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Leo Stein Collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 78

Scope and Contents

The Leo Stein Collection contains manuscripts, letters, and artworks by Leo Stein, which document his life and work, principally in the latter part of his life. The collection spans the years 1892-1950.

The collection is housed in 22 boxes and 56 broadside folders, and is organized into six series: Correspondence, Notebooks, Writings, Personal Papers, Photographs, and Artworks. Box 22 contains Oversize material.

Series I, Correspondence , is divided into three subseries: Outgoing, Incoming, and Third-Party. The Outgoing series contains mainly original letters donated by recipients, though a number of carbons retained by Leo Stein are found here as well. Among the persons included in both the Outgoing and the Incoming subseries are Leo's wife, Nina Auzias Stein, family members such as Fred Stein and Howard and Bird Sternberger Gans, Leo's college friend, Mabel Foote Weeks, Otakar Coubine [Kubin], a fellow painter he encouraged, George Boas, Bernard Berenson, Hiram Haydn, and Miriam and Joe Price. Among the other items of correspondence in the Incoming section are letters Leo Stein received concerning aesthetics and psychoanalysis from fellow writers: Adolphe Basler, Trigant Burrow, John Dewey, Manuel Komroff, R. C. Trevelyan, and about art in general from artists and collectors: Albert Barnes, Edward Bruce, Leon Kroll. Included here are letters from many of his friends, such as Norman Douglas, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Daniel and Roselle Mebane, James and Conevah Osgood, Morgan Russell, and Adele Wolman. This subseries includes letters received by Nina Stein and by Chantal Quenneville, hence the dates extending through 1949.

The Third Party correspondence pertains mainly to the settling of Leo Stein's estate and the publication of Journey Into the Self, as seen in letters between Fred Stein, Hiram Haydn, Nina Stein, and Chantal Quenneville (a long-time friend of Nina Stein's). A typescript of Fred Stein's memoir of traveling around the world with Leo Stein in 1896 is included with the letters from Fred Stein to Hiram Haydn.

Series II, Notebooks and Journals , begins with a group of holograph notebooks which served all purposes for Stein: notepad, sketchbook, commonplace book, and letter-pad. They are organized according to a numbering system apparently ascribed when they were used in the preparation of Journey Into the Self. The material in these notebooks is free-form. Though many jottings take the shape of essays, there is no distinct relation between these sketchy notes and the drafts of writings in Series III. The three journals which follow are more clearly identifiable as records of daily events during the Second World War. (The existence or whereabouts of other journals is not known.)

Series III, Writings , is composed principally of the writings of Leo Stein although Writings of Others are also present. Stein's writings include titled manuscripts, including ones for which titles could be assigned, as well as numerous folders of untitled manuscripts and fragments. Among the titled manuscripts are draft materials for Appreciation: Poetry, Painting and Prose and Journey into the Self (gathered posthumously). The only distinct evidence of The A B C of Aesthetics is a selection of reviews, though parts which made up this collection may well be found here under other titles. Many other articles for such publications as The New Republic are present in typescript or printed versions. The untitled manuscripts and fragments are filed at the end of the series in no particular order, as none could be determined. The majority of these untitled pieces deal with the recurrent themes of aesthetics, art and psychoanalysis. Among the Writings of Others are several printed pieces on art and a collection of various manuscripts by Nina Stein.

Series IV, Personal Papers , includes a group of clippings about Gertrude Stein, annotated by Leo, Leo's diploma from Johns Hopkins, and receipts for artwork by Otakar Coubine.

Series V, Photographs , principally contains prints of Leo and Nina Stein and several of their friends. Included here are a series of snapshots apparently taken during a visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan's home in Taos, as well as a number of prints of artworks, mainly by Edward Bruce.

Series VI, Artwork by Leo Stein , gathers together the principal body of his output. Drawn from the Stein estate and from several gifts, this series is divided into groups by format and subject. The majority is arranged in the order in which they were inventoried during a campus-wide fine art survey conducted in the early 1980s by Yale Art Gallery staff, as evidenced by inventory numbers affixed to the canvases or boards. (The two exceptions to this being the paintings received from Cone and Keck, which were not inventoried and are arranged in the order they were received.) Central subjects tend to be landscapes (most likely of the Italian hills around Settignano) and studies of female nudes. The oil paintings on canvas had been removed from their stretchers by the time the collection was processed in 1995.

The single item in the Oversize section is a photograph from Series V.


  • 1892-1950


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Leo Stein Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Leo Stein Collection was acquired over several years, principally as a bequest of the estate of Leo and Nina Stein, given in 1960 through Joseph Solomon, literary executor for Leo Stein. However, many items had been given to the Yale Collection of American Literature by various parties in the years preceding. Subsequent gifts, particularly from Stein family members, completed this assemblage.

Associated Materials

Correspondence received by Leo Stein before 1913 can be found in the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, YCAL MSS 76.


19.25 Linear Feet ((22 boxes) + 56 broadside folders)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Leo Stein Collection contains manuscripts of writings by Stein, letters from such persons as: Bernard Berenson, Mabel Dodge Luhan and Maurice Sterne, personal papers, photographs, and artworks (mainly by Stein), which document the life of Leo Stein, an artist and writer.
Many letters to Leo Stein for the period before 1913 can be found in the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers, YCAL MSS 76, also owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

LEO STEIN (1872-1947)

Leo Stein was born in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, in 1872, the fourth surviving child in the family of Daniel and Amelia Stein. In 1874, his sister, Gertrude, was born. Due to the changing fortunes of the family and the difference in ages between siblings, Leo and Gertrude came, in a sense, to raise each other, their own fates linked for several decades. [A timeline provided in the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers pinpoints significant events in their lives.] In brief, Leo attended Harvard for several years, took a trip around the world with his cousin Fred Stein in 1895, and matriculated to Johns Hopkins along with Gertrude, where he was awarded a bachelor of arts degree in 1898. The two established housekeeping in Paris in 1903 at 27 Rue de Fleurus, by which time Leo had happened upon a vocation. He began to paint and continued until his death producing landscapes and nudes. These early years in Paris were spent acquiring paintings, as well. Gertrude and Leo collected works by the then little-known artists Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Cezanne.

The first ten years in Paris were busy and fruitful, with Leo pursuing his art and Gertrude her writing. They both fell in love. Leo with Nina Auzias, an artist's model, and Gertrude with Alice B. Toklas, a fellow expatriate from California. These changes in their lives, however, were what helped to precipitate their eventual break. Perhaps due to Leo's jealousy over Alice, perhaps due to Gertrude's frustration at Leo's dismissal of her work, in 1913, when the two were on either side of 40, they parted for good. Leo took Nina to live with him in Settignano, Italy, and Gertrude remained in Paris on the Rue de Fleurus with Alice. Leo wrote occasionally to Gertrude, usually to clarify matters of their estates, but the acrimonious rift would never be healed.

Leo spent several years in North America during World War I, separated from Nina. He continued to paint, and to write critically about art, but his principal interest in these later years was psychoanalysis. He would spend significant amounts of time, money, and energy during the subsequent decades undergoing intense Freudian therapy to undo the burdensome neuroses he described so often in letters to friends. He finally married Nina in 1921, and sold the bulk of his art collection to the American collector Albert Barnes in the 1920s. In 1927, he published a collection of his critical writings on art as The A-B-C of Aesthetics. He continued writing over the next two decades, proposing to collect more of his essays which brought together his ruminations on aesthetics, metaphysics, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. In 1947, he brought out this compilation as Appreciation: Painting, Poetry and Prose. He had just begun to receive laudatory critical reviews of the book when he was informed that his ongoing stomach problems were caused by cancer. He died on July 29, 1947, barely one year later than his sister Gertrude had died, and of the same ailment that had killed her. He was survived only by his wife Nina, who lived on in Settignano for two years until committing suicide in 1949.

Leo's cousin Fred Stein, along with several friends, gathered together a selection of Leo Stein's letters and writings as a tribute to him. They were published in 1950 as Journey Into the Self.

Guide to the Leo Stein Collection
by Timothy Young
August 1996
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.