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Thomas Merton collection, 1947-1968

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Finding aid prepared by Ida Lucille Sell


Thomas Merton collection




University of Kentucky Special Collections


Collection is arranged by material type.

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to researchers by appointment.

Preferred Citation Note

55M43 : [Identification of item], Thomas Merton collection, 1947-1968, University of Kentucky Special Collections.


0.23 Cubic feet

1 box


The Thomas Merton collection is writings by Father Thomas Merton.


Merton, the son of two artists, attended Columbia University in New York, obtaining B.A. and M.A. degrees. He converted to Catholicism in 1938 and joined the ranks of the Trappist monks in December, 1941. Merton served as Master of Scholastics and as Master of Novices at the order's monastery in Kentucky, Our Lady of Gethsemani, before being allowed to live as a hermit in 1965. He left the monastery in 1968 to attend a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, where he died December 10 of accidental electrocution. Merton had won acclaim for his books, poems and articles, beginning with the publication of the autobiographical Seven Storey Mountain in 1948. In the 1960s he was known for his concern about peace, civil rights and other social issues. He also promoted ecumenism between Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians.

Merton was a prolific writer, producing 139 books and pamphlets, 104 contributions to books, and 486 pieces for magazines and newspapers in a relatively brief career.

Merton often circulated his writings among his acquaintances for criticism before publication. Among this group from 1951 to 1968 were Carolyn and Victor Hammer of Lexington, Ky., and the then director of the University of Kentucky library, Lawrence Thompson.

Scope and Content

The Thomas Merton collection includes correspondence with Erich Fromm, Boris Pasternak, and Daisetz Suzuki, and Merton's friends Robert Lax and Carolyn and Victor Hammer. The literary manuscripts form the bulk of the collection. There are holographs and typescripts, carbon copies and mimeographs. Among Merton's prose writings represented here in draft form are The Ascent to Truth, My Argument with the Gestapo, No Man is an Island and The Secular Journal of Thomas Merton. Many drafts of Merton articles are included.


  • Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. (Trappist, Ky.)
  • Manuscripts.
  • Authors.
  • Kentucky--Authors.
  • Fromm, Erich, 1900-1980
  • Hammer, Carolyn Reading
  • Hammer, Victor Karl, 1882-1967
  • Lax, Robert
  • Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich, 1890-1960
  • Suzuki, Daisetz Teitaro, 1870-1966
  • Thompson, Lawrence Sidney, 1916-1986
  • Contemplation.
  • Drafts.
  • Monks.
  • Trappists

User Restrictions

All literary rights to the manuscripts in this collection are vested in the Merton Legacy Trust. Requests to copy, to film, to quote from extensively or in part, to publish or to reprint any published or unpublished manuscripts in this collection must be directed in writing to Mrs. Anne McCormick, Administrator of Rights and Contracts, Merton Legacy Trust, 670 West End Ave, New York, N.Y. 10025. Permission given by a trustee must be in writing. Notes may be taken from the manuscripts in this collection without such permission.

Collection Inventory

Father Louis Merton materials, 1955
[Box: 1, Folder: 1]
No Man Is an Island book jacket, circa 1955
[Box: 1, Folder: 2]
No Man Is an Island manuscript, circa 1955
[Box: 1, Folder: 3]