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Collection Overview

Doubleday, Frank Nelson, 1862-1934
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Frank N. Doubleday and Nelson Doubleday Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1734-1966 (mostly 1890-1949)
33 boxes, 1 item, and 14 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-33


Consists primarily of papers of Frank Nelson Doubleday and his son, Nelson, relating to their personal and business relationships with prominent authors and artists published under the Doubleday imprint, such as Joseph Conrad, A. B. Frost, Rudyard Kipling, T. E. Lawrence, and W. Someset Maugham.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of papers of Frank Nelson Doubleday and his son, Nelson, relating to their personal and business relationships with prominent Doubleday authors and artists. Included are letters, manuscripts, and galleys of Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, T. E. Lawrence, W. Somerset Maugham, and others; drawings by Kipling and his father, and by A. B. Frost and his sons; and letters from over 100 correspondents, including J. M. Barrie, Helen Keller, Christopher Morley, Frederic Remington, Gene Stratton-Porter, and Booth Tarkington, to members of the Doubleday family.

The collection includes approximately 190 letters of Kipling and the holograph manuscript, among others, of The Light That Failed (1891), presented by the author to Frank Nelson Doubleday in 1899. The holograph manuscript of The Razor's Edge, presented by Maugham to Nelson Doubleday at Christmas, 1944, highlights the second-generation acquisitions in the collection.

Additions to the collection include correspondence concerning the copyright and publication of works by O. Henry, and personal papers of Frank Nelson Doubleday, including a scrapbook and articles on his Red Cross trip to the Orient in 1918, typescript drafts of his autobiography, "Secret Memoirs of a Publisher," written in two installments (1926 and 1933) for private circulation, a journal (1897), a family genealogy, a 1734 English indenture, and photographs. Also present are financial and estate papers of Frank Nelson Doubleday, his two wives, Neltje Blanchan DeGraff Doubleday and Florence Van Wyck Doubleday, Lily Underhill Doubleday, Nelson Doubleday, Felix Doubleday, Samuel A. Everitt, and tax and estate papers (1930-1942) for Rudyard Kipling.

Collection Creator Biography:

Doubleday, Frank Nelson, 1862-1934

Frank Nelson Doubleday

Frank Nelson Doubleday was born on January 8, 1862, in Brooklyn, New York, to William Edwards Doubleday and Ellen M. Dickinson. Although ultimately becoming one of the most famous and respected publishers in the United States, Doubleday's formal education was hardly extensive. He attended a public primary school in Brooklyn, and then went to the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute for two to three years, until his father's hat-manufacturing business failed, forcing the teenager to seek employment.

He began his career at Charles Scribner's Sons in 1877 and worked there for twenty years, rising through the ranks and leading many important projects, including the revival of the Book-Buyer magazine and the leadership of Scribner's Magazine in 1887.

Doubleday married Neltje DeGraff in 1886 and had one son, Nelson, and one daughter by her. The couple also adopted Doubleday's nephew, Felix.

In 1897, Doubleday began his first independent firm, Doubleday and McClure Company. He ended the partnership with McClure in 1900 and began Doubleday, Page & Company, partnering with Walter Page. Doubleday's many acquisitions of other publishing firms led to multiple reincarnations of Doubleday, Page & Company, including Doubleday, Doran & Company, and various subsidiaries in England and the United States.

Doubleday, Doran & Company became one of the leading publishing houses in the United States, with an impressive stable of writers, such as Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, T. E. Lawrence, and Jack London, and many popular periodicals, including Country Life, American Home, and World's Work.

Doubleday revolutionized the publishing industry by considering publishing a business, instead of a literary pursuit. As a result he launched such innovative projects as collected sets of authors' works, book subscriptions, and extensive advertising and publicity campaigns. He also established a publishing plant in Garden City, Long Island, which was one of the first day-lit factories and included a small hospital and dentist's office for employees. His employees also had health insurance and life insurance. Doubleday believed that happy workers increase productivity and quality. Photographs of the plant and its workers can be found in this collection.

Doubleday also figured prominently in American society, counting among his friends Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. He and his second wife, Florence Van Wyck, engaged in many philanthropic activities and were well-known and respected in New York society.

Doubleday died in 1934 after a heart attack. He was succeeded as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Doubleday, Doran & Company by his son, Nelson Doubleday.

Nelson Doubleday

Nelson Doubleday, the son of Frank Nelson and Neltje De Graff Doubleday, was born on June 16, 1889, in Brooklyn, New York. He was educated at the Friends School of New York and Holbrook Military Academy. His education was difficult because of extended illness as a child, but was supplemented by overseas travel with his family. Doubleday also completed two years at New York University before leaving to enter publishing.

Publishing was a passion for Nelson Doubleday which began at a young age. As a child he wrote to Rudyard Kipling, asking him to write a set of practical animal stories, which were ultimately published as the Just So Stories. The young Nelson also had an early instinct for business, negotiating a deal with his father, the publisher of the volume, to collect a penny of royalties for every copy sold, due to his involvement in the conception of the work. He collected this royalty for his lifetime.

Doubleday founded his independent publishing firm, Nelson Doubleday, Inc., in 1912. This company sold half-price magazine subscriptions of month-old magazines, and was profitable. Doubleday stopped the magazine sales when the post office increased its rates, but used the profits from the company to publish books, including an etiquette guide and reprints of nonfiction volumes.

Doubleday married Martha J. Nicholson in 1916, but the union ended in divorce in 1931. He then married Ellen McCarter Violett in 1932, who had two children from a previous marriage, and later had two more children with Doubleday. Ellen was a philanthropist and active participant in many causes, including the Parent Teacher Association.

Doubleday also enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War I but never served overseas. Following his service, he started at his father's company in 1918 as a junior partner. He became vice-president and then president of the company, helping it survive the Depression by selling recently acquired British publishing houses and all of Doubleday's magazines.

Nelson Doubleday also started various book clubs to introduce lower-priced books to the masses. He was very successful in this endeavor, with popular book clubs including the Literary Guild, of which he became the sole owner in 1934, the Young People's Division of the Literary Guild, the Junior Literary Guild, the Crime Club, the Doubleday One Dollar Book Club, the Family Reading Corporation, the Home Book Club, the Dollar Mystery Guild, and Book Club Associates. Doubleday published books for these clubs under separate imprints, including many lower-priced options.

Doubleday also controlled and maintained the business through the Depression by being quick to terminate projects that appeared unprofitable. His keen business sense also contributed to his success expanding the Doubleday house. He acquired a medical textbook publishing division and opened a second manufacturing plant in Hanover, Pennsylvania. He also established editorial and business offices in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Canada, in addition to the existing offices in New York and London.

Ultimately, Nelson Doubleday accomplished his father's goal of making Doubleday the largest publishing house in America. Nelson Doubleday died of cancer in January 1949. He left a large publishing empire as well as an important legacy of providing books and literature to the common man.

Collection History


Most of the material in the collection was given at various times, through 1993 , by members of the Doubleday family--particularly, Mrs. Ellen McCarter Doubleday (1899-1978) and her son, Nelson Doubleday, Jr., Princeton Class of 1955.

Kipling and Doubleday family correspondence, including letters from Rudyard Kipling to Frank N. Doubleday, were purchased in 2014 (AM 2015-50).


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Anna Bialek in July and August of 2005. The finding aid was written by Anna Bialek in the summer of 2005, incorporating detailed calendars compiled by Howard C. Rice, Jr., in 1961, which he revised in 1964.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. For instances beyond Fair Use, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Frank N. Doubleday and Nelson Doubleday Collection; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-33

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Related Materials

The Ellen McCarter Doubleday Papers (C0747) contains additional Doubleday family papers. Included is correspondence of both Ellen and Nelson Doubleday with Thomas Costain, Noel Coward, Daphne Du Maurier, Edna Ferber, Ellen Glasgow, Sinclair Lewis, W. Somerset Maugham, Kenneth Roberts, Booth Tarkington, and other Doubleday authors; Du Maurier's typescript for a play entitled "Mother" and a photocopy of her notebook for Rebecca (1938); a great deal of social correspondence with English and American friends; correspondence with their children and other family members; correspondence with doctors and others concerning Nelson Doubleday's illness and letters of condolence on his death; and documents concerning the estates of Frank Nelson Doubleday and Nelson Doubleday and various trust disputes.


Former Assistant Librarian for Special Collections Howard C. Rice, Jr., wrote about the Princeton Doubleday collection in two articles in the Princeton University Library Chronicle: Volume XXII (spring 1961), pp. 105-117, and Volume XXIV (spring 1963), pp. 191-196.

Subject Terms:
Artists--United States--Correspondence.
Artists--United States--Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
Authors and publishers--20th century.
Novelists, English--Correspondence.
Novelists, English--Manuscripts.
Publishers and publishing--New York (State)--Garden City.
World War, 1914-1918--War work--Red Cross.
Genre Terms:
Photographs, Original.
Doubleday, Doran & Company
Conrad, Joseph, 1857-1924
Doubleday, Nelson
Frost, A. B. (Arthur Burdett), 1851-1928
Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936.
Kipling, Rudyard, 1865-1936.
Maugham, W. Somerset. (William Somerset), 1874-1965.