Kenneth A. Lohf
Collecting for Columbia
The telephone rang in the University's Rare Book and Man¬
uscript Library. "A call from President Kirk," the secretary
said. It was the mid-1960s, and Kenneth Lohf wondered if
there was any trouble as he picked up the phone. "Oh, Lohf," said
Grayson Kirk m a perfectly calm voice, "I'm on to something
which might interest you. Last night I dined with Bennett Cerf He
and his partner Donald Klopfer at Random House are looking for
somewhere to bestow all their papers. He thought we might be
interested. You might follow this up." All their papers! A house
which had published W. H. Auden, William Faulkner, James Joyce,
Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O'Neill, Gertrude Stein, and many other
"greats" from the 1920s to the present day.
Ken followed up at once with a phone call to Random House.
Nothing happened, however, immediately; in fact, nothing hap¬
pened for four years. At last another telephone call, this time from
Random House: "Will you come down and see what we have that's
worth preserving?" Ken went down to their offices in the Villard
mansion on Madison Avenue, was led through cavernous cellars
and the boiler room by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer, and
emerged finally into a dark storeroom filled with scores of file cabi¬
nets arranged around the damp walls. The contents of several
drawers were spilling onto the cement floor. How much was actu¬
ally left in the files, the librarian wondered? Ken noticed the "St"
file, walked over and opened it as a test, and there he feasted his eyes
on a mass of Gertrude Stein folders containing hundreds of original
letters and manuscripts and thousands of related items document¬
ing her publishing career at Random House. The librarian felt both
I his article will liIso appear as the introduction to the catalogue entitled: Tbi; Lohf Years:
An Exhibition ofSdmed Rare Booh and Manuscripts Acquired by the Rare Book and Manu¬
script Library. 1967-1992, While Kenneth A. Lohf Served as Its Librarian.