Jay A. Gertzman collection on Samuel Roth
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Jay A. Gertzman, professor emeritus of English at Mansfield University, is the author of four books: Fantasy, Fashion, and Affection: Illustrated and Decorated Editions of Robert Herrick's Poetry, Bookleggers and Smuthounds: The Trade in Erotica, 1920-1940; Samuel Roth, Infamous Modernist; and A Descriptive Bibliography of Lady Chatterley's Lover: With Essays Toward a Publishing History of the Novel. According to Dennis Miller on Huffington Post, Gertzman is a "respected scholar [who] was asked by Roth's grandchildren to write an accurate biography ... [and who created] a fascinating look at the Jewish experience, censorship, government repression and conflicts between Christianity, Jewish religion and the American dream." Over seven years, Gertzman researched Roth's experiences, using the Roth papers at Columbia as well as learning about "the principles of First Amendment law, ... the American suppression of sexual expression, the background of Jewish life in eastern Europe, where Roth was born, and the principles of Hasidism to which Roth adhered to his whole life (although he also searched out the methods of making money, the key to the American Dream)," (Miller).
Samuel Roth (1893-1974), based in New York City, published and sold books, magazines, and erotica, and operated a mail order operation that defied Post Office censors for two decades. Samuel Roth's first project as a publisher was a student-run poetry journal called The Lyric, which he started at Columbia University with his friend Frank Tannenbaum in 1917. He later founded two literary magazines, Beau --the first American "men's magazine"--and Two Worlds Monthly. As a publisher, Roth was frequently accused of violating the copyrights of prominent authors including D. H. Lawrence and James Joyce, and was responsible for the first, unauthorized editions of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Ulysses. After James Joyce published the "International Protest" against Samuel Roth in 1927, a petition signed by over one hundred international public figures and artists, Roth was ostracized from the publishing world. Roth then ventured into publishing literary erotica and the underground distribution of pornography. He was convicted of distributing obscene materials in 1936. Soon after his release, he turned, and very successfully after World War II, to the mail-order pornography business, publishing Good Times and American Aphrodite: A Quarterly for the Fancy Free. Among the books he published is My Sister and I, ostensibly a memoir by Nietzsche about his incestuous relationship with his sister, though both the authorship and the translation of the book are contested.
In addition to his work as publisher, Roth was a poet and essayist. His early poetry won praise from Edwin Arlington Robinson, Maurice Samuel, Marie Syrkin, Harriet Monroe, Israel Zangwill, and Louis Untermeyer. Some correspondence to and from these figures is in the archive.
In 1957, Roth was the appellant in a Supreme Court case, Roth vs the United States. The minority decision in the case opened the way to Constitutional protection for expression previously censored for indecency, and became a template for the liberalizing First Amendment decisions of the 1960s. He was incarcerated for his actions on several occasions: in 1928, for 3 months in a New York workhouse for possessing indecent materials with intent to sell; in 1929 for 6 months in Detention Headquarters, NYC for violation of parole; in 1930 for 2 months in Moyemensing Prison, remanded after serving time in New York for selling obscene books; and from 1936 to 1939 and from 1957 to 1961 at Lewisburg penitentiary. The latter two were federal cases; the sentences were severe.
Miller, Dennis. "Jewish Self-Styled Prophet 'Pirate' and Pornographer Brought Ulysses to America." Huffington Post, 2013 September 3 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jewish-selfstyled-prophet_b_3846306 / accessed June 26, 2017)
This collection is arranged in two series: I. Book notes, which author and collection creator Jay A. Gertzman compiled as part of the research and writing for his book Samuel Roth, Infamous Modernist, published in 2013 by University Press of Florida; and II. Research notes, which are more general research notes on Samuel Roth compiled by Gertzman. The first series is arranged in subseries according to book chapter, and the second series is arranged in subseries according to subject.
Most of the papers in this collection are photocopies of essays, book chapters, and legal and government documents. There are also handwritten research notes, as well as minimal original correspondence to Jay A. Gertzman spread throughout, from people such as Gershon Legman. Research is mostly focused on Samuel Roth's publishing career and legal battles, with some research notes regarding authors that Roth published, such as Claude McKay. A novel by McKay was discovered in the Roth Archive at Columbia U., and received its first publication in 1917. There are few papers related to Roth's personal life, though there are a number of copies of letters that Roth sent to various people while he was incarcerated.
Gift of Jay A. Gertzman, 2017.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Alexandra M. Wilder
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 June 20
- Access Restrictions
The bulk of this collection is open for research use, however, access to original audio/visual materials and computer files contained in Box 3, Folder 9 is restricted. The Kislak Center will provide access to the information on these materials from duplicate master files. If the original does not already have a copy, it will be sent to an outside vendor for copying. Patrons are financially responsible for the cost. The turnaround time from request to delivery of digital items is about two weeks for up to five items and three to seven weeks for more than five items. Please contact Reprographic Services (email@example.com) for cost estimates and ordering. Once digital items are received, researchers will have access to the files on a dedicated computer in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Researchers should be aware of specifics of copyright law and act accordingly.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.