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Peter Farb donated his papers to the Denver Public Library in 1969.


The collection is open for research.


Peter Farb papers are the physical property of the Denver Public Library.


All requests for permission to publish, reproduce, or quote from material in the collection should be discussed with the appropriate librarian or archivist. Permission for publication may be given on behalf of the Denver Public Library as the owner of the physical item. It is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which also must be obtained by the customer. The Library does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or publication rights of the manuscript held by the writer, heirs, donors, or executors. Reproduction restrictions are decided on a case-by-case basis.


[Identification of item], Peter Farb Papers, CONS32, Conservation Collection, The Denver Public Library.


Number of boxes: 10

Oversize: 1 OV box




Robert Russell


Claudia Jensen

December 2004


Ellen Zazzarino


Peter Farb was born July 25, 1929 in New York. He graduated magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University in 1950 and continued his studies at Columbia University. He worked as an editor and free-lance writer and researcher in the area of science and the natural history of North America. From 1964 to 1971, he was curator of American Indian cultures at the Riverside Museum in New York City. In addition, in held many editorial, lecture and trustee positions.

Farb wrote extensively on natural history, publishing many of his articles in the Reader's Digest. He was also a columnist for Better Homes and Gardens, and edited the series North American Nature for Harper publishing company. He also wrote books about diverse subjects, from North American geology in Face of North America: The Natural History of a Continent, to the eating habits of different societies in Consuming Passions: The Anthropology of Eating, which he co-authored with George Armelagos.

Farb died of leukemia, April 8, 1980 in Boston, Massachusetts.


Through the correspondence, research notes and drafts, the material of this collection documents Farb's writing history, his research methodology and the mechanics of publishing scientific material for a non-scientific audience. Through the correspondence with his publishers, one sees the progression of an article from idea, to outline, and finally, to published article. The files also contain Farb's book reviews, and drafts of books written between 1953 and 1969.

Of interest is an exchange of letters between James Russell Wiggins, editor of the Washington Post, and Richard G. Van Gelder, over the distinction between editing and censoring. This appears to have been prompted by the retraction and subsequent reprinting with deletions by the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post of a book review written by Peter Farb. The review was of Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape. The deleted portion apparently contained an explicit reference to the male anatomy in a discussion of the sexual behavior of primates.

The collection is organized by articles, book reviews, and then books written by Farb. Within these divisions, the files are arranged by date of publication. Many of the items in the collection are copies of correspondence and were written on highly acidic paper. They are brittle and discolored.

SERIES 1 ARTICLES 1953-1969 BOX 1-6 :

Items pertaining to Farb's articles are found in this series. They are arranged by the date of publication. Because the proposal and review process would often take several years, the reference point for each article is the date of publication. If not published, then the material is filed by the earliest date of the research.

SERIES 2 REVIEWS 1963-1968 BOX 6 :

A small number of book reviews make up this series. It includes the controversy over the Naked Ape review.

SERIES 3 BOOKS 1940-1965 BOX 6-10 :

This series contains drafts and galley proofs of many of Farb's works, including The Living Earth, The Face of North America: A Natural History of a Continent, The Forest, and The Land, Wildlife, and Peoples of the Bible. Also included is correspondence and reference material related to each manuscript.


Printer’s proofs of The Land, Wildife, and Peoples of the Bible, Story of Butterflies, The Face of North America: The Natural History of a Continent, and The Face of North America (Young Readers edition), complete the collection.



  • Farb, Peter -- Archives.
  • Naturalists -- United States.
  • Natural History -- North America.
  • Conservation of natural resources.
  • Ecology.
  • Face of North America: a natural history of a continent.
  • Forest.
  • Insect world.
  • Insects.
  • Land and wildlife of North America.
  • Living earth.
  • Story of butterflies.
  • Story of dams.
  • Story of life.