Robert A. Wilson collection of Gertrude Stein materials
Scope and Contents
This collection was compiled by Robert A. Wilson and centers topically on materials created by or related to Gertrude Stein. The collection includes letters, photographs, primarily literary and dramatic works at various stages prior to publication (handwritten, typed, drafts, proofs), paper ephemera, and merchandise.
Significantly, after Stein, items relating to her partner Alice B. Toklas make up the bulk of the collection. Notable creators in this collection also include photographer Carl Van Vechten and composer Virgil Thomson, both of whom worked with or used Stein and Toklas as subjects in their works.
Additionally, the collection includes some of Wilson's day-to-day records of his Phoenix Book Shop business that have connections to his collecting of Gertrude Stein materials. The collection also includes some of Wilson's own personal papers, such as letters from organizations or other Stein enthusiasts to him, his notes on the famous author, and his reference photographs of Stein and Toklas' memorials and gravestones.
This collection spans in time from 1874 to 2009.
- Creation: 1874-2009
- Stein, Gertrude, 1874-1946 (Person)
- Toklas, Alice B. (Person)
- Wilson, Robert, 1922-2016 (Collector, Person)
- Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964 (Person)
- Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989 (Person)
- Morrison, Murray (Person)
- Steward, Samuel M. (Person)
- Martin, Marty (Person)
Language of Materials
The collection materials are almost completely in English, with a few exceptions in French.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval.
Contact Special Collections for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.
Robert A. Wilson biographical note
Robert A. Wilson (1922-2016) was a Baltimore native who owned the Phoenix Book Shop in Greenwich Village, New York and was a well-known collector of signed first editions of works by his favorite literary figures, particularly Gertrude Stein.
He was born in Baltimore, Maryland and grew up on Cresmont Avenue. Wilson attended Baltimore City College and graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BA in American Literature in 1943. After serving in World War II, he continued his childhood passion for book collecting by becoming the owner of the Phoenix Book Shop in 1959. He became known for publishing and printing the works of local authors and his own detailed bibliographies of noted authors such as Stein.
In their later years, Wilson developed friendships with Alice B. Toklas, Virgil Thomson, and others who knew Stein, as evidenced by their letters to Wilson.
Wilson passed away in 2016 in Sykesville, Maryland.
Source: Frederick N. Rasmussen. "Robert A. Wilson, bookstore owner, collector." The Baltimore Sun, December 12, 2016. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/obituaries/bs-md-ob-robert-wilson-20161213-story.html
Gertrude Stein biographical note
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American expatriate novelist, playwright, poet, and art collector. She was born outside Pittsburgh, lived in Oakland, California, and then spent the rest of her life in Paris, France, becoming a part of the Parisian avant-garde with her life-partner Alice B. Toklas.
She attended Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts from 1893 to 1897, studying psychology's normal motor automatism (an early predecessor of the concept of "stream of consciousness"), particularly the behavior of humans when participating in intelligent activities such as speaking and writing, topics which would influence her later writings. At Radcliffe she developed a life-long friendship with pen pal Mabel Foote Weeks. From 1897 to 1901, she attended Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, but grew bored of her medical studies and frustrated with the male-dominated field.
By 1902, Stein and her brother Leo Stein moved to London and then Paris in 1903, where Stein eventually met Alice B. Toklas. The Stein siblings became passionate collectors and hosts of turn-of-the-century art and literary salons, respectively. They were a critical, familial unit until Stein and brother Leo eventually disagreed with each other on what was considered art and parted ways in 1913.
From 1909 onward, Stein wrote dozens of works, including novels, poetry, plays, operas, essays, biographies and commentaries on life in Europe and America. She did this with the help of Toklas as her secretary and transcriber, while Stein dictated much of her words to her.
Some of her best known works include Tender Buttons (1914), while her most influential works are considered The Making of Americans (1925), How to Write (1931), and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (1933).
Source: Academy of American Poets. "Gertrude Stein." Poets.org. Accessed December 22, 2017. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/gertrude-stein
13.48 Cubic Feet (20 containers total: 6 record center boxes, 6 full-sized legal document boxes, 2 half-sized legal document boxes, 1 telescope box, 2 large flat boxes, 3 small flat boxes)
Robert A. Wilson (1922-2016) was a Baltimore native who owned the Phoenix Book Shop in Greenwich Village, New York and was a well-known collector of signed first editions of works by his favorite literary figures, particularly Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) was an American expatriate novelist, playwright, poet, and art collector. She was born outside Pittsburgh, lived in Oakland, California, and then spent the rest of her life in Paris, France, becoming a part of the Parisian avant-garde with her life partner Alice B. Toklas. This collection was compiled by Robert A. Wilson and centers topically on materials created by or related to Gertrude Stein. The collection includes letters, photographs, primarily literary and dramatic works at various stages prior to publication (handwritten, typed, drafts, proofs), paper ephemera, and merchandise. This collection spans in time from 1874 to 2009.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by the Trustee of Robert A. Wilson in May 2017.
Processed by Annie Tang in January 2017. Descriptions were influenced by an item-level appraiser inventory.
Genre / Form
- drafts (documents)
- drawings (visual works)
- ephemera (general object genre)
- letters (correspondence)
- long-playing records
- proofs (printed matter)
- Guide to the Robert A. Wilson collection of Gertrude Stein materials
- Annie Tang
- January 2018
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
Part of the Special Collections Repository
The Sheridan Libraries
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA