Skip to Content

Alexander Trocchi Papers

Identifier: MS-MS-ms116

The Alexander Trocchi Papers include manuscripts of his novels, stories, essays and poems, the extant archives of Merlin, most of his manuscripts and correspondence concerning the Sigma Project, material relating to a large number of projects Trocchi was involved with in the 1960’s, and his journals and notebooks. The Trocchi Papers also house an extensive collection of magazines and ephemera, including material relating to the International Situationist movement.


  • Creation: 1944-1984


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


66.00 boxes

Biographical Information

Alexander Trocchi was a Scottish author, publisher and activist. He attended the University of Glasgow from 1942-1943 and from 1946-1950, and served in the Royal Navy from 1943-1946. Trocchi began writing poetry and prose in the late 1940’s, and by the early 1950’s was an established member of the artistic avant-garde.

With Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse he edited Merlin a literary magazine that published Ionesco, Genet, Beckett, Creeley, Sartre, and Miller, for seven issues from 1952-1955. He was also an editor of Paris Quarterly from 1952-1955 and of Moving Times, which published work by William S. Burroughs, Trocchi, and Jeff Nittall. Trocchi’s association with Merlin led to his collaboration with Maurice Girodias at Olympia Press. Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, Trocchi helped Girodias publish books, wrote catalog copy, and contributed a large number of pornographic writings, including Helen and Desire, The Carnal Days of Helen Seferis, White Thighs, Vol. 5 of My Life and Loves by Frank Harris, and School for Sin. Most of his work was banned in England, France, and America.

At the same time he worked with these publishing efforts, Trocchi was involved with other projects, including painting, sculpting, joining Asgar Jorn in the International Situationist movement, and pursuing his own writing. His first novel, Young Adam (1954), a tale of immorality and justice, was followed by his more famous Cain’s Book, a roman a clef which detailed his adventures as a heroin addict living on a scow on the Hudson River. The book’s frank depiction of drug addiction and sex was the source of an obscenity trial in 1963 and the book was banned in England. His other literary works included The Outsiders (1961), a collection of stories and a revision of Young Adam, and Man at Leisure (1972) a collection of poems.

In the 1960’s, Trocchi devoted most of his energy toward organizing a broad collaboration of international underground movements under the auspices of what he called the Sigma Project. It was an eclectic and protean effort, with no concrete direction, but with a wide focus. The Sigma Project resulted on more than 30 varied publications, and attracted a great deal of attention.

Although it took up much of his time, Sigma was only one of Trocchi’s activities in the 1960’s. He also organized the 1965 Albert Hall poetry reading, which brought the work of Allen Ginsberg, Laurence Ferlinghetti, and others to the attention of a large British audience. He was visiting lecturer in sculpture at St. Martin’s School of Art (London), and he translated the work of a number of French novelists, including Andre Pieyre de Mandiargues, Jan Cremer, Harriet Daimler. Rene de Obaldia and Valentine Penrose. He also wrote his only nonfiction book, Drugs of the Mind, published in 1970.

Prolific as he was, Trocchi’s activities waned during the last 15 years of his life. Although he was ostensibly working on a sequel to Cain’s Book and an unpublished novel called The Long Book, he was actually too ill much of the time to accomplish much. His lifelong addiction to heroin eventually incapacitated him and he died in 1984.

Method of Acquisition

Accession number 825. Purchase from Betram Rota Ltd., 1967 May 22

Accession number 845. Purchase from Betram Rota Ltd., 1967 August 15

Accession number 847. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1967 July

Accession number 848. Purchase from Henry Wenning, 1967 August 22

Accession number 907. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1968 April 3

Accession number 974. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1968 August 20

Accession number 1101. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1969 October 28

Accession number 1123. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1969 December 17

Accession number 1270. Purchase from Wallrich Books, 1971 April 21

Accession number 1331. Wallrich Books, 1972 January

Accession number 23025. Unknown

Accession number 23945. Purchase from Glenn Horowitz Bookseller, Inc., 2009 September 15

Accession number 2013.005. Purchase from Magg Brothers, Ltd., 2013 January 18

Alexander Trocchi Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2020 December 17: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.
  • 2021: Additional data cleanup by Kate Goldkamp.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the Manuscripts Collecting Area

Joel Minor
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495