Item #7120 [Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]. Elizabeth Knowlton.
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]
[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]

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[Personal papers primarily relating to Knowlton’s mountaineering activities, including various writings, incoming and outgoing correspondence, photographs, maps, etc.]

India, America, Norway, and other locales, 1910–1980s. Stored in 9 linen-covered clamshell boxes with manuscript labels, apparently as organized by Knowlton. Complete collation in contents section.

A substantive and important archive of pioneering female mountaineer and author Elizabeth Knowlton, embracing manuscripts, typescripts, letters, photographs and more, with a strong focus on the pivotal year of 1932, when Knowlton participated in the German American Himalayan Expedition. Included are several diaries Knowlton kept at that time and over 150 photos documenting her 1932 ascent of Nanga Parbat (trans.: “Naked Mountain”) whose participants included fellow-U.S. climber Rand Herron, a young but accomplished mountaineer who died tragically later that year.

Born in Springfield, Mass., Elizabeth Knowlton (1895–1989) was an active member throughout her life of the Appalachian Mountain Club, the American Alpine Club, and the Explorers Club. Knowlton began climbing in the White Mountains as a young child, and although she made her first major ascents only after studying at Vassar and Radcliffe Colleges, the snowy wilderness seems to have always fascinated her: “Why, all my life I’ve longed for it, hungered for it. … Ever since I was a tiny kid when I saw some pictures of it, it’s been calling me day and night. The vastness of it! The cold! The aloneness!” exclaims a character in her 1914 story “The North,” published in a Vassar literary magazine. In 1918 she made multiple ascents in the Canadian Rockies and became an active member of mountaineering communities in the U.S., Canada and Europe (aided by her fluency in German, French, Italian and Spanish). At 37, she joined the prestigious Groupe de Haute Montagne and was the only woman (and one of two Americans) to take part in the nine-person 1932 German-American Himalayan Expedition to Nanga Parbat (in present-day Pakistan). Despite being barred from full participation in the climb by the team’s male leadership, she became one of the first women ever recorded to reach an elevation of over 20,000 ft. After WWII, Knowlton made various first ascents in Columbia and continued climbing in the Himalayan foothills into her sixties.

A lyrical and meticulous writer, Knowlton published throughout her career for mountaineering and general audiences. She sent regular dispatches from the Nanga Parbat expedition to papers such as The New York Times and in 1933 published her full account of the ascent, The Naked Mountain. A volume of poetry, Grief is a Lonely Journey (published under the pseudonym ‘Mary Hale Jessup’), appeared in 1952 (a work that appears to indirectly chronicle her grief over Herron’s death). Much of the present typescript and manuscript content relates to The Naked Mountain and its various draft-stages, and also includes unpublished works, including poetry in English and Italian, climbing fiction such as Avalanche Wind, a short piece on women’s liberation, short-stories, etc. Fiction and nonfiction titles include The Ascent of the Grindel; Condors Fly North; Those Happy Climbing Days; Suburbia, Summits, and Stars (or) Anne Wilson’s Three Worlds, and Mountain Interlude. A sublime, physical experience of nature and mountains permeates much of her writing. In the prologue to The Naked Mountain she expounds, “On earth there is nothing physically greater than the great unconquered peaks. There is nothing more beautiful. Among their barren snows they hide the ultimate simplicity of spiritual splendor…”

The 1932 German American Himalayan Expedition was the first German expedition to Nanga Parbat and was led by German climber Willy Merkl (1900–1934) and also included Fritz Wiessner (1900–1988). In 1934, Merkl led another expedition up the same mountain. Despite being a better prepared and financed expedition (funded by the Nazis, who sought to ‘conquer any peak’) the weather proved fatal. After a snowstorm and a nine-day blizzard, Merkl, two team members, and six sherpas were dead. Merkl's half-brother Karl Herrligkoffer led the first expedition to reach the summit in 1953.

The 409 photographs included in this archive are remarkable for their documentation of the 1932 expedition and activities connected with it. At least nine photos used to illustrate The Naked Mountain are included here. Many group shots taken before and during the expedition feature Knowlton at the center of the nine-person group. The photos include breathtaking mountainous views, shots of climbing, and extensive documentation of the Indian sherpas who accompanied them (in a few images they carry Knowlton on a litter). Before the 1932 expedition, Knowlton and others appear to have trained in Norway, as documented in several images. Knowlton appears in a number of these images. The other American climbing member on the 1932 expedition was Rand Herron (1902–1932) of New York, who enjoyed a brief but storied climbing career. An affable-looking man, Herron is seen in many shots here side-by-side with Knowlton, the two having an obvious rapport.

Knowlton’s correspondence was extensive and wide-ranging and the collection includes over 400 letters either by Knowlton herself or from such figures as expedition leader Willy Merkl, various women climbers, famed editor Maxwell Perkins, novelist H. G. Wells, poets Robert Hilliard and Archibald Macleish, and a host of others in the mountaineering and publishing worlds, as well as family. Considerable correspondence, photos, etc. here relate to Herron and his early death. In Oct. 1932, while returning from the Nanga Parbat expedition, Knowlton and Herron stopped in Cairo and climbed the First Pyramid together. Herron then climbed the Second Pyramid without Knowlton. After finishing the difficult top part, he was running down the easy part when he slipped on “a loose pebble” and fell 300 ft. to his instant death. The final chapter of The Naked Mountain, entitled “Rand Herron,” warmly discusses Herron’s life and seven-year mountaineering career. “He had enormous charm… With his intimates, [he was] continually changing, vividly reflecting his changing moods… As a mountaineer, Herron was just beginning to come into his full powers…” In her foreword Knowlton expresses “a very special indebtedness for material to Rand Herron,” who, she explains, made multiple indirect contributions to the book. As evidenced by a letter included here, Knowlton would later ask Herron’s brother George to be the donor for her “artificial insemination experiment” (while sympathetic, the emotional complexities led him to decline).

PDF with complete description and representative passages available here.

Item #7120

Price: $45,000.00

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