About The Thomas Merton Collection


St. Bonaventure University:

A Brief History

The Merton Collection at St. Bonaventure University is one of the most important repositories of Merton materials worldwide. Its holdings include manuscripts and typescripts of his earliest journals, along with drafts of books and articles, letters, association copies of printed materials, and other special items. There is also an extensive collection of editions and translations of Merton's writings. The general University library rounds out the collection of resources available with many books that have been written about Merton.

The Collection grew out of the interest and vision of Fr. Irenaeus Herscher, OFM, who befriended Merton while he was undertaking his first and only professional job. Merton taught English at what was then St. Bonaventure College over a period of three semesters (Fall 1940, Spring 1941 and Fall 1941). Fr. Irenaeus continued his relationship with Merton long after he had left here to enter into religious life with the Trappists at Gethsemani. Merton left materials with Fr. Irenaeus but also sent typescripts, carbon copies and mimeographs of a great deal of the writing that he did later. Merton had been visiting the area since the summer of 1938.

 It was Robert Lax that first brought Merton on campus and introduced him to Fr. Irenaeus. Fr. Irenaeus also became friends with Naomi Burton Stone, Merton's longtime literary agent. Mrs. Stone has given materials to the Archives, some of which have been integrated into the collection already and some of which remain sealed at her request until a later date. It is the goal of the Merton  Collection at St. Bonaventure University to preserve and make accessible the rich collection of materials under its care and to accurately represent the history of the time Thomas Merton spent on campus and in the surrounding area. The legacy of Thomas Merton has for many years been molded and shaped by his enormous popularity. Merton's importance is felt in the areas of spirituality, social concern,literary criticism, peace studies and monastic religious life to name only a few topics that his writings delved into.

These visits were with his friend Robert Lax who was a native of the town of Olean that is situated adjacent to the campus. Merton and Lax were classmates at Columbia. Lax and Merton stayed at the hotel in town owned by his sister's husband's family, at their cottage on the hill above town, and at their home on the north end of town.

Publication and republication of Merton's writings has not always been guided by careful attention to scholarship, as his importance would demand, but rather by publisher's desires to produce a product for an eagerly awaiting public. It is the hope of those involved with the Thomas Merton Collection at St. Bonaventure University that this web page will be of use to both the more popular reader of Merton and the academic. We welcome comments and inquiries, as we will be working on refining descriptions and general information on a regular basis.


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