The Newberry has a rich collection of manuscripts, photographs, printed materials, periodicals, and ephemera related to Chicago and Midwestern writers. The library has collected material related to Willa Cather since the 1950s. This guide highlights some of that material for those interested in learning more about Cather and the settings of her work.
Books about Cather
The Newberry actively collects biographical and critical works related to Willa Cather. To search for these in the Online Catalog, select a Subject search and paste or type in Cather, Willa.
The Newberry’s Cather Collection consists of several hundred books and magazines collected by Benjamin D. Hitz. After Hitz’s death in 1949, his widow gave the collection to the Newberry. The Cather Collection also includes later additions from other donors.
The collection contains first editions of Cather’s novels, translations of her work into foreign languages, books owned by Cather, and magazines in which her work was published. Hitz focused particularly on Cather’s years in Lincoln, Nebraska; the collection includes University of Nebraska publications that feature her earliest published writings.
A description of the Cather Collection can be found in E.K. Brown’s article “Willa Cather: The Benjamin D. Hitz Collection.” Newberry Library Bulletin 5 (1950): 158-160. Copies of the Newberry Library Bulletin are available on the 3rd floor in the Checklist area.
A shelf list of the Cather Collection is available in the Special Collections Department. All of the materials have been cataloged and feature call numbers beginning with the word “Cather.” For example, the 1924 London edition of April Twilights has the call number Cather Y 285 .C282.
There are various editions of Willa Cather’s works in other Newberry collections, as well. To find these using the online catalog, select an Author search and paste or type in Cather, Willa.
Wishart, David J., ed. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.
Call number: Ref F 591 .E4856 2004
Produced by the Center for Great Plains Studies at University of Nebraska, Lincoln. A hefty encyclopedia with hundreds of articles that give context to Cather’s Nebraska fiction. Look up Cather, Willa in the index as a starting point.
Lamar, Howard R., ed. New Encyclopedia of the American West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998.
Call number: Ref F 591 .N46 1998
An excellent companion for learning more about the setting of Cather’s fiction. Includes articles about Willa Cather, Kit Carson, Santa Fe, and the Spanish explorer Coronado.
Parini, Jay, ed. Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Call number: Ref PS 21 .E537 2004, volume 1
The essay about Cather discusses all of the her major works and gives an overview of her life.
Davis, Cynthia J., and Kathryn West. Women Writers in the United States: A Timeline of Literary, Cultural, and Social History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Call number: Ref PS 147 .D38 1996
This timeline provides historical context for the period in which Cather was publishing her works.
Magazines and Journals
Cather Studies. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990—.
Call number: PS 3505 .A87 Z592
A journal sponsored by University of Nebraska-Lincoln in cooperation with the Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation.
McClure’s Magazine. New York: S.S. McClure, 1893-1926.
Call number: A 5 .538
Cather was an editor of this influential magazine from 1906-1911.
Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation Newsletter and Review. Red Cloud, NE: Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation, 2000—.
Call number: Cather Y 255 .C28105
Published by the Willa Cather Foundation. Contains articles and reviews on topics of interest to Willa Cather admirers.
Willa Cather Periodicals
Call numbers: Cather Y 22 .C283 and Cather Y 22 .C2869
Eleven boxes of popular magazines that published Cather’s stories between 1900-1919. Includes magazines such as Scribner’s, Overland Monthly, Atlantic Monthly, The Century, and Harper’s Monthly Magazine.
Willa Cather Periodicals–Criticism
Call number: Cather Y 22 .C287
Three boxes of magazines and newspapers that published reviews of Cather’s work, 1921-1946.
Call number: Midwest MS Hitz-Cather
Benjamin D. Hitz was an Indiana-based collector of books and manuscripts. His collecting activities focused on explorations of the Middle West and the works of Mary Webb and Willa Cather. The bulk of the Hitz-Cather Papers consists of correspondence between Benjamin D. Hitz and librarians, booksellers, experts, and friends of Cather’s, relating to Hitz’s search for information about Willa Cather and for first editions of her work. Among the correspondents are Frederick B. Adams, Jacob Blanck, E.K. Brown, Flora Bullock, Philip C. Duschnes, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, William A. Jackson, Howard S. Mott, and Louise Pound. There is a small collection of incoming and outgoing Willa Cather correspondence, including twelve original Cather letters and some copies, plus a few miscellaneous letters relating to her. Because Cather was extremely protective of her privacy, these letters deal with various aspects of her writing and not with her personal life. In addition, Hitz collected a miscellany of notes for studies on her biography, bibliographies and criticism. This collection was given to the Newberry by Hitz’s wife, Elizabeth H. Hitz, in 1950.
Call number: Midwest MS Cather-Weisz
Irene Miner Weisz and her sisters Carrie Miner Sherwood and Mary Miner Creighton were childhood friends of Willa Cather in Red Cloud, Nebraska. The collection consists almost entirely of letters written by Willa Cather. Most of the outgoing correspondence is letters and cards to Irene Miner Weisz dating from 1912 to 1946, a number of which reveal much about the author’s health and her writing. Other outgoing correspondence consists of letters from Cather to Mary Miner Creighton, Carrie Miner Sherwood, and a few other friends. Also, four incoming letters addressed to Cather (one from Sigrid Undset about conditions in Norway after World War II and another from author Fannie Hurst), two miscellaneous letters regarding Cather, and a few newspaper clippings. In some instances, there are associated letters that Cather enclosed with her own letters to Weisz. Weisz donated this collection to the Newberry in 1958.
The Newberry is known for its cartographic collections, which contain hundreds of maps documenting the history of the American West. The following maps show some of the areas Cather wrote about.
Colton, J. H. Nebraska and Kanzas. New York: J.H. Colton & Co, 1855.
Call number: map G 10924 .185
This 1855 map shows Nebraska and Kansas looking very different from the states we know today. Nebraska’s western border is flanked by Oregon and Washington, and it extends to the north through what is now the Dakotas. Because it was still frontier land in 1855, most of the details on the map indicate mountains, rivers, Indian tribes, and forts—no towns.
Roeser, Charles. State of Nebraska: 1876. New York: Julius Bien, 1876.
Call number: map G 10924 .916
This map, produced by the General Land Office twenty-two years after “Nebraska and Kanzas,” shows a markedly different state. Its borders have contracted, and it includes county boundaries and towns. Red Cloud can be found in Webster County, in the middle of the southernmost swath of the state. The northwest portion of the state is labeled “Unsurveyed Territory.”
Map of Nebraska. In Poor’s Manual of Railroads for 1883. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1883.
Call Number: H 668 .703 (1883) opposite page 796
This map shows Nebraska in the year of the Cathers’ arrival. It shows more settlements than the 1876 map, but the northwestern portion is still sparse in detail.
Provincia del Nuevo Mexyco. Manuscript map circa 1770.
Call number: VAULT drawer Ayer MS map 225
This hand-drawn map, circa 1770, shows villages, missions, and presidios in the upper Rio Grande valley between Santa Fe and El Paso in the New Spain province of Nuevo Mexico. The most prominent feature is the network of rivers between the settlements. The villages of Acoma and Laguna can be found southwest of Santa Fe.
Parke, John G., et. al. Map of the Territory of New Mexico. New York: J. & D. Major, 1851.
Call Number: CHS Coll., Map no. 222, folder 8
An 1851 map, made shortly after New Mexico became a part of the U.S. Detailed hatching shows the topography of the territory, and triangular icons indicate Indian villages. Many parts of the map are labeled “Unexplored.”