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 (scamss): 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

Scope and Contents

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 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:

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 (scamss): Box 1-17