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Saul Steinberg papers

Call Number: YCAL MSS 1053

Scope and Contents

The Saul Steinberg Papers consist of correspondence, artwork, professional papers, personal papers, photographs, published artwork, clippings, collected and source material, realia, financial papers, and audio-visual material documenting artist Saul Steinberg’s professional and personal activities. The papers document Steinberg’s development as an artist, his career as a fine artist and as an illustrator for the The New Yorker magazine, his travels, his personal life, and his personal and professional relationships, including his relationships with his wife artist Hedda Sterne and with his partner Sigrid Spaeth. Spaeth’s papers, consisting of correspondence, photographs, personal papers, professional papers, and some audio-visual materials, are also included. The bulk of the papers date from 1931-1999, primarily from Steinberg’s life after immigrating to the United States in 1942. Also included are ephemera, manuscripts, and other printed material from the 15th-19th centuries collected by Steinberg during his lifetime.


  • 1417 - 2001
  • Majority of material found within 1931 - 1999


Language of Materials

In English, Italian, French, Romanian, and German.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Box 145, folder 2710 (medical records): Restricted until 2046. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 145, folder 2709 (medical records): Restricted until 2061. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 146 (medical records): Restricted until 2049. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Box 640, folders 7373, 7374, and 7377: Restricted until January 1, 2032. For more information consult the appropriate curator.

Boxes 253, and 635-636 (motion picture film): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Boxes 640-643 (sound recordings, audio tapes, and video recordings): Restricted fragile material. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

The Saul Steinberg Papers 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

Bequest of Saul Steinberg, 2000-2003. A number of separate accessions received by the library in 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2018 combine to make up the Saul Steinberg Papers. The largest of these was the 2000 bequest of Saul Steinberg, and subsequent accessions in 2001. A small accession, received as a gift of Prudence Crowther in 2001, consisted of Saul Steinberg’s deposition concerning a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures, lent to her by Steinberg before his death. An additional accession of material formerly in Steinberg’s estate was received in 2018 as a donation from the Saul Steinberg Foundation. For further information consult the appropriate curator.


Organized into ten series: I. Correspondence, 1915-2000. II. Artwork, 1931-1999. III. Professional papers, 1943-1999. IV. Personal papers, 1908-1999. V. Printed and published artwork, 1930-1999. VI. Publications and clippings, 1914-2001. VII. Collected and source material, 1417-1999, (bulk 1800-1999). VIII. Financial papers, 1943-1999. IX. Audiovisual materials, 1958-1999. X. Sigrid Spaeth Papers, 1957-1997.

Related Materials

Saul Steinberg correspondence to Aldo Buzzi (YCAL MSS 1135). Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The Saul Steinberg Foundation collection.


578.6 Linear Feet ((567 boxes) + 2 rolls, 86 broadsides, 1 record album storage)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Saul Steinberg Papers consist of correspondence, artwork, professional papers, personal papers, photographs, published artwork, clippings, collected and source material, realia, financial papers, and audio-visual material documenting artist Saul Steinberg’s professional and personal activities.

Saul Steinberg (1914-1999)

Saul Steinberg was a Romanian-born American artist and illustrator, known for his visual commentary on American life created for The New Yorker magazine during the 1940s through 1990s, as well as for his drawings, paintings, collages, and sculpture. Steinberg was born on June 15, 1914 in Râmnicu Sărat, Romania, to Moritz Steinberg and Rosa Steinberg (née Jacobson). Steinberg had one older sister, Lica Roman (née Steinberg), born a year earlier. During Steinberg’s childhood, the family lived on Strada Palas in Bucharest, where Moritz Steinberg ran a small printing shop that manufactured cardboard packaging, exposing Steinberg to art and graphics from an early age.

Steinberg graduated from the Liceul Matei Basarab secondary school in 1932 and spent a year in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Bucharest, before applying to the Faculty of Architecture where he was denied admission, likely due to the university’s Jewish quota. After experiencing increasing anti-Semitism in Romania throughout his school years, Steinberg moved to Milan, Italy in 1933 and enrolled at the Regio Politecnico Milan to study architecture. There, Steinberg met Aldo Buzzi and began a lifelong friendship. In October 1936, Steinberg began contributing cartoons to the Italian humor newspaper Bertoldo. In 1937 Steinberg began a relationship with Ada Cassola Ongari (1908—1997). Steinberg continued to correspond with Ada after his immigration to the United States and later supported her financially. In April 1938, Steinberg moved his cartoons from Bertoldo to rival publication Settebello and served on the editorial board. With the adoption of the Italian racial laws in late 1938 which barred Jews from professional fields and higher education, Steinberg was prohibited from publishing his cartoons, though he continued to publish drawings anonymously. The Italian racial laws also ordered the expulsion of foreign born Jews, giving university students an exception until they completed their degrees. Steinberg received his architecture degree in 1940 and began looking for ways to leave the country.

With aid from American cousins and his New York agent Cesar Civita, Steinberg received a visa for the Dominican Republic in July 1940, but failed to receive required transit visas. Civita also helped Steinberg publish his first drawings in American periodicals in March 1940. By the end of 1940 Steinberg was considered an illegal resident and a state-less citizen. He was arrested in April 1941 and sent to a campo di concentramento (internment camp) in Tortoreto. Steinberg secured the necessary visas by June 1941 and immigrated to the Dominican Republic, where he awaited an American visa. While living in Santo Domingo, he published his first drawing in The New Yorker on October 25, 1941. After a year in Santo Domingo, he received his American visa, and arrived in New York in July 1942. In 1943 Steinberg received a commission as an ensign in the US Naval Reserve and his US citizenship simultaneously. Before beginning his service in May 1943, Steinberg met fellow Romanian artist and émigré Hedda Sterne (1910-2011). Steinberg and Sterne married a year later, on October 11, 1944. During World War II, Steinberg was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and served in China, Algeria, and Italy where he prepared pictorial propaganda against the German front. While abroad he continued to create drawings for The New Yorker, documenting the experience of service men at war. Steinberg was ordered back to the Washington, D.C. OSS office in fall 1944 and continued serving the OSS through the end of his active duty in December 1945.

Steinberg settled in New York where he established himself as a sought-after illustrator for American periodicals and advertising. Steinberg and Sterne were part of a large circle of artists, writers, musicians, publishers, and collectors, including many fellow Romanian, French, and Italian émigrés. Steinberg traveled frequently, including U.S. road trips and yearly travel to Italy and France, where he often stayed for months visiting friends, preparing exhibitions, and visiting his family who settled in France in the 1950s. His travel often included pictorial research for New Yorker features or other commissions. In May 1959, Steinberg purchased a Long Island home in Amagansett which became his refuge from life in New York. Hedda Sterne and Steinberg separated in 1960, but never divorced, remaining close friends until his death. In July 1960, Steinberg began a relationship with Sigrid Spaeth (1936-1996), a German design and photography student. Though they lived together only intermittently at Steinberg’s Amagansett residence, Steinberg and Spaeth maintained a sometimes-fraught relationship until her death in 1996. Steinberg kept residences and studios in New York and Amagansett and continued to produce work through the 1990s. In 1969, Steinberg hired Dutch artist Anton van Dalen, who worked for him as a studio assistant until his death. Steinberg died of pancreatic cancer on May 12, 1999 in New York.

Steinberg was best known for his regular contributions to The New Yorker, including over 80 covers between 1945-1999, but also created textile designs, stage sets, and murals. His most famous work, View of the World from 9th Avenue, was published as a New Yorker cover on March 29, 1976. In 1960, Steinberg began to focus primarily on gallery exhibitions and New Yorker illustrations. His work was first exhibited as part of The Museum of Modern Art’s 1946 exhibition “Fourteen Americans”. In 1952 the Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis Galleries jointly mounted his first solo show and then served as his American dealers until 1981. Steinberg was represented in France by Galerie Maeght which gave him a wide international audience. New York-based Pace Gallery began representing him in the United States in 1981. Steinberg had more than eighty solo shows in the United States, Europe, and South America, including a 1978 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His also published compilations of drawings including All in Line (1945), The Art of Living (1949), The Passport (1954), Umgang mit Menschen (1954), The Labyrinth (1960), The Catalogue (1962), The New World (1965), Le Masque (1966), The Inspector (1973), Dal Vero (1983), and Discovery of America (1992). Steinberg worked primarily in pen and ink in his early years, then explored collage, watercolor, oil paint, and wood sculpture, and frequently used rubber stamps and collected ephemera. Steinberg’s work is difficult to categorize and includes qualities of abstract expressionism, pop art, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Cubism. Steinberg’s work includes observations of modernity and post-war America that explore political, sociological, or cultural ideas, often through humor, metaphor and cliché. Other themes in his work include architecture, maps, faux-calligraphy and false documents, urban and small-town life, and art making.

Sigrid Spaeth (1936-1996)

Sigrid Spaeth (1936-1996), was a German artist and designer who lived in New York City and Amagansett, Long Island, during her 35-year relationship with artist Saul Steinberg. Sigrid (Gigi) Spaeth was born to Amalia (Malli) Spaeth (née Kuhn) and Ernst Spaeth in Baumholder, Germany, on August 9, 1936, the youngest of three children. Spaeth had two older siblings, Ekkehard Spaeth and Ursula (Uschi) Beard. Spaeth spent her early childhood with her grandparents in Baumholder and later joined her family as a teenager in Trier, Germany where they had moved before World War II. After completing her secondary education, Spaeth worked as an au pair in Paris and hitchhiked across Europe, before returning to Germany in April 1958 to study photography at the Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk Saarbrücken. She moved to New York City in September 1958, and later met Steinberg at a party in July 1960. Though they never married, Spaeth and Steinberg lived together intermittently at Steinberg’s Amagansett residence, and in separate apartments in New York City. Spaeth continued to travel alone, and with Steinberg, throughout her life. Between travels, she attended courses at Columbia University and worked occasionally as a freelance graphic designer, creating book covers for publishers including Oxford University Press and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Spaeth was also a photographer and studio artist. Spaeth’s work was primarily auto-biographical, mostly related to travel in Western Africa, and was exhibited at local art shows in and around Southampton, New York. Spaeth was known as “Gigi” to friends and family though sometimes used the pseudonym Sigrid Savage. In 1975, she adopted a kitten named Papoose, with whom she formed a strong attachment. Papoose, and Kitoun, a second cat adopted after Papoose’s death in 1989, appear frequently in Spaeth’s correspondence, photographs, diaries, and photobooks. Having struggled with mental illness for many years, Spaeth died by suicide in September 1996.

Other Finding Aids

A comprehensive database of Steinberg’s artwork is held by the Saul Steinberg Foundation and includes additional descriptive information for works held by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The Saul Steinberg Foundation (SSF) numbers included in this finding aid may be used to reference Beinecke-held works in the Foundation database. Consult the Saul Steinberg Foundation for further information.

Processing Information

This material is open for research. Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

In 2019 the Saul Steinberg Papers were reclassed as YCAL MSS 1053 and processed with a detailed folder level arrangement and box and folder listing. The Saul Steinberg Papers were used and cited in the years prior to their being fully processed using an inventory originally created by the library when the papers were received. During processing the papers were described at the file level to reflect the contents of each file, often to a higher level of detail than the previous listing. Processing notes at the series and subseries level may be useful to researchers who have worked previously with the collection as well as those who want to locate materials cited with reference to the pre-2019 arrangement. Unless otherwise noted in the series and subseries descriptions, the arrangement scheme for the collection was imposed during processing in the absence of a usable original order. Unless otherwise noted, titles were assigned by the archivist and dates and other information added by the archivist are in square brackets. Whenever possible, full names were used within titles to enable keyword searching.

These materials have been arranged and described according to national and local standards. For more information, please refer to the Beinecke Manuscript Unit Processing Manual.

Folder 4898, in Box 367 is empty.

Former call numbers: Uncat MSS 126; Uncat MSS 204; Uncat MSS 179; Uncat MSS 180; Uncat MSS 207; Uncat MSS 232; Uncat ZA file 570

Guide to the Saul Steinberg Papers
Eve C. Neiger and E. Ashley Cale
2019 October
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Revision Statements

  • 2020-04-20: Series II. Artwork notes updated by Eve C. Neiger.

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