Collection ASM0134 - Michener, James A. Papers

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Michener, James A. Papers


  • 1985-1989 (Production)

Importance matérielle

16 Boxes

Nom du producteur

Notice biographique

James Albert Michener was raised as the foster child of Edwin and Mabel Michener. The exact date of birth is unknown, although many reference sources cite February 3, 1907, as the birth date. Michener grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and he attended Doylestown Grammar School. Michener attended Swarthmore College and graduated in 1929, with a degree in English and History (summa cum laude) and a Phi Beta Kappa Key.

Michener taught briefly at the nearby Hill School. He enrolled at St. Andrew's University in Scotland, and also studies art in London and Siena, Italy. Michener returned to the United States during the Depression, and taught at the George School, near Doylestown, from 1933 to 1936. In 1937 Michener received a master's degree from the Colorado State College of Education. He remained in Greeley, Colorado, and served as an associate professor from 1939 to 1942.

Michener served as a visiting professor at Harvard University from 1940-41, and in 1941 he accepted a position on the staff of the MacMillan Company in New York. He volunteered for service in the U.S. Navy in 1942, and served as naval historian in the South Pacific from 944 to 1946. During the course of the war Michener visited some fifty islands and began work on his first novel, Tales of the South Pacific (1947), which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. The author returned to MacMillan as a textbook editor when, in 1949, the stage adaptation of Tales of the South Pacific, appeared as the Broadway musical "South Pacific." The successful Rogers and Hammerstein musical, and the subsequent movie, provided a share of royalties that enables Michener to devote all his time to writing.

In 1955 James A. Michener marries Mari Yoriko Sabusawa, his third wife. Michener has travelled the globe extensively and produced a string of best selling works. In 1962, after turning his literary attention to national politics, Michener ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania's Eighth District. Michener served as a member of the United States Commission on Information (1970-1974) and received the Medal of Freedom in 1977.

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Portée et contenu

The James A. Michener Papers consist of correspondence, notes, research materials and drafts of manuscripts created and compiled by best-selling author James A. Michener (1907-1997) in the course of his work on the novel Caribbean (1989).

Correspondence and memoranda found within the files provides information concerning the intellectual preparation required to compose an historical novel that spans more than four hundred years. Michener chose to preserve the results of his research and editorial efforts  "... so that aspiring writers can see what work lies ahead for them if they finally succeed. Stated better, what work they will have to do if they want to succeed." Exchanges with editorial staff members throughout the stages of manuscript preparation, and the concurrent suggestions, recommendations and revisions to the manuscript noted on various "copies" of the manuscript illuminate the internal aspects of the modern publishing industry.

The author includes notes and correspondence concerning the logistical, financial and personal decisions that influence the creative process. The pervasive degree of experimentation, discovery and change inherent in the process of creative writing appears throughout the stages of this manuscript. The very title

of the novel, Caribbean, is a reflection of this evolutionary process, for the author first conceived on calling the volume Lost in the Sun.

Mode de classement

The Michener Papers consist of six linear feet of files, housed in fifteen boxes, and arranged in two series. The arrangement of the Papers and the terminolgy used for folder titles maintains, to the degree possible, the original organization of the files. 

SERIES I: RESEARCH FILES, consists of notes, correspondence, memoranda and research materials created and compiled by James A. Michener for this novel, Caribbean.  A small quantity of other research materials may also be found within selected files of manuscript "copies," as maintained by the author.  Files in this series contain historical research materials on the Caribbean region, including maps, articles and timelines for important events.  Additional files document the author's thoughts  concerning the scope and vision of this novel, and include bibliographies, worksheets and character lists.

SERIES II: MANUSCRIPT FILES, consists of drafts of the manuscript throughout the creative and editorial process.  The manuscript exists in six primary stages. 

The original manuscript, exists as the author typed the pages, before a single correction is considered.  Michener acknowledges that "I would never want it to be published in this form ... it is very raw."

Revised Manuscript files represent the second stage of the novel. Within this copy of the manuscript, the author has inserted numerous revisions and changes. Michener's physical process for accomplishing this work involves a pre-word processing operation of cutting and pasting new text, inserting additional or revised language, and revising inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Following this personal exercise, the manuscript is re-typed with the use of a word processor. Revised Manuscript files include both "cut and paste" pages and the "clean" text produced by the word processor.

Final Draft Manuscript files represent the author's finished work. Michener describes the text "as good as I can make it at the moment... but I have no estimate whether others will think it good or bad, or whether the reader will want to stay with it to the end." This manuscript is forwarded to the publisher, and the editorial process begins once more. The files also contain a copy of the manuscript as produced on the word processor, with occasional editorial comments supplied by the author or the editor.

Edited Manuscript files contain the comments of the copy editor, as assigned by the publisher. Editorial questions and comments are either typed out separately or applied directly to the manuscript. The exchange of ideas, text and language requires the diligent effort of both parties. For this novel, the editorial process required six months. Upon completion, the current manuscript is deemed acceptable to both parties.

Final Manuscript files are the production of a language specialist, not the copy editor, who examines every sentence for accuracy and style. This process is designed to create an accurate manuscript, one devoid of factual errors, unnecessary repetition and related matters. The manuscript thus proceeds to the printer, and typed galleys are produced. The paper-bound volume is an accurate representation of the published book, although the text remains open to corrections by the writer, editors and proof


Author's Galleys files are Michener's personal copy of the galley proofs, printed on one side of each page. The writer is responsible for a review of each line of text, and has the opportunity to supply corrections deemed necessary. The inclusion of these changes and the completion of another proof reading represent the final pre-publication steps.

Other Material files include a wide range of materials related to the editorial work and publication of a modern novel. The printing of the finished book proceeds in concert with a number of related activities including the preparation of text, images, and designs for the book jacket. The preparation of "slip sheets," special printed pages autographed by the author and inserted into a limited number of the volumes, also occurs at this stage.

"Dead Material" files consist of draft pages from various stages of the manuscript, as returned to the author by the publishing company. The pages are often duplicate material from the files of the publisher or the author. The pages are retained here for their potential value in contributing to an understanding of the complete manuscript.

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Conditions d’accès

This collection is open for research, but is kept in an off campus storage facility. Please allow up to 72 hours for delivery of requested materials.

Accès physique

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Conditions de reproduction

James A. Michener Papers finding aid © 1991 University of Miami. Requests to reproduce or publish materials from this collection should be directed to

Langue des documents

  • anglais

Écriture des documents

Notes sur la langue et l'écriture

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Sources complémentaires

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Existence et lieu de conservation des copies

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50.4 KiB


18 mai 2018 15:14

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