Skip to main content

John Edward Williams Papers

Identifier: MC 716

Scope and Content Note

The Williams collection contains personal and official correspondence; notes and manuscripts of all Williams' novels; drafts of the majority of poems; classroom material; official documents; photocopies of newspaper clippings; printed material; essays on John Williams; interviews; photographs; a scrapbook; and other materials.

Acronyms Used in Finding Aid to Designate Certain of John Williams's Works (including working titles and unpublished works):

  1. Augustus = A
  2. The Broken Landscape = BL
  3. Butcher's Crossing = BC
  4. English Renaissance Poetry = ERP
  5. The Necessary Lie = NL
  6. Nothing But the Night = NBN
  7. Poems: New and Selected = PNS
  8. The Shape of Air = SOA
  9. The Sleep of Reason = SOR
  10. Splendid in Ashes = SIA
  11. Stoner = S


  • circa 1922-2014


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Access Information

Please call (479) 575-8444 or email at least two weeks in advance of your arrival to ensure availability of the materials.

Use Information

No Use Restrictions Apply.

No Interlibrary Loan.

Standard Federal Copyright Laws Apply (U.S. Title 17).

Biographical Note

John Williams, novelist and poet, was born on August 29, 1922, in Clarksville, Texas. After holding various positions with newspapers and radio stations in the Southwest, Williams enlisted in the USAF early in l942, spending two and a half years as a sergeant in India and Burma. Several years after the war, Williams enrolled in the University of Denver, where he received his B.A. in 1949 and an M.A. in l950. During this period, his first novel, Nothing But the Night, was published (l948), and his first volume of poems, The Broken Landscape, appeared the following year. In the fall of 1950, Williams went to the University of Missouri, where he taught and received a Ph.D. in 1954. In the fall of l955, Williams took over the directorship of the creative writing program at the University of Denver. Williams's second novel, Butcher's Crossing, was published by Macmillan in l960, followed by English Renaissance Poetry, an anthology published in 1963 by Doubleday which he edited and for which he wrote the introduction. His second book of poems, The Necessary Lie, appeared in l965 and was published by Verb Publications. In l965 he became editor of University of Denver Quarterly (later Denver Quarterly) until l970. In l965, Williams's third novel, Stoner, was published by Viking Press, and his fourth novel, Augustus, was published by Viking Press in l973 and won the prestigious National Book Award for that year. All of his novels, as well as English Renaissance Poetry, have been reissued by the University of Arkansas Press. After retiring from the University of Denver in l986, Williams moved with his wife, Nancy, to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he resided until he died of respiratory failure on March 3, 1994. A fifth novel, The Sleep of Reason, was left unfinished at the time of his death.


12 Linear Feet (31 boxes)

Arrangement of the Papers

Material is arranged and described in thirteen series and an addendum:

  1. Series 1. Vitae and Bibliographies, 1968-1985. Box 1, Folder 1.
  2. Series 2. Personal Correspondence, 1944-1985. Box 1, Folders 2-15; Boxes 2-3.
  3. Series 2. Subseries 1. Literary Personalities, 1944-1985.
  4. Series 2. Subseries 2. Readers of JW's Works (i.e., Fan Mail), 1948-1984.
  5. Series 2. Subseries 3. Hometown Residents and JW's Former High School Teachers, 1960-1978.
  6. Series 2. Subseries 4. Miscellaneous Personal Correspondence, 1944-1948.
  7. Series 3. Professional Correspondence, 1946-1985. Boxes 4-7.
  8. Series 3. Subseries 1. Publishing Correspondence, 1946-1985.
  9. Series 3. Subseries 2. JW as editor, 1947-1980.
  10. Series 3. Subseries 3. National Awards, Honors, and Grants Received, 1966-1985.
  11. Series 3. Subseries 4. Evaluations and Recommendations of Candidates for Awards, Grants, and Publications, 1931-1982.
  12. Series 3. Subseries 5. Visiting Academic Appointments, Readings, Lectures, 1957-1984.
  13. Series 3. Subseries 6. University of Denver, 1949-1984.
  14. Series 3. Subseries 7. Letters of Recommendation, 1957-1985.
  15. Series 3. Subseries 8. Soliciting Various Opinions from JW, 1959-1985.
  16. Series 3. Subseries 9. Miscellaneous Professional Correspondence, 1954-1983.
  17. Series 4. Manuscripts and Notes: Prose. Boxes 8-21; Box 22, Folders 1-5.
  18. Series 4. Subseries 1. Novels.
  19. Series 4. Subseries 2. Short Stories.
  20. Series 4. Subseries 3. Thesis, Dissertation, Essays.
  21. Series 4. Subseries 4. Lectures.
  22. Series 4. Subseries 5. Book Review.
  23. Series 4. Subseries 6. Reader's Reviews for University of Arkansas Press.
  24. Series 5. Manuscripts and Notes: Poetry. Box 22, Folders 6-13; Box 24.
  25. Series 5. Subseries 1. Collections.
  26. Series 5. Subseries 2. Individual Poems.
  27. Series 5. Subseries 3. Translations.
  28. Series 6. Classroom Lecture Notes, Handouts, and Exams (University of Denver). Box 25, Folders 1-4.
  29. Series 7. Financial Records and Official Documents, 1951-1985. Box 25, Folders 5-7.
  30. Series 8. Printed Material, 1955-1986. Box 26, Folders 1-15; Box 27, Folders 1-5.
  31. Series 8. Subseries 1. Periodicals and Articles, 1955-1986.
  32. Series 8. Subseries 2. Brochures, Pamphlets, Book Jacket Copy, Jacket Art, 1963-1985.
  33. Series 8. Subseries 3. Clippings, 1948-1979.
  34. Series 9. Essays and Other Material about JW. Box 27, Folders 6-8.
  35. Series 10. Interviews. Box 27, Folders 9-10.
  36. Series 11. Photographs. Box 27, Folders 11-15.
  37. Series 12. Miscellaneous Items. Box 27, Folders 16-17; Box 28.
  38. Series 13. Oversized Material: Galley Proofs, Maps, Letters. Oversize Box 3.
  39. Series 14: Addendum: Supplementary Materials to First Accession. Boxes 29-31

Acquisition Information

John Edward Williams of Fayetteville, Arkansas, donated his papers to Special Collections October 13, l987.

Additional materials were donated by Williams' widow on July 15, 1998 (Boxes 29-30) and at various dates between 1999 and 2017 (Box 31).

Separated Materials

A large map of central Colorado (1873 and 1874) has been placed in the Map Collection. Publications by Williams and featuring Williams' work have been placed in the Arkansas Collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Anne Marie Candido, Special Collections Division, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas, in March 1992.

Additional materials (Box 31) were integrated into the collection by Katrina Windon in July 2022.

John Edward Williams Papers
Anne Marie Candido
March 1992
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Department Repository

University of Arkansas Libraries
365 N. McIlroy Avenue
Fayetteville AR 72701 United States
(479) 575-8444