, they nevertheless provide insight into my father’s thinking.

There are tens of volumes in my possession with markings, and there are also many at the Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas in Austin. Some of the writers that one would assume would be highly marked, i.e. Marx, or Spinoza, are hardly touched. Others are so marked as to be almost unreadable. An example of the latter is my copy of Plato, and Texas has two additional copies of Plato that are also extensively marked. There is a Bible with concordance, with an attachment of ten pages of very tight scribbles. Much Henry James is marked, as well as works by Hardy, minor Greek poets, etc., and yet, if you read Zukofsky scholarship, little of this is mentioned, nor is the pertinence discussed, nor have these markings been tied into specific works or passages from my father’s writings.

The project is massive. It involves creating digital images of at least selected books; transcribing my father’s markings; and thereafter making connections between the marginalia and my father’s writings. It would probably make the most sense to have the project on the internet (with very strong copyright protection that I would insist upon), as such publishing would allow the project to accrete. Nevertheless, a small sample, perhaps my mother’s initial conception, might appear in print, to whet the appetite.

The project would need sponsorship in electronic hosting and publishing, with a senior editor, and with scholars, doctoral and graduate students, and others, contributing. Perhaps it could initially best be organized by author—i.e. LZ Marginalia on Plato; on James; etc.

             No one can read LZ without being aware how integral to his work is a poetics of quotation, of incorporation, of reading and re-reading, of reworking, of revitalization, of insistence upon the simultaneity of all literature.

If that viewpoint is valid, one could view my father’s marginalia not only as a window into his extant work, but also as the grist, or perhaps even sketches, towards a yet to be written compendium.


PZ’s article originally published in Chicago Review 50.2/3/4 (Winter 2004/05): 101-102. Copyright © Paul Zukofsky, reproduced by permission.