Throughout his life, J.D. Salinger drew a strict line between his public work and his private persona, preferring to let his words speak for themselves.

But the New York Public Library is giving his fans a peek behind the curtain, exhibiting an array of effects that have never before been made available to the public. 

J. D. Salinger at his writing desk in his home in Cornish, New Hampshire, 1993
J.D. Salinger lived in the town of Cornish, New Hampshire, from 1953 until his death in 2010. He's seen here at his writing desk in 1993. Image © The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations and the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust. Photographed by Robert Kato

Opening 18 October and on view until 19 January at the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building, “J.D. Salinger” features a treasure trove of ephemera – more than 200 items – from the author’s personal archive, including gems like original typescripts of 'The Catcher in the Rye' and 'Franny' and 'Zooey', family photos from childhood through adulthood, letters from mutuals like Ernest Hemingway and editor William Shawn, books from his library, and two of his typewriters. 

J. D. Salinger on the deck of the M.S. Kungsholm, 1941
Back in 1941, before he became a literary sensation, Salinger took to the seas as the entertainment director of the cruise ship MS Kungsholm. Image © The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations and the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust. Photographed by Robert Kato

“This exhibition presents Salinger in his own words,” NYPL director of special collections and exhibitions, Declan Kiely, said in a press release. “It provides fresh insight into his writing process, his views on the design and appearance of his books, his network of friendships with school and army buddies—some spanning over half a century—as well as with fellow authors and New Yorker magazine editors.”

J.D. Salinger with typewriter in a field in Normandy, France, 1944
The future 'Catcher in the Rye' author served in World War II, and he brought his trusty typewriter along to Normandy in 1944. Image © The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations and the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust. Photographed by Robert Kato

It’s just the type of display you could imagine the notoriously private author eschewing if he were here today – and indeed, when his father’s publisher suggested an exhibit in honor of the late novelist’s 100th birthday, Matt Salinger said his “immediate reaction was that he would not like the attention.” 

J.D. Salinger's Royal typewriter
Two of Salinger's Royal typewriters are included in the exhibit. Image © The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations and the J. D. Salinger Literary Trust. Photographed by Robert Kato

Eventually, though, the younger Salinger came to see that offering this “direct and uninterpreted glimpse of his life” would be a fitting way to pay tribute to a figure who’s inspired a fiercely loyal following. “While he may have only fathered two children, there are a great, great many readers out there who have their own rather profound relationships with him, through his work, and who have long wanted an opportunity to get to know him better,” he said. “It is my hope that lifting the veil a bit with this exhibition will throw some light on the man I knew and loved.” 

For more information, visit nypl.org

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