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Douglas Woolf papers

Identifier: MSS 0429

Scope and Contents

The Douglas Woolf papers represent the literary life work of this American novelist and short story writer. Spanning the dates 1922 to 1997 (bulk dates 1944-1992), the collection comprises 21 linear feet of autograph and typescript drafts of Woolf’s novels, short stories, and poems; as well as the author’s personal papers, correspondence files, files related to Wolf Run Books, and printed material. The final segment of the collection is a group of papers related to Woolf’s second wife and literary executor, Sandra Braman.

The papers document Douglas Woolf’s dedication to his writing and the sacrifices that that vocation entailed, both for himself and his family. The contents of the collection also clearly develop a picture of Woolf’s lifestyle. Woolf’s varied employment, his need for solitude, his isolation from established professional enterprises, his challenges with the publishing world, and his personality are all variously chronicled in these papers.

The papers are divided into six series: I. Manuscripts written by Douglas Woolf, II. Wolf Run Books, III. Printed material, IV. Correspondence, V. Personal papers, and VI. Sandra Braman papers. Each of these series has an introductory series note that describes the content of the material, as well as giving dates, extent, and type of material available.

The literary legacy of Douglas Woolf is preserved in Series I. Manuscripts written by Douglas Woolf. This series contains most, if not all, of the professional writing completed by Woolf prior to his death in 1992. From Woolf’s first published novel, Hypocritic Days, to his yet unpublished final work, “Woolf’s Guide to New York,” a variety of autograph and typescript drafts are available. The drafts display the author’s revision techniques; sometimes Woolf made dramatic shifts in the text and at other times he changed single words in particular phrases. Some of the novels and stories appear in autograph notebooks, some with clean text almost identical to the typescripts that followed. In some cases there are original notes, handwritten drafts, typescript drafts, and galley or page proofs for a single work.

In addition to writing novels and short stories, Woolf also penned brief poems; hundreds of pages of autograph and typescript drafts of these poems are available in the collection. Drafts and supporting material are also present for Woolf’s introduction to Larry Eigner’s Country, Harbor, Quiet, Act, Around (1978), a screenplay on which Woolf and Sandra Braman collaborated, and for Braman’s interview of Woolf which was published in Future Preconditional.

In January of 1980 Douglas Woolf tape-recorded a series of sessions, possibly for use in writing his autobiographical novel. Some of the sessions were in the form of interviews conducted by Sandra Braman. Other sessions were monologues by Woolf in which he conveyed whatever was on his mind at the time of the recordings. Woolf recorded his thoughts on personal influences of acting and the theater, his war experiences, and other writers, as well as musings on the economy, religion, music, aging, his parents, and a variety of other topics.

In the miscellaneous section are hundreds of scraps of paper on which Woolf jotted ideas, quotes, phrases, fragments of dialogue, or a line or two of poetry, suggesting that Woolf was constantly observing and connecting his world to his writing.

Wolf Run Books, the press and book-selling enterprise established by Douglas Woolf and Sandra Braman is the focus of Series II. Established in 1974, the press ultimately published six books, all written or edited by Braman and Woolf, and three issues of their journal Vital Statistics. Although the publishing arm of Wolf Run discontinued in 1979, the sale of books, including non-Wolf Run imprints, continued into the 1990s.

Business correspondence, original manuscripts submitted for inclusion in Vital Statistics, advertising material, proofs for publications, mailings from other small presses, stationery, invoice books, lists of inventory, and even the trademark Wolf Run paw print stamp (carved by Douglas Woolf from an electrical plug) document both functions of Wolf Run Books.

Series III. Printed material complements Series I. In this series are found published versions of many of Woolf’s novels, and short stories, as well as an interview, a review, and his ink-drawn self-portrait. The series also includes publications that mention Woolf or his writing and publications by other authors. Books or broadsides written by Cid Corman, Edward Dorn, Robert Creeley, Carl Rakoski, and Anne Waldman appear in this series and in many cases were inscribed to Woolf by the authors. Some of these items have been removed and cataloged for the printed collections in Special Collections. A complete list of the removed items is found in Appendix A.

Series IV. Correspondence documents the professional and personal interactions of Douglas Woolf, with the exception of family correspondence that is found in Series V. Containing incoming letters from over 400 individuals or firms, as well as drafts of some of Woolf’s responses, the series reveals much about Woolf’s professional accomplishments and struggles, as well as his interpersonal relationships.

Woolf’s entire publishing career is represented in the correspondence, from his first published story, “Just the Three of Us,” (Story, 1947) through publishers’ rejection slips to the posthumous collections or reprints edited by Sandra Braman in the 1990s. Letters document the publication of his novels by Grove Press, Penguin Books, and other large and small publishing firms, as well as the appearance of his short stories in literary journals and magazines.

The correspondence also provides insight into other facets of Woolf’s life, such as his job searches, his cross-country reading trips, his book selling ventures, and his friendships and acquaintances.

The extensive Series V. Personal papers comprises thirteen subseries: Woolf’s family correspondence, legal documents, personal photographs, identification cards or documents, medical information, financial papers, papers related housing, employment, the postal service, and travel, as well as printed material and miscellaneous items. Series V. A. Family Correspondence and V.B. Other Correspondence and Legal Documents related to the Family have limited access pending permission of Sandra Braman, executor of the estate of Douglas Woolf. Consult the Manuscript Librarian for further information.

The correspondence, documents, and papers in this series illustrate most aspects of Woolf’s life, including his mobility, his medical and financial affairs, his dedication to writing, his interactions with his family, and his complex personality. Woolf’s correspondence with Yvonne Woolf is valuable because both sides of the correspondence are available and because Woolf was a frequent correspondent. In his letters Douglas Woolf details his daily life, his travel plans, his latest job, and his thoughts on politics, movies, books, and anything else of importance to him.

The papers include three self-portraits, one painted while on fire lookout (photographs present), and later two ink portraits hand-drawn on table napkins. One version of his table-napkin drawings was published in Self-Portrait: Book People Picture Themselves in 1976.

The final series in the collection contains some personal material related to Sandra Braman, but principally records her relationship to and support of Douglas Woolf. Braman edited posthumous reprints or collections of Woolf’s work and arranged for the disposition of his papers. Braman also worked with Robert Creeley in organizing the public memorial for Woolf that occurred in New York City. Related to the memorial service are copies of typescripts of the tributes to Woolf written by Robert Creeley, Norman Mailer, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Ammiel Alcalay.


  • Creation: 1922-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1944-1992


Conditions Governing Access

Most of this collection is open for research. Consult Manuscript Librarian for limited access to Series V.A. Family Correspondence and V.B. Other Correspondence and Legal Documents related to the Family.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

Novelist and short story writer Douglas Woolf was born on March 23, 1922 in New York City, the son of Douglas Gordon and Dorothy (Keefe) Woolf. He grew up in Larchmont, a suburb of New York, and rural Connecticut where he attended prep school.

Douglas Woolf attended Harvard University from 1939-1942, where his friends included John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Norman Mailer. He left Harvard in 1942 to serve as an ambulance driver in North Africa as part of the American Field Service. His wartime service shifted to navigating for the U.S. Army Air Force in 1943 when became a flight officer, a position he held until 1945.

Following World War II Woolf began a life of travel with a journey to the West Coast. Woolf briefly worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood, where he met and married his first wife, Yvonne Elyce Stone. From Los Angeles he moved to the University of New Mexico where he completed his A.B. in 1950, then continued on to the University of Arizona for graduate work.

Woolf’s stories began to appear in print during the 1940s in such journals as Story, Prairie Schooner, The Span, and Western Review. His first published novel, The Hypocritic Days, which had been rejected as a master’s thesis at the University of New Mexico, was published in 1955 by Robert Creeley’s Divers Press.

Beginning in the 1950s Woolf and his family moved throughout the western states. Douglas Woolf was variously employed as a route driver, migrant farm worker, ice cream salesman, groundskeeper, food vendor at sports venues, etc. In between jobs and frequently by choice, Woolf and his family would live in the desert, woods, or abandoned towns, camping, occupying shacks, or living out of their car. During these intervals Douglas Woolf would concentrate on his writing.

The results were published by Grove Press, first Fade Out in 1959 and later Wall to Wall in 1962. His first published collection of short stories, Signs of a Migrant Worrier (Coyote Press) appeared in 1965. Fade Out was translated into several languages and, in fact, became a bestseller in Poland.

In the late 1960s Douglas Woolf returned to New York, following separation from his wife. In New York he worked as a messenger and wrote. During this period Harper & Row published Ya! and John-Juan (1971) and Jargon Society published Spring of the Lamb (1972).

By the early 1970s Woolf had migrated to the Midwest. In Minnesota he met poet and musician Sandra Braman, whom he married in 1976. Together they traveled throughout North America, selling remaindered copies of Woolf’s Ya! and John-Juan on street corners and university campuses, reading at local campuses, and using drive-away cars as transportation.

In 1974 Woolf and Braman began Wolf Run Books, a combination publishing and book-selling firm. Wolf Run Books published six books and a journal. The books produced were Douglas Woolf’s Had, Loving Ladies, Ya! & John-Juan, The Collected Letters of Wolf Run; and Sandra Braman’s Geretschky and The One Verse City. Three issues of their journal Vital Statistics were published between 1978 and 1979.

Book sales, not restricted to books printed under the Wolf Run imprint, numbered in the hundreds of items. Although the publishing portion of Wolf Run ceased in 1979, the book sales continued into the 1990s.

In 1977 On Us was published by Black Sparrow Press. It features Woolf’s account of his exchanges with the producers of the movie Harry and Tonto and the movie’s relationship to his book Fade Out.

During the 1970s and 1980s Woolf’s The Timing Chain (Tombouctou, 1985) and Future Preconditional (Coach House Press, Canada, 1978) were published. Future Preconditional was awarded the first American Book Award in 1980 by Ishmael Reed’s Before Columbus Foundation. His work also continued to appear in numerous journals, such as Tri Quarterly, Unmuzzled Ox, Bezoar, Imprint, Periodics, and Rolling Stock.

By the mid 1980s Woolf’s health limited his ability to continue his work as a door-to-door market research interviewer. On January 18, 1992 Douglas Woolf died at the home of Sandra Braman. A memorial service organized by Braman and Robert Creeley was held in New York City on May 31, 1992.

Braman, Sandra. “The Last Trip: A Memory of Douglas Woolf.” 1992 Jan 21. Braman, Sandra. Biographical Note published in The Hypocritic Days and Other Tales. Santa Rosa, California: Black Sparrow, 1993. Contemporary Authors. Volume 1-4. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1967. p. 1024. Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series. Volume 2. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1981. p. 682. Obituary. The Independent (London). 1992 Mar 5.


21 linear foot

Language of Materials



The Douglas Woolf papers represent the literary life work of this American novelist and short story writer. Spanning the dates 1922 to 1997 (bulk dates 1944-1992), the collection comprises 21 linear feet of autograph and typescript drafts of Woolf’s novels, short stories, and poems; as well as the author’s personal papers, correspondence files, files related to Wolf Run Books, and printed material. The final segment of the collection is a group of papers related to Woolf’s second wife and literary executor, Sandra Braman.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, 1999

Materials Cataloged Separately

Published works received with the collection have been removed and cataloged separately with imprints in Special Collections. They can be accessed by searching the library catalog for the phrase “From the library of Douglas Woolf”.

A full bibliography of these materials appears in the linked Appendix PDF.

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-20: Shelved in SPEC MSS record center cartons

Removals shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (20 inches) and SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)

Series I. F21, Series I. F36, Series I. F45 oversized removals shelved in SPEC MSS oversize galleys

Rights Statement

The text of this web page can be reused and modified under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (

Processing Information

Processed by Anita A. Wellner with assistance from Michael Cloudy, Fall 2001. Encoded by Lauren Connolly, December 2015. Further encoding by Tiffany Saulter, June 2016. Updated by Jaime Margalotti, March 2022.

Finding aid for Douglas Woolf papers
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2015 December 1
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA