University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

The Irving Rosenthal Papers

1963 - 1967

Manuscript Collection Number: 337
Accessioned: Purchase, May 1995
Extent: .4 linear feet (35 items)
Content: Correspondence and manuscripts
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: February 1997 by Julie Witsken; revised December 2001.

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Table of Contents

Biographical Note

Born in 1930, American editor and author Irving Rosenthal is counted among the Beats, a group of young writers in the 50s and 60s known for their bohemian lifestyles and rebellion against the then popular art forms. Though he published only one major novel, Sheeper, and has not been remembered as a major Beat writer, American novelist and poet Gilbert Sorrentino in a 1994 interview with Alexander Laurence cited Rosenthal as one of the most compelling of the Beats.

Before writing Sheeper, Rosenthal edited the Chicago Review. He was responsible for publishing the first chapters ever offered of William Burroughs' Naked Lunch, which he edited with Allen Ginsberg. When the Chicago Review issue containing those chapters was censored, Rosenthal left the Chicago Review and founded Big Table. He stayed long enough to publish the censored issue; he then left Big Table to Paul Carroll's control and moved to Morocco in 1963.

In Morocco, Rosenthal became involved with a Moroccan named Mohammed ben Abdullah Yussufi, who was later killed by Moroccan police. Deeply affected by the loss of his friend, Rosenthal began writing Sheeper. He hoped that his novel would reveal the true cause of Mohammed's death and serve as a memorial to him. Rosenthal remained in Morocco for at least a year, during which time he pored over the manuscript for the novel and maintained steady correspondence with American editor, poet, and filmmaker Ira Cohen. At first under Cohen's direction, parts of the novel began to be published in small magazines in the United States and abroad. The entire novel was published by Grove Press in 1967.

From Morocco, Rosenthal went to Athens before returning to New York in 1964.


Biographical information is derived from the collection.

Scope and Content Note

The Irving Rosenthal Papers consist of 28 letters and two postcards from American editor and Beat author Irving Rosenthal primarily to American editor, poet and filmmaker Ira Cohen (b. 1935), as well as manuscript versions of Rosenthal's novel Sheeper, of his Pastiche of the Golden Flower and of his translations of Mohammed ben Abdullah Yussufi's The First Yarmulkas. The collection spans the dates 1963-1967.

The letters, most of which were written from Morocco, provide valuable insight into the influences that shaped Rosenthal's Sheeper. Rosenthal wrote Sheeper to tell the world how his friend Mohammed ben Abdullah Yussufi was killed by the Moroccan police. Rosenthal's relationship with Mohammed, Rosenthal's own experiences of being falsely arrested and imprisoned by the Moroccan police, Moroccan customs and culture, and other aspects of Rosenthal's personal life are discussed as well. In the letters Rosenthal also gives direction to Cohen regarding his editorial practices and the publication of Sheeper; makes frequent requests for provisions and money; and talks about the Beat culture. Rosenthal mentions several Beats, such as Allen Ginsberg, whose language style he claims had become "popular currency."

Manuscripts of Sheeper are contained in Folders 3 and 4. Folder 3 contains a photocopy typescript of pages 1 to 270, with some typescript pages interspersed. Folder 4 contains the carbon typescript of pages 82 to 281. Both typescripts have autograph corrections.

The Sheeper manuscripts show a work differing from the published version of the novel. Two chapters of the manuscript appear to have been deleted from the published version, and chapters on Allen Ginsberg show extensive changes.

The collection also includes a typescript of the short story Pastiche of the Golden Flower with autograph corrections (F2) and two versions of Rosenthal's translation of Mohammed ben Abdullah Yussufi's The First Yarmulkas (F5). The first version is typescript with autograph corrections, and the second is the corrected typescript.

Related Collection:

Mss 340 Edward Field Alfred Chester Archives

Contents List

Box -- Folder -- Contents

1         Series 1.  Correspondence, 1963-1967
               All letters are from Rosenthal to Ira Cohen unless otherwise noted.

     F1   1963 Jan 10         ALS       3p
          1964 Jan 15         ALS       4p
               Jan 16         ALS       3p
               Jan 23         ALS       2p
               Feb 4          ALS       7p
               Feb 29         ALS       2p
               May 4          TLS       2p
                    with autograph notes
               May 12    ALS       1p
               Jun 12         TLS       1p
                    to Dwight N. Mason
               Jun 26         ACS       1p
               Jul 20         TLS       2p
                    with autograph notes
               Aug 28    ALS       1p
               Sep 3          ALS       1p
               Sep 22    ALS       1p
               Oct 5          ALS       1p
               Nov 16    TLS       1p
                    with autograph notes
               Nov 22    ALS       1p
               Dec 26    TLS       1p
                    with autograph notes
          1965 Jan 18         ALS       2p
               Jan 29         TLS       1p
          [1965]    Apr 19    ALS       1p
                    with Peter Birnbaum
               May 6          ALS       1p
               Jul 9          TLS       1p
               Aug 20    TLS       1p
               Sep 19    TLS       1p
                    with autograph notes
          1967 Jan 19         ALS       1p
          n.d.           TLS       2p
                         ALS       1p
                         ALS       1p
                    recipient unidentified
                         ACS       1p
                    to Peter Birnbaum

Series II. Manuscripts Series II.1 Works by Rosenthal F2 Pastiche of the Golden Flower Typescript. (3 pages) F3 Sheeper Photocopy typescript of pages 1 to 270, with some typescript carbon pages.
With autograph corrections. (270 pages) F4 Sheeper Carbon typescript of pages 82 to 281. With autograph corrections.
(100 pages) Series II.2. Translations by Rosenthal F5 The First Yarmulkas Written by Mohammed ben Abdullah Yussufi and translated by Rosenthal.
One typescript with autograph corrections, and one corrected typescript. (3 pages)

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