digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















A literary executor is a person granted (by a will) decision-making power in respect of a literary estate. According to Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide (1990, UK)[1] "A will may appoint different executors to deal with different parts of the estate. One example of this is the appointment of a literary executor to deal with literary effects [...]".

Literary estate[edit]

The literary estate of an author who has died will consist mainly of the copyright and other intellectual property rights of published works, including for example film and translation rights. It may also include original manuscripts of published work, which potentially have a market value, unpublished work in a finished state or partially completed work and papers of intrinsic literary interest such as correspondence or personal diaries and records. In academia, the German term Nachlass for the legacy of papers is often used.

Since the literary estate is a legacy to the author's heirs, the management of it in financial terms is a responsibility of trust. The position of literary executor extends beyond the monetary aspect, though: appointment to such a position, perhaps informally, is often a matter of the author's choice during his or her lifetime.

If a sympathetic and understanding friend is in the position of literary executor, there can be conflict: what is to be managed is not just a portfolio of intellectual property, but a posthumous reputation. Wishes of the deceased author may have been clearly expressed but are not always respected. Family members often express strong feelings about privacy of the dead. For example, biographical writing is likely to be of a quite different authority if it is carried out with access to private papers. The literary executor then becomes a gatekeeper.


Examples of literary executors include Sir Edward Marsh for Rupert Brooke, Robert Baldwin Ross for Oscar Wilde, Robert Hayward Barlow for H. P. Lovecraft, Rush Rhees for Ludwig Wittgenstein, Otto Nathan for Albert Einstein, and Regine Olsen for Søren Kierkegaard.

A particularly notorious example is Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche for Friedrich Nietzsche, as she resorted to fraud to make her brother's Nachlass more compatible with Nazi ideology.[2][dead link] An exceptionally productive example is that of Rudolf Steiner. Although he did not originally intend that the stenographs of his thousands of lectures to be published, he relented and named his second wife, Marie Steiner-von Sivers, to direct his Nachlass, which has produced more than three hundred volumes since his death in 1925.

Older examples of such appointments, such as Kenelm Digby for Ben Jonson, are essentially editorial rather than legal. A contemporary case is Christopher Tolkien's work on J. R. R. Tolkien's papers.

A notable example is the case of Franz Kafka, who left no will. His friend Max Brod assumed the function of literary executor, though most of the literary estate was legally owned by Marianne Steiner and Vera Saudková.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Barlow, J. S., King, L. C., King, A. G. (1990). Wills, Administration and Taxation: a practical guide. Sweet and Maxwell, London. p. 192. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Reed, T. J. "Pasley, Sir John Malcolm". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/94106.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_executor — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
275 videos foundNext > 

How-To Appoint A Literary Executor

Save on amazon using this link http://www.amazon.com/?tag=23b8j-20.

Sandy Jones (William Samuel) - Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Also see http://batgap.com/sandy-jones/ Sandy Jones is the Literary Executor to the William Samuel legacy. In 1996, she was given his entire catalog of works and today is the spokesperson...

The Letters of Mark Twain, Complete | Part 1 | Full Version | AudioBooks Classic

These letters were arranged in two volumes by Albert Bigelow Paine, Samuel L. Clemens's literary executor, as a supplement to Mark Twain, A Biography, which Paine wrote. They are, for the most...

The Death of Tzula - LUNUS and MILUSIC

taken from THE FOCUS OF LIFE by LUNUS AND MILUSIC CD full-length album released by Old Europa Cafe, catalog number OECD205 The work of A. O. Spare, from “The Focus of Life”, is used...

Heinlein's Children #3 - Art Dula

Robert Heinlein was one of the most influential science fiction authors of all time, and his influence has been felt by both authors and technologists. Art Dula, Trustee of The Heinlein Prize...

Tribute to W.H. Auden | 92Y Readings

http://92Y.org/VPC Poet W.H. Auden appeared at the 92nd Street Y more than 20 times between 1940 and 1972. In this tribute, his literary executor Edward Mendelson is joined by Shirley Hazzard,...

Tappan Wilder on the legacy of OUR TOWN

Written in 1938, OUR TOWN remains one of the most enduring works of American drama. Here, Tappan Wilder, nephew of Thornton, discusses the play's legacy, and its lasting significance to American.

William Samuel Talks 10-11 (Sandy Jones letter) part 1

This talk is taken from an old cassette recording from around 1984. The second letter William reads in this series (in part 3) is from me, Sandy Jones. William eventually made me the literary...

Strand Panel September 30, 2014

Panel celebrating Harvey Shapiro's last poems "A Momentary Glory" with luminary writers Grace Schulman, Hugh Seidman, moderator Susan Shapiro, Phillip Lopate, Dennis Nurkse, Kimiko Hahn,...

William Samuel Talks 10-11 (Sandy Jones letter) part 2

This talk is taken from an old cassette recording from around 1984. The second letter William reads in this series (in part 3) is from me, Sandy Jones. William eventually made me the literary...

275 videos foundNext > 

644 news items

The Daily Meal

The Daily Meal
Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:56:15 -0700

She spent years doing research on ice and the chilling of food, and the resulting work, Harvest of the Cold Months, was published posthumously in 1994, edited and with notes by Jill Norman, David's longtime editor and literary executor. Following this ...


Mon, 30 Mar 2015 05:10:56 -0700

"Williams was undermined by his executors," especially his controversial and self-appointed literary executor, Maria St. Just. (It was Lahr who first remarked the oft-repeated description of St. Just as being "neither a saint nor just.") Having no ...
New York Times
Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:03:45 -0700

The writer is the literary executor of the estate of W. H. Auden. ⬥. To the Editor: The Bookends columnists Zoë Heller and Adam Kirsch discuss whether and how much authors' intentions matter or should matter to readers of their works. Heller basically ...


Sun, 22 Mar 2015 18:01:53 -0700

Orchestrated by Bellow's literary executor, literary superagent Andrew Wylie (who replaced Wasserman), this massive life by Leader, also Wylie's client, is transparently meant as a corrective to the authorized biography published by Atlas in 2000 ...

New Statesman

New Statesman
Thu, 19 Mar 2015 07:54:16 -0700

Deakin's Waterlog (1999) is a seminal text for the new naturalists; Macfarlane is not only his literary executor but his literary heir, too. Yet Waterlog's popularisation of “wild swimming” is symptomatic of the way a trend can commodify. In what way ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Fri, 20 Mar 2015 06:07:30 -0700

In an introduction penned by Acker's literary executor, Matias Viegener, he admits that a novelist approached to introduce the book declined, saying that it felt "too much like rooting around in someone's underwear drawer". This is, unfortunately, all ...

Republican Journal

Republican Journal
Wed, 18 Mar 2015 14:06:49 -0700

Melnicove, poet, writer and literary executor of the Porter Estate, maintains a comprehensive and evolving website dedicated to Porter's life, art and collaborations. Another special events organized in conjunction with the Colby exhibition is a ...

Irish Times

Irish Times
Fri, 13 Mar 2015 04:48:41 -0700

Young Skins, Colin Barrett's debut work, has won the Guardian First Book Award, The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and was longlisted for the Folio Prize. It has just been published in the United ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight