Skip to main content

Zbigniew Herbert papers

Call Number: GEN MSS 527

Scope and Contents

The Zbigniew Herbert Papers consist of letters, manuscripts, and personal papers documenting the life and work of Zbigniew Herbert. The collection spans the years 1968-1989, with the bulk of the material dating from 1985-1989.

The collection is housed in 3 boxes and organized into three series: Correspondence, Writings, and Other Papers. Box 3 contains Restricted Fragile Papers.

Series I, Correspondence , consists of incoming letters from over 30 correspondents, as well as a number of outgoing items, including a series of postcards from the poet to his wife. The majority of the correspondence is in Polish, but there is material in German, English, French, and Italian in the collection. All but one of the letters were written between the years 1985 and 1989.

The correspondence allows a glimpse of the poet's private and professional life, as it comprises messages from publishers, translators, fellow writers, and friends. These include the Polish painter and writer Jozef Czapski, as well as the poet's translator into Serbo-Croatian, Petar Vujicic.

The Czapski file includes an outgoing message, several handwritten notes, and seven typed letters in which the 90-year-old painter shares his opinions and feelings on issues of poetry, art, politics, Polish history, and morality.

The Petar Vujicic file contains only two letters, but they appear to provide the context to a poem Herbert dedicated to his Yugoslavian translator. Vujicic writes about the importance of Herbert's poetry in his country, explains his choices for a Herbert anthology, and draws a parallel between the political situations in Poland and Yugoslavia.

Other noteworthy correspondents represented in the collection include Konstanty Jelenski, the literary critic and historian Jacek Trznadel, the poets Adam Zagajewski and Stanislaw Baranczak, and writers at the American Center of P.E.N.

Series II, Writings , includes notes, holograph and typescript drafts, and copies of final versions of four poems from the collection Elegia na Odejscie (1990) and five essays from the collection Martwa Natura z Wedzidlem (1993). The series is subdivided into autobiographical writings, essays, and poems, with individual essays and poems arranged alphabetically by title. The materials illustrate Herbert's writing and editing methods. Manuscripts are often represented by notes and multiple drafts, and manuscript leaves often appear on the versos of correspondence and documentation. Where multiple drafts are present, they are arranged chronologically. Where leaves appear on the versos of correspondence from individuals or institutions with established name headings, cross-references have been added to the finding aid from the correspondence to the writings.

Series III, Other Papers , includes addresses and a list of names.

Restricted Fragile Papers are housed in box 3.


  • 1968-1989


Language of Materials

Chiefly in Polish; some materials in German, English, French and Italian.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Box 3: Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Zbigniew Herbert Papers are 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 Zbigniew Herbert Papers were acquired by purchase in 1989 on the Library Associates Fund.


0.84 Linear Feet (3 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The collection consists chiefly of correspondence and writings relating to Zbigniew Herbert from 1968-1989. There is personal and professional correspondence with Polish literary and cultural figures, publishers, translators and scholars. Noteworthy correspondents include Stanislaw Baranczak, Jozef Czapski, Gustaw Herling-Grudzinski, Konstanty Jelenski, Alina Kalczynska, Susan Sontag, Jacek Trznadel, Petar Vujicic and Adam Zagajewski. Writings include holograph and typescript drafts of essays and poems in the collections Martwa natura z wedzidlem and Elegia na odejscie respectively.

Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998)

Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) was a Polish poet and writer whose work has been extensively translated. He was born in Lwow, Poland, and after the war earned degrees in economics, philosophy, and law. His first book of poetry, Struna Swiatla (Chord of Light), was published in 1956. Other collections include Hermes, Pies i Gwiazda (Hermes, a Dog and a Star), Studium Przedmiotu (A Study of the Object), Pan Cogito (Mr. Cogito), Raport z Oblezonego Miasta (Report from the Besieged City), Elegia na Odejscie (Elegy for the Departed), and Martwa Natura z Wedzidlem (Still Life with a Bridle). Zbigniew Herbert was survived by his wife Katarzyna Herbert.

Biographical information taken from the online Gale Biography Resource Center.

Processing Information

This material was formerly classed as Uncat MS Vault 552.

Guide to the Zbigniew Herbert Papers
Under Revision
by Michael L. Forstrom and Olga Lopusiewicz
March 2005
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

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.