NYU Acquires Archive of Legendary Downtown Arts Pioneer

Fales Library To House Collection of Tuli Kupferberg

Band in New York: Tuli Kupferberg appropriated Yiddish melodies for songs he performed with his band The Fugs.
Courtesy of Ed Sanders
Band in New York: Tuli Kupferberg appropriated Yiddish melodies for songs he performed with his band The Fugs.

By Jon Kalish

Published December 13, 2013, issue of December 20, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The archive of the late Tuli Kupferberg, a seminal figure in New York’s counterculture scene of the 1960s who died in 2010 at the age of 86, has been acquired by New York University’s Fales Library. Kupferberg’s work, which included poems, songs and cartoons, drew on Jewish sources, from the Yiddish folk melodies appropriated by his band, The Fugs to Tanakh quotations used in daily “perverbs,” Kupferberg’s witty, altered aphorisms on YouTube.

Marvin J. Taylor, head of the Fales Library, who has been spent the last two decades collecting material about the arts scene in lower Manhattan, confirmed that Kupferberg’s archive, the Kupferberg and Topp Collection was delivered on September 1. Sylvia Topp, a Canadian-born writer and editor, was Kupferberg’s wife.

“He’s sort of the grandfather of the downtown arts scene,” Taylor told the Forward. “It’s hard to overestimate his importance in the scene.”

Daughter Samara Kupferberg said another major university and the Library of Congress had expressed interest in the archive, but added that when her father was alive, he wanted it to go to NYU. “He thought that that would be the best place for it,” she said.

Neither Taylor nor Samara Kupferberg would comment on the purchase price of the archive, but two close friends of Kupferberg estimated the figure to have been between $100,000 and $200,000.

“That’s a reasonable guess. I don’t want to confirm or deny it,” said Ken Lopez, the rare book dealer based out of Hadley, Mass., who brokered the sale. Lopez previously arranged the sale of the William Burroughs archive and recently appraised the archive of Ken Kesey, another major figure of the 1960s counterculture.

Lopez’s web page for the archive lists materials from a 70-year period, including “handwritten and typed manuscripts of poems, songs, articles, and novels; original art, cartoons, collages, and illustrations; costumes, props, and handmade percussion instruments.” The collection, which is rich in ephemera of the Lower East Side bohemian community and the anti-Vietnam War movement, filled 180 banker’s boxes.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.