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Black Sparrow Press Records

Identifier: MSS-313-BC

Scope and Content

The first 3 boxes of the collection contain the general correspondence files of the press. The correspondence documents the inception and the development of the press, as well as containing correspondence from a vast array of contemporary poets, novelists, editors, and publishers.

The remaining 21 boxes of the collection consists of Black Sparrow Press' archives of titles published between 1973 and 1976. There are more than 60 titles, representing some 30 different authors, including Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, Gertrude Stein, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Creeley, and Joyce Carol Oates. The collection contains Black Sparrow Press archives numbers 151-221, except for archives 163, 199, and 208, (Diane Wakowski) and with the addition of archive numbers 227, 250 (Robert Creeley) and 238 (D.H. Lawrence).

Each book archive contains the following:
  1. the manuscript as submitted by the author
  2. all subsequent manuscripts of revised manuscripts submitted by the author
  3. the designer's original color artwork for the cover and title page
  4. negatives and proofs relating to the artwork
  5. first and second proofs corrected by the author and the editor
  6. correspondence from the author, editor, and printer relevant to the book
  7. binder's dummys, press proofs, color proofs, trial printings, etc.
  8. a copy of all rejected printings of the book in those cases where the book or some portion of it was reprinted
  9. a copy of each published edition of the book.


  • 1967-1976


Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Organizational History

In 1966, John Martin, manager of an office supply company in California, came across the poetry of Charles Bukowski. Overwhelmed by the caliber of Bukowski's writing, Martin went to visit him at his home in Los Angeles. He looked through a closet full of Bukowski's manuscripts, and decided to start the small literary publishing company he'd been thinking about for some time. Martin offered Bukowski $100 a month, which was 20% of his own salary, to quit his post office job and write full time. Bukowski took Martin up on the offer. Martin sold his personal collection of approximately 2,000 modern first edition books for $50,000, and began Black Sparrow Press with the profits. Bukowski would be the first author that Black Sparrow published. Black Sparrow began as a side line business, but within 1 1/2 years, it became a full time endeavor for Martin.

At least initially, Black Sparrow published avant garde poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction, primarily by West coast authors, many of whom had been rejected by the East Coast publishing houses. Martin turned a profit for the first time in 1971, and has continued to do so ever since. Profits from more than 40 Bukowski titles published by Black Sparrow have helped subsidize their publishing of many lesser known literary figures, including Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, and Diane Wakowski. Black Sparrow has also published authors such as Joyce Carol Oates and Paul Bowles.

Publishing 12-15 books a year, Black Sparrow Press has printed more than 500 titles to date. In 1986, Martin moved the press from an office at his home in Santa Barbara to it's own building in Santa Rosa, California. He and his small staff operate out of a "spartan office with linoleum floors and a couple of struggling plants."

Black Sparrow remains one of the truly independent literary presses in the country. It is completely self supporting, and has never subsisted on grants or endowments. Martin publishes the books he likes and does not succomb to the laws of popular success and marketability. He does not expend extensive resources attending book conventions and literary lunches. John Martin is touted as "a purist who refuses to go commercial."


24 boxes (24 cu. ft.)

Related Material

Small Press Collection Center for Southwest Research. University of New Mexico University Libraries. John Martin Collection University of California, Los Angeles. Black Sparrow Press Archives University of Arizona. Tucson, AZ. Black Sparrow Press Archives University of Alberta, Canada. Black Sparrow Press Archives University Libraries. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Desert Review Press Archives Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico

Separated Material

Photographs transferred to Black Sparrow Press Photograph Collection


Finding Aid of the Black Sparrow Press Records, 1967-1976
Processed by B. Silbergleit
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 313 BC::Black Sparrow Press Records)//EN" "nmu1mss313bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • April 28, 2006: Major revisions/simplification to finding aid to enable it to open
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131