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The Virgil Thomson Papers

Call Number: MSS 29, MSS 29A
Scope and Contents

The Virgil Thomson Papers contain the manuscript scores and sketches of Thomson's musical compositions, including music for 3 operas, 7 films, and other major compositions and smaller pieces. The Papers also hold printed copies of books and music by Thomson. The correspondence is voluminous and contains letters to and from many important American and French cultural figures since 1920: composers, musicians, artists, authors, and theatrical personalities. Thomson's life and work are further documented by: writings by and about Thomson; photographs; family and personal documents; financial records; private recordings; and other materials.

Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment. Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.

Conditions Governing Use

The Papers of Virgil Thomson are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The first part of the Virgil Thomson Papers, MSS 29, was acquired from Thomson between 1978 and 1984. The second part, MSS 29A, was a gift from the Thomson estate in 1990.


The Virgil Thomson Papers comprise two parts: MSS 29 and MSS 29A. MSS 29 is in 9 series as follows: I. Music by Virgil Thomson. II. Books by or about Virgil Thomson. III. Correspondence. IV. Genealogy. V. Financial records. VI. Photographs. VII. Preservation (correspondence and genealogy). VIII. Miscellaneous. IX. Sound recordings. MSS 29A is in 11 series as follows: I. Music by Virgil Thomson. II. Music by Others. III. Writings by Virgil Thomson. IV. Correspondence. V. Programs. VI. Photographs. VII. Abouts. VIII. Diaries and Address Books. IX. Financial and Legal. X. Honors, Awards, and Academic Regalia. XI. Miscellaneous Items.

Associated Material

Virgil Thomson had personal or professional ties with many prominent persons, so he is well represented in numerous archival collections. Several of the most important of these are available at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, including: the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Papers (YCAL MSS 76), the Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas Collection (YCAL MSS 77), the Virgil Thomson Papers Relating to Gertrude Stein (Za Thomson; Uncat ZA MS 153), the Christopher Cox Papers (YCAL MSS 264), and the Florine and Ettie Stettheimer Papers (YCAL MSS 20). Gertrude Stein was Thomson's librettist for Four Saints in Three Acts and The Mother of Us All. Christopher Cox was Thomson's secretary/assistant from 1975 to 1977. Florine Stettheimer designed the sets and costumes for Four Saints in Three Acts.

1804-1990 (inclusive)
183 Linear Feet (394 boxes)
Related Names
Thomson, Virgil, 1896-1989
Language of Materials
Language of Materials