The Leonard Cohen Collection At The University Of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
Ever wonder what’s in the University Of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library Leonard Cohen manuscript collection – and how much that institution paid for those papers? Well, here are a few items acquired by 1966…1
Then, as we learn from He’s Our Man by Stacey Gibson (U of T Magazine: Autumn 2006),
Almost half-a-century later, Canada’s most revered poet has contributed more of his literary past to U of T: a staggering 140 banker’s boxes that trace his life from bohemian writer to iconic singer-songwriter to Buddhist monk. “U of T’s been very kind to me over the years – and when I really needed it. They bought manuscripts when I was about 25 years old – and they did that twice – so I feel very grateful to the university and to the library,” says Cohen, 71. U of T archivist Richard Landon and his wife, Massey College librarian Marie Korey, packed the first 99 boxes during a visit to Los Angeles in 2005. Cohen and his partner and musical collaborator, Anjani Thomas, also sifted through the papers, which were housed at his daughter’s antique store.
The day before Passover, Cohen sang part of the Seder service to the U of T couple and regaled them with stories over dinner. (Cohen, who lived for many years at Mount Baldy Zen Center in L.A., said his teacher, Joshu Sasaki Roshi, taught him the art of contemplation. He, in turn, taught Roshi how to drink single malt scotch.) The newly acquired literary treasures include manuscripts of Death of a Lady’s Man and Stranger Music, and a handbound copy of The Spice-Box of Earth (inscribed “For Mother with love, Leonard. December 1965, Montreal”).
There is correspondence with poets Irving Layton and Allen Ginsberg, and photos taken at a studio session with Phil Spector and Joni Mitchell in the 1970s. There is also an abundance of fan mail that ranges “from the serious to the seriously disturbed,” jokes Landon.
Bucks For Books
To explore the fiscal angle, we now turn to Build a literary legacy for yourself: Smart aspiring writers have their archives ready by Robert Fulford (The National Post: 24 May 2005):
The US$2.5-million [Norman Mailer received from the University Of Texas for his papers] will no doubt be welcome in the Mailer household, where the word “alimony” retains its terrifying power, but it’s probably no more heartening than the US$3,000 Leonard Cohen received from the University of Toronto 45 years ago. Cohen was not yet a singer or novelist, just a good poet with no money and a flair for titles, such as Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956). But he delivered. He sent poetry manuscripts, galley proofs, letters from McClelland and Stewart, a CBC contract for a 30-minute program and anything else he could find. The $3,000 he received covered his expenses for a year on Hydra, his favourite Greek island.
Like most universities, Toronto can no longer pay for manuscripts. But Cohen and many others donate their files in return for a tax credit that can be spread, if desired, over several years. This means that collections at several big universities, notably McMaster, Calgary and Toronto, continue to grow.
I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Apr 23, 2013 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric.
- From A hot market for manuscripts by Robert Fulford. Toronto Daily Star: April 21, 1966. [↩]