Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Commins, Saxe, 1892?-1958.
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Saxe Commins Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1930-1973 (mostly 1945-1960)
17 boxes and 6.05 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-17


Consists of the papers of Saxe Commins, concentrating primarily while he was chief editor at Random House (1933-1958). Commins worked with many major writers of the literary world, such as Eugene O'Neill and William Faulkner, as well as Irwin Shaw and Budd Schulberg. Commins also compiled several collections of others' works, such as "The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt" and "Major Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson."

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of papers of Commins, compiled primarily while he was chief editor, 1933-1958, at Random House. The author files contain a large section of Eugene O'Neill material, including 60 letters (1920-1948) to Commins; galleys for Morning Becomes Electra, Ah, Wilderness, The Iceman Cometh, Days Without End, and A Moon for the Misbegotten; miscellaneous correspondence; about 160 letters by Carlotta O'Neill; and photographs of the O'Neills. In addition, there are letters to Commins and his wife, Dorothy Commins, by Gertrude Stein, W. H. Auden, Sherwood Anderson, Budd Schulberg, Albert Einstein, S. N. Behrman, Isak Dinesen, Edgar Snow, Bennett Cerf, Robinson Jeffers, Peter van de Kamp, Margaret Mead, and many others. Typescripts and photographs of various authors are also interspersed among the files.

Also present are Commins' typescripts for his lectures, articles, reviews, and short stories, as well as correspondence and papers relating to the publication of The Basic Writings of George Washington, Selected Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson, and The Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson, all edited by Commins.

Collection Creator Biography:

Commins, Saxe, 1892?-1958.

Saxe Commins was born in Rochester, New York, around 1892. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and received his bachelor's degree in 1913, after which he married Dorothy Berliner, a concert pianist. He began his editing career at Horace Liveright, but soon joined Random House in 1933. He quickly ascended the ranks to become editor-in-chief and, then, senior editor. Commins also acted as the director of the Modern Library series, a division of Random House.

Many of the twentieth-century's greatest authors received help from Saxe Commins on their works. The editor accepted novels and plays by William Faulkner, W. H. Auden, Eugene O'Neill, Sinclair Lewis, Gertrude Stein, and James A. Michener, to name a few. He helped some on their way to the Pulitzer Prize, including O'Neill, Faulkner, and Lewis.

Commins also compiled several collections of others' works. He presented The Major Campaign Speeches of Adlai E. Stevenson in 1933, The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, The Selected Writings of Washington Irving in 1945, The Selected Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson in 1947, a four-volume series entitled The World's Greatest Thinkers with Robert N. Linscott in 1947, and The Basic Writings of George Washington in 1948.

Commins believed that "the role of the editor is to be invisible," but his editing was an indisputable element of many authors' reputations. He died in his Princeton home in 1958 after a long struggle with heart ailments.

Collection History


Removed from the residence of Saxe Commins deposited by Dorothy Commins.

Custodial History

The collection was formed as a result of a departmental practice of combining into one collection manuscript material of various accessions relating to a particular author.


No appraisal information is available.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Maritza Maxwell in 1992. Finding aid written by Maritza Maxwell in 1992.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use

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.

Credit this material:

Saxe Commins Papers; 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 (mss): Box 1-17