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Madeleine B. Stern papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 1486

Scope and Contents

Collection includes correspondence, financial records, manuscripts, transcripts, and photocopies from the years of 1944 to 1998. Financial records and correspondence relate to her book business, Antiquarian Booksellers. Correspondence, transcripts, and photocopies relate to her own work as an author and items she has collected regarding Louisa May Alcott.


  • 1944-1998


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from Madeleine B. Stern collection of papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Maedeleine B. Stern (1912-), dealer in rare books and biographer, especially of Louisa May Alcott and other 19th century authors.

Madeleine B. Stern was born to Moses R. and Lillie Mack Stern in New York City 1 July 1912. She received her B.A. degree from Barnard in 1932 and her M.A. (degrees in English Literature) from Columbia University in 1933. Her biography of Margaret Fuller was written partly in Ogunquit, Maine, where she spent several summers. She contributed many articles on various literary subjects to the Sewanee Review, the New England Quarterly, Americana, The South Atlantic Quarterly, etc. (from inside back cover of The Life of Margaret Fuller, 1942). On the merits of this text, Madeleine was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship to work on a biography of Louisa May Alcott. When the Fellowship expired, Madeleine taught English in secondary schools to support herself until March 1945, when she resigned as a teacher and became the business partner of her friend and co-worker, Leona Rostenberg, in the sale of rare books. From 1945 to 1991, while in that trade, she amused herself by researching alternately rare (often foreign) books and 19th century America.

In that time, she produced numerous volumes on her favorite research subject, Louisa May Alcott, including a biography of the same title. Her partner, Leona, discovered four of Alcott’s unknown thrillers, as a result Madeleine wrote Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, 1975; Plots and Counterplots: More Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, 1976; A Double Life: Newly Discovered Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, 1988; and Freaks of Genius, 1991. Subsequently, Madeleine also edited Critical Essays on Louisa May Alcott (1984), A Modern Mephistopheles, and Taming a Tartar (1987); and co-edited Selected Letters (1987), Journals (1988), and Selected Fiction (1991).

Apart from her research on Louisa May Alcott, Stern also wrote books on assorted obscure figures in 19th American history, such as Stephen Pearl Andrews, Margaret Fuller (aforementioned), Mrs. Frank Leslie, Dr. Isabel Barrows, Victoria Woodhull, etc., as well as about 19th century life and 19th century women in general. Also, she authored several bibliographies on rare books and booksellers.


10 boxes (5 linear ft.)

22 cartons (22 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of Stern’s research and manuscript files including correspondence, photographs and photocopies, research notes, drafts and proofs, periodicals, etc., documenting her career between 1944 and 1998 as a biographer of assorted figures and aspects of 19th century American life and literature, most notably Louisa May Alcott, Margaret Fuller, feminists, Sherlock Holmes, phrenology and its founders, etc. It contains original manuscripts and printer’s proofs of such works as A Double Life: Newly Discovered Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott; Old Books in the Old World; From Blood & Thunder to Hearth & Home; Antiquarian Bookselling; Critical Essays on Louisa May Alcott; The Game’s Ahead; A Phrenological Dictionary; and Publishers for Mass Entertainment in the Nineteenth Century.

Custodial History

Donated by Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern between 1984 and 2002.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Leona Rostenberg and Madeleine B. Stern; 1984-2002.


LDS, Utah, and Western American women (20th Century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.V, 2007).

Processing Information

Processed; Amanda Clark; May 2008.

Register of Madeleine B. Stern papers
Amanda Clark and Karen Glenn, student processors, and John M. Murphy, curator
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States