Skip to Content

Jargon Society Collection

About the Collection

The Jargon Society Collection covers the life of one of the most significant small presses of the twentieth century, providing a comprehensive overview of its publications, as well as the work and personal papers of its publisher, Jonathan Williams, who was a poet, essayist, and photographer. The collection includes manuscripts by Williams and others; business records; correspondence to and from Williams; more than 900 photographs; art; and peripheral material.

Hugh Kenner called Williams “our truffle-hound of American poetry” in recognition of Williams’s prescient ability to select for publication unknown writers who would later become major voices. Jargon authors include Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Michael McClure, Denise Levertov, Louis Zukofsky, Larry Eigner, Lorine Niedecker, Mina Loy, and Kenneth Patchen. The press also published books of photography by Ralph Eugene Meatyard, Lyle Bongé, and others. Manuscripts of these works as well as correspondence between the authors and Williams can be found in the collection.

The collection also contains an impressive portfolio of Williams’s photography, including scenes from Black Mountain College in the 1950s, snapshots from a visit to the Creeleys on Mallorca in 1953, and a series of group portraits of Basil Bunting, Russell Banks, Dan Gerber, and Thomas Meyer from a visit to Northumberland in 1970. The collection also includes Williams’s collection of photographs by photographers like Frederick Sommer, Clarence John Laughlin, and Robert Schiller, in addition to artwork including concrete poetry by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Bern Porter, Dom Sylvester Houédard, and others; intermedia pieces by Ray Johnson; and drawings by Fielding Dawson.

The Jargon Society digital collection provides public access to photographs by Jonathan Williams by permission of his Estate. Access to photographs by other artists is restricted to UB faculty, staff, and students only. New photographs will be added to the digital collection on an ongoing basis.