Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
H. L. Mencken Collection
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1908-1956 (mostly 1924-1942)
21 boxes, 38 items, reels, and 12.5 linear feet
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Box 1-21


Consists primarily of microfilm and transcripts of letters by American essayist and journalist H. L. Mencken, compiled by Princeton University historian and librarian Julian Boyd for his proposed book of Mencken's letters.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

The collection consists primarily of materials gathered by Princeton University librarian Julian Boyd for a proposed book of H. L. Mencken's letters. Transcripts, made for Boyd by Mencken's secretary from her original shorthand notebooks, and microfilm copies of letters from Mencken to others, including Theodore Dreiser and Upton Sinclair, comprise the bulk of the collection. The collection also includes Boyd's correspondence with other people possessing letters from Mencken, as well as Boyd's initial selection of letters for his book. Much relates also to Ernest Boyd's published work Mencken (1925). In addition, the collection contains a number of original letters from Mencken to others, including an undated letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald; the corrected galley proofs of A New Dictionary of Quotations (1942); typescripts of a poem, "Elegy in C Minor," and a speech given at the annual dinner of the American Philosophical Society; guides to book reviews in The American Mercury (Vols. 1-30, 1924-1933) and The Smart Set (Vols. 28-72, 1908-1923); and photographs.

Collection Creator Biography:

Mencken, H.L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956

H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880-1956) was an American journalist, magazine editor, critic, satirist and essayist. He was born in Baltimore and lived there all his life, and was known as the "Sage of Baltimore." He started his writing career as a journalist at the Baltimore Morning Herald , from 1899 to 1905, and then moved to The Baltimore Sun , where he contributed full-time until he suffered a stroke in 1948. In 1908, he became a literary critic for the magazine The Smart Set , and in 1924, he and George Jean Nathan founded The American Mercury . Dent Smith was founder and editor of the Hoboken-based literary magazine ENCORE between 1942 and 1944.

Collection History


The H. L. Mencken Collection began in 1944 with a gift from George Stewart of six TLsS to the Princeton Library. In the same year, the Library purchased 288 Mencken letters to Ernest Boyd and numerous others to Madeline Boyd. The bulk of the collection, including the typed transcripts of Mencken's correspondence, were acquired for the Library by Julian Boyd and added to by him over several decades. August Mencken, Edward Naumberg, Elbridge Colby, Nat Weiner, and others also contributed many Mencken letters.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed October 2, 1995.

During 2022, restrictions on galley proofs and card files were lifted as part of a restrictions review project.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

No reproduction or digital photography of Boyd's copies (paper or microfilm) of Mencken letters is permitted. Otherwise, single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

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:

H. L. Mencken 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 1-21