Stuart Wright Collection: Wendell Berry Papers

1968, 1980
Manuscript Collection #1169-094
Berry, Wendell (Wendell Erdman)
Physical description
0.25 Cubic Feet, 1 archival box, 2 items, 23 p.
Preferred Citation
Stuart Wright Collection: Wendell Berry Papers (#1169-094), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers of Wendell E. Berry (1968, 1980) documenting the life and literary career of the prolific Henry County, Kentucky-born American novelist, poet, environmental activist, and cultural critic, consisting of a broadside entitled The Wheel (1980), published by Palaemon Press, and The Lilies (1968), a poem published in the Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 9, no. 1 (Fall 1968) and autographed Wendell Berry on p. 3.

Biographical/historical information

Wendell Berry was born Wendell Erdman Berry on 5 August 1934, in Henry County, Kentucky. His parents' families had farmed in Henry County for at least five generations by that time. Berry's father, John Marshall Berry, was a lawyer and farmer and agricultural activist who devoted himself to the interests of small farmers and agricultural conservation. He was one of the leaders behind The Burley Tobacco Producer's Program, a federal price support program for tobacco farmers. He was also president of the Burley Tobacco Growers' Cooperative, which managed the program for many years. Berry and his brother, John M. Berry, Jr. supported their father's interests and established The Berry Center, in 2011, to preserve Berry family's papers and to promote the causes for which they worked. All three Berrys have manuscripts collections preserved at The Berry Center.

Wendell Berry attended the Millersburg Military Institute and then the University of Kentucky, where he received a B. A. (1956) and M. A. (1957) in English. He then attended Stanford University's creative writing program (1958) as a Wallace Stegner Fellow. Among the other students in his seminar were Edward Abbey, Larry McMurtry, Robert Stone, Ernest Gaines, Tillie Olson, and Ken Kesey. Berry published his first novel, Nathan Coulter, in 1960.

In 1961 Berry traveled to France and Italy courtesy of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. Upon his return to the U. S., 1962-1964, Berry took a teaching position at New York University's University College in the Bronx, NY. He taught creative writing at the University of Kentucky from 1964 until he resigned in 1977, to protest the coal industry. He returned to the English faculty, 1987-1993. Since 1993, Berry has called himself a farmer, although he has continued to write and advocate his political and social causes.

Also in 1965, Berry purchased a farm in Henry County, called Lane's Landing, and began producing corn and small grains. It is located near his parents' birthplaces. His experiences farming in Henry County have inspired many of his literary works and essays. In the 1970s and 1980s, he also contributed to Organic Gardening and Farming and The New Farm, both published by the Rodale Press. To date (2016) Berry has written 25 books (or chapbooks) of poetry, 16 volumes of essays, 11 novels and short story collections.

In all his literary works, Berry expresses the idea that literature ought to reflect the unique place where it was written. The bulk of his novels and short stories describe life in the fictional small town of Port William, KY. Berry's writings also express his faith in Christianity and his belief in pacifism. His poem, The Lilies was published in Southern Poetry Review (1968). In 1968, Stuart Wright's Palaemon Press, Ltd., published Berry's poem The Wheel as Palaemon Broadside No. 20 (1980).

Beginning in the 1960s Berry became increasingly activist. First, against the Vietnam War and later against the nuclear power industry, nuclear weapons, the death penalty, the National Animal Identification System, and the coal industry. He has spoken, written, and demonstrated in favor of agricultural conservation, civil rights, reform, and Christian pacifism.

In 2009 he removed his papers from the University of Kentucky as a protest against the University's close association with the coal industry. He then donated his papers to the Kentucky Historical Society (2012).

In 2011, he helped establish The Berry Center, at New Castle, KY, to promote agricultural reform and conservation and sustainable environmental policies. The Berry Center is also a repository for many of his papers and those of his father and brother.

Berry married Tanya Amyx (1957) shortly after receiving his M. A. They have a son and a daughter.


"Wendell Berry Collection, 1958-2013 (Bulk: 1985-2013)(MSS 189)". 74 boxes. Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington, KY.

"The Berry Papers". [Biographical Sketch] (2017) The Berry Center, New Castle, KY.

"Wendell Erdman Berry 1934". [Biographical Sketch] (2017)

"Life and Work of Wendell Berry". [Biographical Sketch] (2017) Special Collections at Belk Library. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.

"Wendell Berry". [Biographical Sketch] (2017) Wikipedia.

"Wendell Berry". [Official Website] (2017) Wendell Berry

Author: Jonathan Dembo, 3/1/2017, 3/24/2017.

Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Wendell Berry Papers. He was born, Stuart Thurman Wright, on 30 March 1948, in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war's battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide "Johnny Reb" essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.

In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.

Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.

At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.

All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright's collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.

Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, illustrators, composers, and publishers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.

Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016

Scope and arrangement

Stuart Wright Collection: Wendell Berry Papers (#1169-094) are arranged in original order in a single series.

Series 1: Cary Addition #1 to the Stuart Wright Collection consist of printed items by Berry including a broadside entitled The Wheel, published Palaemon Press (1980) and The Lilies, a poem in theSouthern Poetry Review, Vol. 9, no. 1 (Fall 1968) autographed "Wendell Berry" on p. 3. Source: Cary Addition Box #145.000, 155.000. Series 1 is held in Box 1.a-1.b.

Administrative information
Custodial History

27 October 2011, (Cary Addition #1), 0.25 cubic feet; 1 archival box; 2 items; 23 p. Papers (1968-1980) documenting the life and literary career of the prolific American novelist, poet, environmental activist, and cultural critic, Wendell E. Berry (b. 1934), consisting of printed items by Berry including a broadside entitled The Wheel, published by Palaemon Press (1980) and The Lilies, a poem in the Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 9, no. 1 (Fall 1968) autographed "Wendell Berry" on p. 3. Source: Cary Addition Box #145.000, 155.000. Vendor: Stuart Wright

Source of acquisition

Purchased from Stuart Wright, 10/27/2011

Processing information

Processing, Preliminary inventory & Container List, by Jonathan Dembo, 2/25/2016; Final inventory by Jonathan Dembo, 3/1/2017; Finding aid by Jonathan Dembo, 9/30/2016; Biographical Sketch, by Jonathan Dembo with the assistance of John Leche, 8/28/2016, 3/1/2017; Encoding revised by Jonathan Dembo, 3/1/2017, 3/24/2017.

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Language of material


Related material

Wendell Berry Collection, 1958-2013 (Bulk: 1985-2013) (MSS 189) 74 boxes, Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington, KY USA

The Berry Papers [Biographical Sketch] (2017) The Berry Center, New Castle, KY USA

Container list
Box 1 Folder a Wheel, The [Poem] by Wendell Berry ; Palaemon Broadside No. 20 (Winston-Salem, NC : Palaemon Press Ltd., © 1980) Broadside. Encapsulated. 1 item. 1 p. ; Note : Autographed "Wendell Berry" on face ; one of 126 copies printed ; Source : Cary Addition Box #145.000
Box 1 Folder b Lilies, The [Poem] by Wendell Berry, Southern Poetry Review, Vol. 9, no. 1 (Fall 1968) Periodical. 1 item. 22 p. ; Note : Autographed "Wendell Berry" on p. 3 ; Source : Cary Addition Box #155.000