Richard Hell’s Papers Acquired By NYU’s Fales Library

The Fales Collection at New York University’s Elmer Holmes Bobst Library has received a collection of historically significant materials of Richard Hell, author, editor, and “father” of punk rock. Hell’s papers not only document his long and varied career, but also show the literary roots of the punk scene and its link to the earlier European avant-garde.

Marvin Taylor, Director of the Fales Collection said about the acquisition: “Richard Hell is most often thought of only as the first punk rock star, but that’s too simplistic. Richard is an author who links the European avant-garde tradition of France at the end of the nineteenth century to New York at the end of the twentieth. His papers show his deep knowledge of this tradition and how he became a touchstone for so many artists who were trying to express similar ideas. Richard’s archive is one of the pillars of the downtown collection here at NYU.”

The collection contains over 30 linear feet of diaries, manuscripts, letters, photographs, posters, videos, songsheets, and other materials created by Hell during his career. Among the papers are the manuscripts for Hell’s novels; archives of the pamphlets—sometimes collaborations—Hell published as a small publisher by such as Patti Smith, Tom Verlaine, Rene Ricard, Nick Tosches, and Ron Padgett, among others; and an extensive collection of sound recordings.; and an extensive collection of sound recordings. NYU acquired the collection for $50,000.

The collection is currently unprocessed. It will be about a year before the collection is open for scholars.

The Richard Hell papers are a part of the Downtown New York Collection, which comprises some 3,500 linear feet of archives and nearly 10,000 printed items. The collection documents the downtown NYC arts scene from 1974 to the present. Other sets of artist’s papers include the novelist, poet and art writer Dennis Cooper and the papers of David Wojnarowicz, who was a painter, writer and sometime musician. It is the only collection of its kind in a research library and is heavily used by students, scholars, and others interested in the creative world of downtown New York.

The Fales Collection at NYU comprises nearly 200,000 volumes of both rare books and manuscripts in English and American literature, and the general special collections from the NYU Libraries.

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