At the time of his death at the age of thirty-seven, Thomas Wolfe had published only four books: his tremendously successful Look Homeward, Angel; the sprawling Of Time and the River; a collection of stories, From Death to Morning, and The Story of a Novel. The brevity of his life and literary career was no indication of the amount of material that would be published in the decades to come. In addition to the books published after Wolfe’s death in his name – edited from his manuscripts – his impact on the literary world is evident in the extent to which others have written about him.
Alexander D. Wainwright’s Collection of Thomas Wolfe embodies the scope of the writer’s works. The collection contains Wolfe’s major works, as well as lesser-known publications, in English and more than a dozen other languages. Many of his periodical appearances and contributions to books are also included. The remainder of the collection consists of the criticism, biography and other works (including parts of books) pertaining to Wolfe written by others, as well as fiction and poetry relating to him.
For the reader’s ease, the catalogue is divided into two major groupings: works by Thomas Wolfe and works about him. The latter category includes anything in the collection not written by Wolfe himself, and both are further divided into several sub-categories.
Most of the groupings in the catalogue are easily identifiable, but some might require further explanation. ‘Non-fiction with Reference to Thomas Wolfe’ includes books that are not specifically critical or biographical, but are relevant to Wolfe in some manner. ‘Books inspired by Thomas Wolfe’ have some evidence of Wolfean influence, whether it be a chapter title that is a take on one of Wolfe’s titles, an epigraph quoting his work, a Wolfean plot or style or another reference. There is a separate category for similar pieces that appeared in periodicals.
Wolfe’s early attempts as a dramatist and the great success of playwright Ketti Frings’ adaptation of Look Homeward, Angel for the stage has resulted in a great deal of Wolfe theater memorabilia, for which there is a separate grouping in the catalogue. Finally, ‘Miscellany’ consists mainly of non-written works relating to Wolfe, as well as various other items.
Each item in the collection has its own entry in the catalogue, with the exception of the pieces in ‘Grouped Periodicals,’ which are periodical titles of which the collection has many individual issues. Otherwise, entries describe the item and cite one of two previously existing bibliographies: Carol Johnston’s Thomas Wolfe: A Descriptive Bibliography (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987) and Elmer D. Johnson’s Thomas Wolfe: A Checklist (The Kent State University Press, 1970). Johnston’s bibliography is an extensive list of works by Wolfe. Johnson’s Checklist includes both works by Wolfe and about him, including periodicals. Therefore, Johnston is cited for all works by Wolfe, except for those in ‘Contributions to Books,’ with her identification code. The citation ‘A9.6.a,’ for example, indicates that the work is part of her section ‘A’ entitled ‘Separate Publications,’ the ninth title in that section (9), the sixth edition of the title in Johnston’s listing (6) and the first printing (a). Other publication types in the bibliography are ‘AA. Posthumously Collected Editions,’ ‘B. First Book and Pamphlet Appearances,’ ‘C. First-Appearance Contributions to Magazines and Newspapers,’ ‘D. Keepsakes’ and ‘E. Putative First Appearances of Material by Wolfe.’
‘Contributions to Books’ is cited using section ‘C’ in Johnson’s bibliography, ‘Parts of Books by Thomas Wolfe.’ Johnson’s coding system consists of a letter, referring to a section of his bibliography, and a number referring to the individual item; thus ‘D1’ refers to the first work in the section ‘Books and Pamphlets about Thomas Wolfe.’ The various sections of Johnson’s bibliography are: A: ‘Books by Thomas Wolfe’; B: ‘Articles by Thomas Wolfe’; C: ‘Parts of Books by Thomas Wolfe’; D: ‘Books and Pamphlets about Thomas Wolfe’; E: ‘Theses and Dissertations about Thomas Wolfe’; F: ‘Articles about Thomas Wolfe’; G: ‘Parts of Books about Thomas Wolfe’; H: ‘Poetry and Fiction concerning Thomas Wolfe’; I: ‘Miscellaneous’ and S: ‘Supplement.’
The following categories are not generally acknowledged in either bibliography and do not include citations in the catalogue: ‘Study Guides,’ ‘Recipients of Awards in Thomas Wolfe’s name’ and ‘Theater Memorabilia.’ Items in ‘Grouped Periodicals’ have citations in their corresponding entries in ‘Articles by Thomas Wolfe’ and ‘Articles About Thomas Wolfe.’