LZ Library

LZ Library List

Louis Zukofsky’s Marginalia – Paul Zukofsky


Near the end of “A”-14, 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, the large majority of his books survive in two groups: 1) his personal library at his house in Port Jefferson, Long Island at the time of his death, which remained in the possession of Paul Zukofsky (roughly 800 volumes), and 2) books included as part of the sale of his papers to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin (roughly 600 volumes). Taken together, these books and journals account for almost all the working sources LZ used in “A” and elsewhere, particularly after World War II, and a large number contain varying amounts of marginalia and markings (see below).

LZ clearly preferred to use his own books, and seems rarely to have called on the NYC library or other “loaned” materials. Not surprisingly, LZ’s personal library overlaps with those of his family members, and the inscriptions evidence the constant giving or transferring of books between the three Zukofskys. PZ once observed to me, with a touch of annoyance, that his father had the habit of buying books for himself which he inscribed as for his son, as if to assuage a guilty conscience. LZ obviously had the common book buying bug during the golden age of used bookstores in NYC. However, he was not a book collector, nor did he own many scholarly volumes, other than non-fiction intended for the general reader (e.g. Pelican editions). His was a working library, predominately consisting of popular and inexpensive editions of canonical works, such as Everyman’s Library, Temple Classics and Signet Classics editions, and later in life he collected many volumes from the Loeb Classical Library. Relatively few books are specifically ascribed to CZ, aside from a modest number of music books, but since she was the fiction reader of the family, it is likely that many of the books in LZ’s library were as much her interest. In any case, it seemed reasonable to include in this list the modest number books inscribed to her, since we know LZ drew on some of them. Also included are a number of books from PZ’s own large and eclectic library that we know LZ used.

We should also keep in mind that LZ was a teacher, and therefore a certain number of his books were used in the classroom. LZ taught standard literature survey course to engineering students, and for the most part the assigned books were determined by the department, about which he complained to correspondents. Consequently there are extensively marked up books one might not expect him to find of special interest. Sometimes he turned this involuntary reading to good account, such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, which he was not thrilled to have to teach but noted extensive passages out of which he composed six pages of “A”-14 and his extensive marginalia carries on a running debate with Milton.

This list of LZ’s library has been compiled from a number of different bibliographies. None of these lists were made under optimum conditions, and so far it has not been logistically possible to double-check these entries against the actual books. The initial list combined two inventories: the first supplied by PZ for those volumes he inherited and the second 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. For a number of reasons both lists are incomplete. Henderson mentions that she left out more than 700 items considered of lesser importance: “books signed or inscribed to LZ by their authors, magazines or anthologies containing contributions by LZ, and publications containing references to LZ.” Indeed, her bibliography is more in the nature of a sampling than a complete listing. The inventory supplied by PZ was initially compiled by CZ between the time of LZ’s death in May 1978 and her own death in 1980, and thus represents his library as he left it, plus some subsequent volumes and journal issues specifically dedicated to him that CZ received. However, in 1981 a frozen pipe burst at their house in Port Jefferson and many books were water damaged. PZ had an inventory taken to assess the degree of damage, and this information was added to the list. CZ’s inventory was written on library cards, which were subsequently transcribed onto computer and put into tabular form by Robert Zamsky. Still, for whatever reasons, this list too was incomplete as became evident after PZ’s death and his estate had a more complete inventory made.

Consequently, the library list presented here is a composite of four separate sources: 1) PZ’s list, plus 2) the inventory made by his estate; 3) Henderson’s list, augmented by 4) the listings on the University of Texas at Austin Library catalog. The types of information provided by these different sources is not always the same and inevitably there are inconsistencies that cannot be decided without examining the volumes themselves. Particularly the information on marginalia is somewhat erratic and incomplete—not only is checking for markings tedious, but LZ often marked very lightly (e.g. using penciled dots in the margin) or only marked a  part of a volume. Also the different inventories of the books left at his death are not always in agreement in judging the degree of damage, and precisely what “ruined” means is somewhat ambiguous—this appears based on salability rather than whether the book is still readable. Apparently some of the most seriously damaged books were discarded, but clandestinely saved from the dump, but this seems to have been the case for only a few, as just about all the volumes designated “ruined” can be accounted for. Near the end of his life, LZ went through his library and ascribed dates in many books, apparently indicating when he first acquired and/or read them, but these dates were often based on memory and its vagaries, so must be taken with that in mind. Indeed a suspicious number of the ascription dates seem to echo the publication dates. While there is ample room for improvement, the list as it stands provides quite a bit of useful information, particularly in identifying the specific editions and translations LZ used in writing his works.

With regard to journals, the catalog listings at the University of Texas at Austin are not always precise as to which issues LZ owned, so I have only included those which are inscribed by LZ or otherwise clearly noted as from his library. Also I have not included an exhaustive listing of LZ’s own books. He went to some lengths to be certain the HRC had a copy of everything he published, while multiple spare copies were distributed among the members or the family or never made it out of their boxes. Therefore I have listed only those copies in which there is some additional annotation, most often notes of errata.

In the notes column, “HRC” designates those books and journals held at UT Austin; while those designated “HRC?” indicate books on Henderson’s list but which the library catalog does not have a record as belonging to LZ, although certainly some and probably most were part of LZ’s library. 

Aside from correcting obvious errors and typos, I have regularized and lightly augmented the bibliographical information. Further notes about contents has also been added where helpful.

Special thanks to Paul Zukofsky for instigating and enabling this library list. Also to Mary-Jane Walsh and Liz Bodian, who expertly inventoried Paul’s estate, including the books left at LZ’s death and Paul’s own large library. 

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.