Winnick Papers expand MacLeish Collection

December 9, 2008

The Greenfield Community College Foundation has announced that its Archibald MacLeish Collection has received a significant donation of MacLeish-related materials from R. H. Winnick, who worked closely with MacLeish, his family, friends and former colleagues over several years on an authorized MacLeish biography and who also produced an annotated edition of MacLeish’s letters, Letters of Archibald MacLeish, 1907 to 1982, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1983.

In his introduction to the MacLeish letters, Winnick writes: “Archibald MacLeish, who died 20 April 1982, just short of his ninetieth birthday, was a playwright, a lawyer, a teacher, a journalist, a Librarian of Congress, an assistant secretary of state and, above all, a poet. The author of more than forty books of poems, plays, essays and speeches, he won the Pulitzer Prize three times and received numerous other awards, including the National Medal for Literature and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

When professional commitments unrelated to his work as a biographer prevented him from writing the MacLeish biography, Winnick—who had earlier completed the third volume of the authorized biography of Robert Frost (Robert Frost: The Later Years, 1938-1963, published by Holt, Rinehart & Winston in 1976), after the death of Frost’s “official biographer,” Lawrance Thompson—gave biographer Scott Donaldson, a professor at William & Mary College, access to his MacLeish research, including dozens of taped interviews with MacLeish, members of his family, friends and former colleagues. Archibald MacLeish: An American Life, by Scott Donaldson in collaboration with R. H. Winnick, was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1992.

The Winnick Papers comprise more than six linear feet of written and printed material by and about MacLeish. The material, including manuscripts, typescripts, photocopies, galley sheets, clippings, holographs (hand-written documents), notebooks, magazines, brochures and file cards, fills thirty-nine file folders and five metal card file boxes.

“The Winnick Papers reflect the great deal of research that went into compiling data for the MacLeish biography and the volume of MacLeish letters,” said Margaret Howland, curator of the Archibald MacLeish Collection. “They complement nicely our holdings of 135 hours of recorded interviews conducted by Winnick, copies of which he previously donated to the MacLeish Collection.”

Among the items included in the Winnick Papers are two annotated manuscripts of Letters of Archibald MacLeish; news accounts about MacLeish and his family from his birth in 1892 to his death in 1982; reviews and commentaries on MacLeish’s work from 1917 to the end of his life; and a few prose manuscripts by MacLeish. The materials will greatly enhance the scope and depth of the Archibald MacLeish Collection.

The MacLeish Collection was founded in 1974 by a group of six educators from Greenfield Community College and is temporarily located in the Memorial Library Building of Historic Deerfield, 6 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA., during the College’s core renovation.  It is open every Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. and visitors are always welcome. For more information please call the Curator, Margaret Howland, at 413-337-4980, or by email at howlandd@crocker.com