Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein Archive of Over 500 Pages, His Life and Career as a Multi-faceted Artist

A remarkable archive depicting Shel Silverstein’s life and career as a multi-faceted artist


This fascinating and diverse archive of material sheds light on Silverstein’s career during his 30s and 40s, when he was a regular resident of Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansions, traveling the world and drawing cartoons for Playboy; writing songs for Johnny Cash, Helen Reddy, and Dr. Hook; and writing and illustrating books of poetry for children.


A stupendous Shel Silverstein archive comprised of 500+ pages of manuscript, typed, and printed materials including published and unpublished sketches, poems, lyrics, sheet music, and ideas, business and fan letters to Silverstein, contracts, royalty statements, copies of two of his books, and two record albums, circa 1962-1980. Most materials are in very good condition. Correspondence and drafts have expected folds and some tears. Many items are in protective sleeves, and the two books are in excellent condition. Transcripts or excerpts include unchanged spelling mistakes.


Some highlights of the collection include a handful of possibly unpublished Shel Silverstein poems, fables, and drawings! See below for an itemized description of these highlights; the remaining items in this enormous archive are afterwards cataloged by type.



1. Autograph poem unsigned, half page, 8.5” x 11”. Inscribed “Sally” with telephone number, “One Mint / Julip”, and half-length drawing of a thin man verso. Lightly soiled. Inscribed “When a young man’s heart is gay - / Young and fully as rose in may / Then it’s time for 1-2-3 / Happy-as-a-man can-be- / oh-oh yours and mine / Vintage love and vintage wine”.


2. 1p autograph manuscript signed “Shel Silverstein”. 8.5” x 13”. On lined yellow paper from a pad with serrated edge on top. Original 3” high drawing, in the left ruled margin, of a partial left profile of a woman’s head, signed above the drawing by Silverstein. Fine condition. Entitled “Fables”. In full: “(1) Runner – gets older – becomes fast walker / – ‘in walking fastness doesn’t count (2) Man was carrying block of ice / Freezing to death /’Come in and get warm’ / ‘I can’t my ice would melt by your fire / Then leave your ice outside / ‘I can’t, some one might steal it’ (3) They gave him a certificate when he was born / And he kept it in his dresser / they gave him a certificate to drive a car / And he kept it in his wallet / they gave him a certificate when he got out of / the army and his wife put it / In the envelope next to with their marrige certif / vaccination certificate and / They have him a certificate when he graduated / school and he put it in a frame at work / They gave him seven certificates and at work / he put them on his wall / He…” Skipping a few lines, Silverstein has then penned “‘i’ ed” and “onions”, and then “Richmond Va” and “ABCDEFGHJKLMNPQRSTVWYZ”, leaving out letters “IOU” and “X.”


3. 2p autograph and typed poems, each unsigned, 8.5” x 11”, with two small drawings on same side. Two diagonal folds. Fine condition. The first is an autograph poem in bottom margin. In full: A fellow whi A student while learning McLuder McLLaughter . Was Aroused by a co Minesters daughter / Who was cunning and winsome and wicky wise / With hands wet and sticken With O my eyes / Are as for the daughter the water he taughter.” The typed poem reads in full: “there was a young man from la gronch / who developed a skinch on his skronch / but he shouted withpride / as he pushed it aside / ‘MM Im delighted / im delighted it iwasnt my zonch / there was an od spinster from Grooling / who stretched on a gram papered spooling / when informed of her plight she retorted all f right / but it seems such a waste of his schooling./ there was a young freloow named tucker / who was known as a terrible mucker / but he met a young laduy with past rather shady / and a bucker named rucker and durucker / an abbey from eastern dundaugh / was accosted accosting a caugh / im delighted it wasn’t my zonch.”

Typed manuscript unsigned verso. In full, “this is thd e saga of vwsco da vaga grandee and a don of o;d spain who d screwed every kid from seville to Madrid and then startrd all over again ,,,,,,,oh hot as a mangoe h e danced the fandangoe heigh de ho and away we go with a qone two three gfour who are for here we go roungfd the mulberry bush so early in the morning then up stood brave horatio the captain of the gate to every man yup upon his feet death cometh soon or late and how can man die better themn facing fearful odds in the ashes of his fathers and the temople of his gods now who will stand at my f right hand and hold the bridg with me then up stoon glutiyus maximus fo persian blood was he ho I will stand ath thy right hand and hold the bridge with thee thtn thn th eh up stood phyluss / one two hth hehhhynnynnynnynnyidididididid iddd dd ths is the saga of vasco da vaga grandes and a don of old spain she screwed every kid from Seville to Madrid and then started all over again,……. Who will stand at my right a hand and hold the bridge with me now that that’s settled dsauid freddy we can c get back to work and maybe get something done so here we go round the mulberry bush so early in the morning this the saga of a likkle bou namex fred who had no head and was al ways fgoing around looking for his head so ione day this little boum walked into a cigar store and asked fir a pack of Marlboros ad the g guy sauid unto him I”.

4. 1p autograph note unsigned, 14” x 8.5”. On lined yellow paper. In dark pencil, Shel Silverstein has written: “– Tree – Full Page / (Me-We) – Full Page / Pull Child Apart / Getting It All Together.” Fine condition. “Tree” undoubtedly refers to “The Giving Tree,” Shel Silverstein’s classic illustrated story. “Me-We” may refer to Silverstein’s poem, “Us.” It begins, “Me and him / Him and me / We're always together / As you can see…” To the right of the notes, Silverstein has drawn the head of a man, an oval shape, 2” x 2.25”.

Other content, organized by type, includes:



Approximately 25 pages with sketches by Silverstein, mostly of heads, but also including two of Lafcadio, “The Lion Who Shot Back” from Silverstein’s 1963 book of that title.


Drafts and Proofs

Approximately 165 pages of handwritten, typed, and printed poems, random thoughts, lyrics, rhymes, and drafts, many of which are unpublished. These wonderful drafts and thoughts include:


1. A full handwritten draft of Silverstein’s popular song and poem “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out” with several revisions, which first appeared on his 1972 album Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball and then in his 1974 poetry compilation Where the Sidewalk Ends.


2. A full handwritten manuscript of “Deaf Donald” without the illustrations that appeared in A Light in the Attic (1981).


3. “Patience” about the interrogation of the sophisticated criminal mind,” which includes the lines, “And you’ll get your information, if you treat the situation / With the utmost trepidation and restraint / You must exercise Patience / And a kick in the spine.”


4. Idea: “Flower is beautiful / Man Loved Flower / Flower dies / Man Lonely / Notices that the flower pot is beautiful too”.


5. Draft: “The John Gold Older & Became / The whore got older & became a Pimp / And the Pimp got older And the Pimp became a John / And the Whore Got Old & Rich & Became a John / The John got smart & Became a Pimp / The Pimp went broke & Became a Whore.”


6. Idea: “Man walking toward a state of understanding–or peace–they tell him he can’t go there– He walks–they cut his legs off–he pulls–they cut off hands  he crawls–arms & legs–he’ll think about it– They cut off head, and he was there”.


7. Lyric on Chicago Playboy Mansion stationery: “Lemme hear those same sweet words I heard just about a minute ago / [insert: you were sayin just / Say em easy nice and slow / So–I know–that I aint dreaming / Same sweet smile that you were smiling before”.


8. Note: “Oddly– Trying to score dope here is like trying to score a hot pastrami sandwich in Cairo. And the quality is far below Bay area standards.”


9. Draft lyrics of “Sweetest of All,” written by Silverstein and recorded by Dr. Hook in 1978. “Mermaid”: “When you walk on clouds be careful / When you walk on clouds beware / And never look beneath your feet / To see what is down below / to see what’s under there”.


10. Draft: “When Mister Bott met Ms. McGrath / As gentlemen meet ladies / They talked a while of this and that / And makin’ love and babies”.


11. Draft: “The Face is Familiar”: “The voice is familiar / But I don’t place the rasp / The arms are arms I’ve felt before / But I don’t recall the grasp / There’s bit of madness in his words / the laugh’s a bit more shrill / I say I wont but something in those eyes say ‘Yes you will’”.


12. Draft: “All I Really Need”: “All I really need is you / But if y’ got gold I’ll take that too / Some fancy gowns won’t make me blue / But all I really need is you / And a big fur coat to keep me warm / Horse & carriage won’t do no harm / Sailin boat with a 12 man crew / But all I really need is you / And a lovely house with a mortgage paid / 16 butlers and a maid / Saphire diamonds big and blue / But all I really need is you”.


13. Draft: “But theres always bound to be / someone who’ll do the job for free / So when things go wrong in romance or in crime / it’s the amateur competition every time / Or suppose he’s out to murder someone / To earn his bit of pay / He finds someone’s already killed him / in a blind and hateful rage / A non commercial rage / A silly, stupid, senseless, sinful / Amateurish rage”.


14. Draft: “Daughter of the Devil”: “I say get thee behind me Satan / I’m gonna run & hide / I see your chariot waitin / But I just aint gonna ride / Get thee behind me Satan / I’m gonna run & hide / I know your daughters waitin / And she must be satisfied / Get thee behind me Get thee behind me / And don’t remind me bout the long ago / the way that woman felt so long ago / Get thee behind me / believe she can’t find me cause she wants my soul / She’s the daughter of the devil and she’s reachin for my soul”.


15. Idea: “If they gave a sleeping medal I would pin it to the front of my pajamas”.


16. Story: “Once there was a man who’s head was filled with light bulbs just like everybody else, only all his light bulbs were all burned out except one and that one was as dull as the others for he was afraid to turn in on. And then he met a woman and she shone her light upon him. Turn your light on me she whispered and he felt lover for her but he said, ‘Listen, I only have one light left / so please don’t ask me to burn it if you don’t really want to see it.’ / ‘turn it on’ she said / so he turned it on. / And she gloried in the light of it / and danced in the shadows of it / And bathed in the warmth of it / And then one day she said / ‘that light is too bright and it is the wrong shade and its heat burns me and its glare blinds me / And its shadows frighten me goodbye’ / And she went away / And his light burned for a while and then dimmed and then went out / later on the woman came back and said ‘I’m sorry’ / and the man said nothing / I’m really sorry she said / Ok he said / will you forgive me she said but he could not see her because his light had gone out”.


17. Lyrics draft: “You gotta be bad if you want good lovin’ / You gotta be wrong if it’s gonna go right / If you want her to cling you better start shoving / You gotta be bad bad to get good lovin’ tonight / You gotta be tough if you want her tender / you gotta be fought if you want things smoothe / If you want her true you gotta be a liar, & rogue & a pretender / If you want her gentle you gotta be crude”.


18. Page proofs for a collection of poems, some of which appear in A Light in the Attic (1981).


19. “List of Starred Poems-Shel Silverstein,” 6 pp.


20. Lyrics to songs, 9 pp. photocopy, including “Come In Outa the Sun,” “Marathon Florida Marathon,” and “Tidal Wave Wanda.”


21. Some of the drafts are written on scraps of paper or anything else that was handy, such as this piece on the back of a wine list: “I’m get-in drunk and this is my last dime / outside the window I can hear the rain” and this one on a Nashville business card: “Don’t wait for Me / I might be gone a long long time / I might find something that will hold my eye / Don’t wait for me.”



Approximately 160 pages of various business and personal correspondence, including several empty envelopes, largely to Silverstein, 1962-1980, including:


1. Richard H. Larsh to Jack J. Kessie, October 24, 1966, Pacific Stars and Stripes, San Francisco, California: “Incidentally, with the buildup of circulation in Vietnam, we have been re-running some of Shel’s stuff done originally when he was here during the Korea War. As you probably suspect, GI humor hasn’t changed since the time of the Continental Army, and Shel’s 12-14 year-old stuff still sparkles and scores with today’s GI.”


2. Andrew Rubin to Shel Silverstein, March 28, 1969, Forest Hills, New York: Lafcadio was a very good book and I enjoyed it very much. The most exsiting part and the funniest part was when Lafcadio ate up the hunter and all that was left was his gun and in a few weeks Lafcadio was a sharpshooter. I would like to ask you a few question. Where did you get the idea of Lafcadio? How long did it take to write this wonderful book?”


3. Uitgeverij Kosmos to Zita Kremnitzer, January 21, 1975, Amsterdam: “As we want to consider the possibilities of a Dutch edition of your publication WHERE THE SIDEWALK END by Shel Silverstein, we should like to know whether the rights for our country are still free.”


4. Dan McKinnon to Shel Silverstein, September 23, 1975, San Diego, California: “How about a song for Brush Arbor, Shel. We sent you albums and have been bugging you. A guy as creative as you, ought to be able to come up with a good group song. How about it?”


Brush Arbor began as a Country Christian band in 1971 and began appearing in concert tours with Country music stars. In 1974, they won the Academy of Country Music Award for Group of the Year. The band continued to play Country and Gospel music together until 1999.


5. Elementary Students at Bahia Vista School to Shel Silverstein, September 1975, San Rafael, California: “Dear Uncle Shelby, We like you and we really like your stories. We are school kids at Bahia Vista School in Room 8. We would like you to come and visit us since you live so close. We read Lafcadio, Where the Sidewalk Ends, & A Giraff and a Half and they were good. Lafcadio was probably our favorite. We have ordered 2 more of your books so we can read more. We even had marshmallows for a treat one day.”


6. Jennifer Doran, Missy Dunphy, and Midori Evans to Shel Silverstein, ca. 1976-1978, Acton, Massachusetts: “We are three third graders from Gates School Acton, Mass. We really like your books the Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends. Our favorite poems are Boa constrictor, Home made boat, Warning and and Farmer And the queen. You could come to lunch any time you want to and have grilled cheese. Because, we have the best food in the county. You can’t come on Thursday because we have half a day. Let us know if you can come?”


7. Jeanne Voisard to Shel Silverstein, January 1978, Eagle River, Wisconsin:

“dear sir i am writing this poem to you

which for a long time thoughts have been coming.

i’d send you a stew or a cockatoo

to send your curiosity humming

but alas i’m a poor, hard working girl

who hasn’t a penny to spare

so without further upwhirl my intent i’ll unfurl

your intrigue i hope to ensnare.

this year i moved north to a cabin of wood

away from city strife

oh please don’t let me be misunderstood

it’s not that i hate that life,

but for years i’ve dreamt of being alone

in a quiet place to write

so here i sit a complete unknown

telling you of my plight.

what i am actually requesting

is that one day while you’re resting

you spare me some indication

of how to pursue a poetic vocation?

i’ve been writing a lot and really enjoy it,

could you perhaps tell me how to employ it?

i’ve really enjoyed the books you’ve written,

with Pearly Sweetcake i was quite smitten.

and though in your book the Sidewalk does end

my sixth graders beg to hear it again.

i guess i’m looking for that “piece” you lost

and though in the trash this may be tossed

i’m banking you’ll think of ‘The Giving Tree’

and perhaps send some advice to me?”


8. Helen Bifano to Shel Silverstein, May 18, 1978, Janesville, Wisconsin: “For the past 45 years, Mildred Yahnke has dedicated her life to education. She is presently serving as the Elementary Consultant for the Janesville Public Schools. While working in this capacity, she has been very involved in developing the reading and language arts curriculum in our system. Where the Sidewalk Ends has been one of her favorite books, and she has recommended it to both teachers and students…. Mrs. Yahnke is retiring this year and she wants to leave without any formal receptions or social functions. Since your book has been one of her favorites, the staff at our elementary school felt a personalized copy of your book would be a meaningful gift. It would be something she would enjoy during her retirement.”


9. Jeff Taylor to Shel Silverstein, December 1978, Mt. Brook, Alabama: I don’t really like to think of myself as a wide-eyed groupie-devotee, but nevertheless I would seriously consider selling my soul to the devil (or maybe I’d roll the dice like Billy) to get a glossy 8 x 10 black and white signed photograph of yourself to go into my $8.95 hard-back copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends (although I would settle for a 3x5 black and white from the K-Mart photo machine). What do you say, huh?


10. Charlotte Zolotow to Shel Silverstein, December 12, 1979, New York, New York: Robert is our coordinator of all the pieces so that we each always have thru him the full picture of where your astonishing mind and work is at. If, editorially, you don’t reach Ursula and I am away, Steve can always give you my phone number[, and my editorial judgment, enthusiasm, love, critical ability and excitement about any Shel Silverstein work is at the other end of the wire.


Charlotte Zolotow (1915-2013) was an American writer, poet, editor, and publisher of books for children. In 1979, she was Vice-President of Harper Junior Books for Harper & Row. Ursula Nordstrom (1910-1988) was publisher and editor-in-chief of children’s books at Harper & Row from 1940 to 1973. When Nordstrom stepped down in 1973, her protégé Charlotte Zolotow succeeded her, and Nordstrom continued on as a senior editor until 1979. Reflecting Silverstein’s nomadic life, Zolotow sent copies of this letter to Nashville, Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Sausalito, Chicago, Key West, and New York.


11. Paul Wells to Shel Silverstein, February 21, ?, Tampa, Florida: My O’Lady, year old son and myself are moving to Nashville the last part of April. I am flooded with a number of strong tunes and some of them, I believe, are suitable for certain Nashville artists. Also, I wish to make a Demo tape and approach companies for a possible record deal. What I’m immediately concerned about is the possibility of seeing you at some point and doing some rapping, concerning my status as a writer and soon-to-be ‘pusher of songs.’


12. Tom Hudson to Shel Silverstein, May 10, ?, Orange, California: I would like to be numbered among your fans. I’ve followed your cartoons, in and out of the army, for years. I honestly believe you can get more into a line than anyone I know of.


13. Robin Van Ross to Shel Silverstein, n.d. (c. 1970), Morley, Western Australia: A friend loaned me a tape of your Inside Shel Silverstein album and I’m most anxious to get it. Unfortunately after searching all over town I’ve been told it’s unavailable in Australia. Can you help me?


14. Steve Santurri to Shel Silverstein, n.d.: So why write you a letter? Who knows. Just that you’ve been part of my growing up and helped me learn…. Anytime something went wrong or things weren’t going right I just flicked on one of your albulms and everything seemed allright. Your the best man, no doubt. My girlfriend and I are planning to get married late next year and I’ve been saving for a house one of our first jobs in the house is to build a separate room. And do you know what? were going to call it the Shel Silverstein room.


Sheet Music

1. Sheet music for 48 songs written or co-written by Shel Silverstein, including “Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh” and “Beans Taste Fine.”


2. Also includes “Sweet Baby Blues” by Mark Feedman and six copies of “I Am Aware” by Fred Engelberg (1929-2012).


Contracts and Forms

1. 40 signed contracts, 1961-1965, mostly for songs Silverstein wrote or co-wrote for Fall River Music, Hollis Music, Melody Trails, and Sixth Floor Music. Includes May 1964 contract with 5½-6½ Productions and another with Bill Grauer Productions for a twelve-inch album, and three contracts for appearances on “The Tonight Show” on NBC on May 1, 1963, April 1, 1964, and December 14, 1964.


2. 16 unsigned contracts, 1962-19965, mostly for songs Silverstein wrote or co-wrote, including several duplicates.


3. Miscellaneous other forms, including a Power of Attorney appointment regarding an audit of his 1962 taxes, a request to use one of his cartoons in a college textbook, and a variety of royalty statements.



Notes (many with names and phone numbers), phone messages, business cards, photographs, negatives, receipts, lists, etc.


1. Note on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy stationery with a phone number and “Cindy” in Silverstein’s hand; an October 1972 phone message from Ronnie: “Have I got a chick for you, here in Chicago”; and an empty envelope labeled “Poems / Finish Now” in Silverstein’s hand.


2. Three signed credit card receipts from 1976, including one for $650 for a C. F. Martin guitar.



1. Helen Reddy, Take What You Find (1980), with “All I Really Need is You” and “Midnight Sunshine” by Shel Silverstein and “That Plane", co-written by Shel Silverstein.     


2. Shel Silverstein, The Great Conch Train Robbery and other songs (1980), with separate sheet featuring the lyrics of “Quaaludes Again”.



1. Shel Silverstein, A Light in the Attic. New York: HarperCollins, 1981. 176 pp.


2. Shel Silverstein, Falling Up. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 176 pp.



Sheldon Allan “Shel” Silverstein (1930-1999) was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a Jewish family. He started drawing at age seven, and attended the University of Illinois, from which he was expelled. He enrolled in the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, where he was studying when drafted into the United States Army. He served in Japan and Korea. During his time in the military, his cartoons were published in Pacific Stars and Stripes, a compilation of which was his first book published in 1955. After returning to Chicago, he submitted cartoons to magazines and sold hot dogs at ballparks. In 1957, he became one of the leading cartoonists for Playboy. In 1964, he wrote and illustrated The Giving Tree, which became one of the bestselling children’s books of all time and has been translated into more than thirty languages. Later children’s books of poetry and drawings included Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974), A Light in the Attic (1981), and Falling Up (1996). In addition to his cartoons, books, and poetry, Silverstein also wrote many songs, including “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” for Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, and more than one hundred one-act plays.


Item: 64089

Price: $120,000.00
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