Program in the History of the Book  in American Culture


Amy Chen

Placing Papers
with Amy Hildreth Chen

Thursday, August 27, 2020 at 2:00 pm EDT

Approx. 45 minutes

This program is free but requires advanced registration.

The American Antiquarian Society is hosting a virtual book talk with Amy Hildreth Chen, author of Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market.

The sale of authors’ papers to archives has become big news, with collections from James Baldwin and Arthur Miller fetching record-breaking sums in recent years. Amy Hildreth Chen offers the history of how this multimillion dollar business developed from the mid-twentieth century onward and considers what impact authors, literary agents, curators, archivists, and others have had on this burgeoning economy.

The market for contemporary authors’ archives began when research libraries needed to cheaply provide primary sources for the swelling number of students and faculty following World War II. Demand soon grew, and while writers and their families found new opportunities to make money, so too did book dealers and literary agents with the foresight to pivot their businesses to serve living authors. Public interest surrounding celebrity writers had exploded by the late twentieth century, and as Placing Papers illustrates, even the best funded institutions were forced to contend with the facts that acquiring contemporary literary archives had become cost prohibitive and increasingly competitive.

Amy Hildreth Chen is an independent scholar from North Liberty, Iowa, and author of Placing Papers: The American Literary Archives Market (U Mass Press, 2020). She previously worked as an academic librarian at the University of Iowa and University of Alabama. Chen obtained her PhD in English from Emory University in 2013.

Order this book directly from the publisher at

Intamcy of Paper

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