Shel Silverstein "Missing Pieces" Collection

August 14, 2020

Shel Silverstein

Missing Pieces: Found Works, Papers & Emphemera of Shel Silverstein - View the Available Collection

Sheldon Allan "Shel" Silverstein (September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999) was an American writer known for his cartoons, stories and songs. His written works have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold more than 20 million copies. He was the recipient of two Grammy Awards, as well as Golden Globe Award and Academy Award nominations.

Archive: This fascinating and diverse archive, comprised of 500+ pages, sheds light on Silverstein’s career during his 30s and 40s, traveling the world and drawing cartoons for magazine and publications; writing songs for Johnny Cash, Helen Reddy, and Dr. Hook; and writing and illustrating books of poetry for children.

Provenance: From a letter by Bryan Bilby of Appeldore Books, dated March 1, 2014. In part: "On or about 9/15 of 2013 I received a call from a person in New York about a collection of Shel Silverstein material. Naturally I became very interested because there is virtually no Silverstein manuscript material or art work on the market. The facts were revealed to me that Silverstein had dumped all this paper not in his own trash can...but in his neighbor's trash can instead...The treasures were incredible including...a selection of drawings..."

The Missing Pieces

Sketches: Approximately 25 pages, mostly of heads, but also including two of Lafcadio, “The Lion Who Shot Back,” from Silverstein’s 1963 book of that title.

Drafts and Proofs: Approximately 165 pages of handwritten, typed, and printed poems, random thoughts, lyrics, rhymes, and drafts, most of which are previously unpublished.

Correspondence: Approximately 160 pages, both business and personal, including several envelopes, (largely to Silverstein), 1962-1980.

Sheet Music: 48 songs written or co-written by Silverstein, including ‘Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh’ and ‘Beans Taste Fine.’

Contracts and Forms: 40 signed contracts, 1961-1965, mostly for songs Silverstein wrote or co-wrote for Fall River Music, Hollis Music, Melody Trails, and Sixth Floor Music. Includes May 1964 contract with 5½-6½ Productions and another with Bill Grauer Productions for a twelve-inch album, and three contracts for appearances on “The Tonight Show” on NBC on May 1, 1963, April 1, 1964, and December 14, 1964.

Miscellany: Notes (many with names and phone numbers), phone messages, business cards, photographs, negatives, receipts, lists and other ephemera.