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William Merriam Gibson Collection

Identifier: Mss-Coll-Gibson

Scope and Content

The collection begins with Gibson's correspondence. Highlights include an October 20, 1954 letter from the editor of the United States Quarterly Book Review requesting that Gibson read and review Everett Carter's Howells and the Age of Realism, together with a portion of Gibson's manuscript review and the review that was printed in the November 14, 1954 issue of the New York Times. Correspondence also addresses Gibson's editing of William Dean Howell's essay titled "Novel Writing and Novel Reading," which Howells used as his text for a series of lectures in 1899. Rare-book dealers often wrote Gibson with news of Howells works that were available for purchase. For example, John S. Van E. Kohn of Seven Gables Bookshop wrote Gibson on March 6, 1957 regarding a leaflet advertising J.J. Piatt's Poems, with a quote from Howells in Atlantic Monthly that was found in a copy of Little New-World Idyls & Other Poems (1893). The leaflet can also be found in the collection. Gibson's interest in and study of Howells was apparently well-known by his colleagues. For example, Oscar Cargill of Ohio University's Department of English sent Gibson a pamphlet about the Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia that included a comment Howells made on the building in the February 1919 issue of Harper's Magazine. The pamphlet is included in the collection. Various letters, together with the printing specifications of Selected Mark Twain-Howells Letters from Harvard University Press, chronicle Gibson's accomplishments as an author. Other items in the collection include invoices for purchases Gibson made through various book dealers. Annotated lists of works by William Dean Howells track Gibson's collecting efforts, as do a number of catalogues that Gibson used in selecting new acquisitions for his collection. For example, the collection includes a catalogue for the sale of the library of actor and bibliophile Francis Wilson in November 1940. Book collecting practices can also be tracked through advertisements for David Douglas' Series of "American Authors" in one-shilling volumes, which contained several titles by William Dean Howells. Clippings from The Literary World (dating from 1875 to 1878) include references to William Dean Howells and his works. The collection also includes an article titled "The Significance of Henry James," from the January 6, 1927 issue of The Times Literary Supplement. Other clippings found inside Gibson's books include an illustration of "Allies' Day" by Childe Hassam, published in the rotogravure picture section of an unknown publication dating from March 17, 1918. Student papers about William Dean Howells' works can also be found in the collection. For example, papers discuss uses of imagery in Indian Summer and the cyclical nature of time in that book. The collection concludes with newspaper articles from the Hamilton Journal-News and the Columbus Sunday Dispatch Magazine about William Dean Howells and Mac-O-Chee Castle in West Liberty, Ohio, which was built by the Piatt family. John James Piatt (1835-1917) was a friend of William Dean Howells; they collaborated on the 1860 volume titled Poems of Two Friends.


  • 1875-1977

Language of Materials

The records are in English

Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research.

Restrictions on Use

This collection is under the rules and regulations of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, Miami University Libraries. The Walter Havighurst Special Collections and University Archives, Miami University Libraries, owns the property rights to this collection. Learn more about our policy here: The use of this collection is restricted to scholarly purposes only. For those items in the collection which duplicate original manuscripts in the New York Public Library, access and use restrictions for that institution apply.

Biography of William Merriam Gibson

William Merriam Gibson (1912-1987) received his undergraduate degree from Princeton University in 1933. He earned both a master's degree (1934) and a Ph.D. (1940) from the University of Chicago. From 1937 to 1941, Gibson was an instructor of English at the University of Chicago. He served as an associate professor (1941-1942) and a professor of English (1946-1949) at Williams College. He was a professor of English at New York University from 1949 to 1973 and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1973 to 1981. Gibson was a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Turin (1960-1961), the University of Aix-Marseilles (summer 1961) and the University of Delhi (1963). In 1980, he was a lecturer at Peking Language Institute. Additionally, Gibson served as director of the Center for Editions of American Authors. Gibson researched and collected the works of author William Dean Howells. In 1948, Gibson and George Arms collaborated on producing A Bibliography of William Dean Howells for the New York Public Library. Gibson also devoted many years to studying the work of Mark Twain. As a result, he edited two books on Twain - Selected Mark Twain-Howells Letters, 1872-1910, in collaboration with Frederick Anderson and Henry Nash Smith (Harvard University Press, 1960; abridged edition, 1967), and Mark Twain's "Mysterious Stranger" Manuscripts (University of California Press, 1969). In 1976, Gibson's The Art of Mark Twain was published by Oxford University Press. Finally, the University of Tennessee Press published Gibson's Theodore Roosevelt Among the Humorists: W.D. Howells, Mark Twain, and Mr. Dooley in 1980.


.5 linear feet


This collection includes correspondence and printed material pertaining to William Merriam Gibson's research and collecting efforts, together with student papers and newspaper articles regarding William Dean Howells.

Statement of Arrangement

Series I. Correspondence Series II. Miscellaneous Manuscript Items Series III. Miscellaneous Printed Material Series IV. Catalogues Series V. Student Papers Series VI. Oversized Materials

Guide to the William Merriam Gibson Collection
Collection processing completed October 2008 by Betsy Butler. Finding Aid last edited 2020/12/7 by Tiffany Dogan and Cody Sprunger.
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared Using Dacs
Language of description
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Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter Havighurst Special Collections Finding Aids Repository