The Thomas Merton Archives at St. Bonaventure University
The Thomas Merton Archives at St. Bonaventure University really began in December of 1941when Merton gave materials to Fr. Irenaeus Herscher, the Director of the Library, as he was leaving the campus to travel to Kentucky to enter the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemani. St. Bonaventure was Merton’s last stop in the world so to speak, and the books and materials he gave to Fr. Irenaeus mark the first time that anything that was his was retained by an institution because of that reason. Years later Merton recounted his time at St. Bonaventure in The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), and even later edited his three earliest journals into one which he titled The Secular Journal (1959) [published in a fuller form as Run to the Mountain (1995)] again containing stories and descriptions of his time at St. Bonaventure.
The Merton Archives at St. Bonaventure University was developed by Fr. Irenaeus through his continued contact with Merton, and contains Merton’s earliest manuscript journal writings, along with notebooks from his time attending Columbia University, a notebook from his time teaching at St. Bonaventure, the only extant copies of two of his early novels, the papers of Naomi Burton Stone, and numerous other items. The campus of St. Bonaventure University itself is also part of the archives, as the central quad is set up in the same way and contains the same buildings that were standing when Merton was here. Walking through the Library especially is to walk in the steps of Merton as he spent much time there talking to Fr. Irenaeus, Fr. Tom Plassmann and Fr. Philotheus Boehner.
But then there would not be a Merton Archive here if it had not been for Olean native Robert Lax, who befriended Merton while they were both students at Columbia, and who brought him on to campus and into the area over a period of three summers. St. Bonaventure University houses the largest archival collection of Lax materials in the world.
The Thomas Merton Collection has grown to be one of the most important collections at St. Bonaventure University. Explore our site to find out more about how this collection was formed, how it has grown, and the many items that make up this unique and important collection.
Thomas Merton came to St. Bonaventure University in the early 1940's to teach English. While here, he made important friendships with people who not only made an impact at St. Bonaventure, but also fostered the collection so that it would become what it is today. Explore our page about St. Bonaventure to learn more and see St. Bonaventure through Thomas Merton's eyes.
Naomi Burton Stone was Thomas Merton's longtime literary agent and friend. Merton's relationship with St. Bonaventure led Mrs. Stone to also develop friendships at St. Bonaventure, leading to her eventual donation of her collection. Her collection has intrinsic value and is of importance to anyone who is interested in Thomas Merton. Explore our page about Mrs. Stone and discover who she was and her relationship with Thomas Merton.