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Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein Collection

in The Museum of Modern Art Archives

The Museum of Modern Art Archives
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497
© 2006
The Museum of Modern Art Museum Archives
Finding aid prepared by Janis Ekdahl, 1983.

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Leyda, Jay, 1910-1988
Title: Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein Collection
Inclusive Dates: 1900-1980
Quantity: 2 Linear Feet


The collection is arranged into five series as follows:
Series A. Scrapboook of Eisenstein Material
Series B. Correspondence
Series C. Miscelleneous: Cables, Notes, Receipts, Booklets, etc.
Series D. Manuscripts, Drawings and Notes
Series E. Published Works
Series F. Russian Typescripts

Biographical Note

Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was born in Riga, Latvia on January 23, 1898. At the age of 19 he helped to manage an experimental theater and a circus in Moscow while studying civil engineering and architecture. During the Russian Civil War he organized theatrical performances for the Red Army and also painted and designed the scenery. In 1920 he joined the first workers' theater, the Proletcult, where he served as art director and producer of plays.

He left the theater in 1924 and created his first film, Strike. The Battleship Potemkin (1925) brought him to the attention of critics in the United States and England. October of Ten Days that Shook the World followed in 1928 and, the next year, The General Line.

Eisenstein came to America in 1930 to work for Paramount. He was assigned to direct Sutter's Gold and a film adaption of Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy; neither project was completed. In 1932, in collaboration with Upton Sinclair, Eisenstein went to Mexico City to begin filming Que Viva Mexico. The picture generated much acrimony in the film world and was never completed. Eisenstein returned to Russia in 1932 where he began his next project, the pageant opera Alexander Nevsky (1938). In 1940 he worked on a project, Love of a Poet based on Pushkin's Boris Godunov. Between 1942 and 1946 Eisenstein completed parts I & II of his last film Ivan the Terrible, starring Cherkasov. He was working on part III when he died of a heart attack in Moscow, February 19, 1948.

Eisenstein is probably best known for his use of montage. His philosophy of films and film-making is revealed in published collections of his essays, especially The Film Sense (1942) and Film Form (1949).

Scope and Content Note

A collection of material on the Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, 1898-1948, collected by Jay Leyda, eminent film historian and former assistant to the curator in the Museum's Film Library, 1936-1940. Especially noteworthy in the collection are Eisenstein's family scrapbook, correspondence with Leyda, and material relating to the filming of American Tragedy. Much of the material in the collection was used by Leyda in his writing on Eisenstein, most notably in Eisenstein at Work, a book co-authored by Leyda and Zina Voynow in 1982 and published by Pantheon and MoMA.


Access Restrictions

The records are open for research and contain no restricted materials.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein Collecetion is the physical property of The Museum of Modern Art. Literary rights, including copyright belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Rights to work produced during the normal course of Museum business resides with The Museum of Modern Art. For further information, and to obtain permission to publish or reproduce, contact the Museum Archivist.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in DADABASE, the library catalog of The Museum of Modern Art. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.
Persons and Organizations:
Eisenstein, Sergei, 1898-1948.
Leyda, Jay, 1910-1988
Eisenstein, Sergei, 1898-1948.
Document Types:

Administrative Information


Much of the material was gathered by Jay Leyda, deposited in the Museum Library in 1980(?) and transferred to the Museum Archives in 1998. Other objects were given to the Museum Library at various times over the past decades.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Long version: Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein Collection, [series.folder]. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York.

Short version: Eisenstein, [series.folder]. MoMA Archives, NY.

Processing Information

The Series A. scrapbook was entirely dismantled and it's contents placed in two albums and one manuscript box. The entire scrapbook was microfilmed, mf no. 23, and a photocopy of the microfilm is stored in Box 4.

Additional Descriptive Data

Explanation of Abbreviations

E. is Sergei Eisenstein.
ALS is an Autographed Letter Signed.
TLS is a Typed Letter Signed.
TL stands for Typed Letter.
MoMA is The Museum of Modern Art.
n.d. stands for no date.
re: stands for regarding.

Container List

Series A. Scrapboook of Eisenstein Material 1900-1930

Assembled by Eisenstein between approx. 1900-30. Gift to MoMA Library, 1936. Includes early photographs; portraits; typescript and translation of Principles of Film Form; typescript and correspondence regarding Que Viva Mexico; synopsis and drawings for Sutter's Gold; drawings for Hamlet.

The scrapbook has been dismantled and original items placed in large, flat, black notebooks and Hollinger boxes. The entire scrapbook was microfilmed, mf no. 23, and a photocopy of the microfilm is stored in Box 4.

The contents are described below by page number.

Page Title Date
A.1 Early Childhood Pictures
A.2 Boyhood Pictures
A.3 Photograph of E. in Character of an English Policeman
A.4 Portrait Photo of E.
A.5 Photographs of E.
A.6 Photo of E. with Mei Lan-fang
A.7 Photo of E. (to Flaherty)
A.8 Photo of E. and Staff During Filming of Ten Days
A.9 Portrait Photo of E. (by Gene Robert Richee)
A.10 Portrait Photo of E. (By G.R.R.)
A.11 "Winter" (Childhood Poem), Postcard
A.12 Reproduction of a Drawing by Duncant (Original Owned by E.)
A.13 Principles of Film Form

13 pages, carbon copy of typed translation into English by Ivor Montagu

A.14 Principles of Film Form

23 pages, original typescript in German, dated April 1929, Moscow

A.15 Montage Frangments

From Potemkin and Generallinee

A.16 Que Viva Mexico

Typescript of Upton Sinclair interrogation
Letters, drawings by E.
Directives, etc.

Photocopy of Sinclair typescript stored in Part 3

A.17 Sutter's Gold

Scene synopsis (typescript) and drawings.

A.18 An American Tragedy

Map of action
2 sketches
Directives (stored in Box 3 portfolio A)
Letter from E. to his mother

A.19 Hamlet


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Series B. Correspondence 1931-1949

Includes correspondence from Eisenstein to Jay Leyda (1939?-1942), to Ivor & Hell Montagu (1933-39, 1946), to Elizabeth Eagan (1946), M. Renaud (October 13, 1932), to Mr. Koboyashi (Dec. 14, 1931), from Leyda to Eisenstein (1939-42); telegrams (1939-49), largely from E. to Leyda.

Item Title Date
B.1 Pencil Drawings and Notes in Russian in Eisenstein's Hand

(Black and red), of costume sketches, and listing of needed costmes for film Bezhin Meadow (never produced), single leaf, drawings and notes on both sides.

B.2 8x10" Negative of Above Original

Made by Leyda.

B.3 Letter in English in E's Hand

Single leaf in ink, from Moscow to Leyda, with envelope postmarked Moscow, writing on both sides, no date on either side; re: "El Greco y El Cinema"

B.4 Letter in English in E.'s Hand

In ink, to Leyda, with envelope postmarked Moscow; 2 leaves, writing on both sides of each leaf (4 sides), signed by E. in large signature in colored red pencil.

B.5 Letter in English in E.'s Hand

In ink, to Leyda, with envelope postmarked Moscow. Letter undated, but postmarked "Received New York, August 28, 1939." Single leaf, folded, writing on 3 sides; re: film on Tamburlaine, and marvels of Samarkand, Bokhara.

B.6 Letter in English in E's Hand

To Leyda, with blue printed letterhead marked "BHHTOK," single leaf, writing on both sides, undated, but probably 1941 per Leyda. Re: Montage, 1938.

ca. 1941
B.7 Typewritten Letter, Original

From Eisenstein to Leyda, dated Moscow, January, 1946, single leaf, typing on one side only, signed in ink by E.; re: cutting and shooting second part of Ivan.

B.8 Glossy Positive Photostat Copy of Letter From E.

In English, from Imperial Hotel, Mexico City, dated Dec.14, 1931, to Mr. Kobayashi, a theatre specialist, not the film director. 6 single leaves, writing one side only.

B.[9] Manuscript Letter from E. to Miss [Elizabeth] Eagan

Pencil, 1 leaf, both sides, envelope.

B.[10] Manuscript Letter from E. to Miss Eagan

Ink, 1 leaf, one side only, envelope.

B.[11] Manuscript Letter from E. to Miss Eagan

Blue pencil, 1 leaf, both sides, envelope.

B.[12] Manuscript letter from E. to Miss Eagan

Blue pencil, 1 leaf, both sides.

B.[13] Photocopy of Manuscript Letter from E. to M. Renaud

Moscow, in French, 4 pages, re: Que Viva Mexico.

B.[14] Manuscript Letter from E. to Jay [Leyda]

Moscow, blue ink, 1 leaf, both side, signed in red pencil, re: Nevsky clippings.

B.[15] Manuscript Letter from E. to Jay [Leyda]

Green ink, 1 leaf, both sides, re: Ivan the Terrible.

10/1933 or 10/1943
B.[16] Carbon Copy of Typed Letter from Jay Leyda to S.M. [Eisenstein]

2 leaves, re: Nevsky and a new film magazine (Martin Kamin)

B.[17] Carbon Copy of Typed Letter from Leyda to Sergei Mikhailovich [Eisenstein]

3 leaves, re: Eisenstein's book on film.

B.[18] Carbon of Typed Letter from Leyda to S.M.

"The night before Christmas," 1 leaf, attached: 8 pages of typed notes.

B.[19] Carbon of Typed Letter from Leyda to Sergei

"Happy New Year," 1 leaf, re: Film Form

B.[20] Carbon of Typed Letter from Leyda to E.

1 leaf.

B.[21] Carbon of Typed Letter from Leyda to S.M.

Beginning "Your book is a success," 3 leaves.


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Series C. Miscelleneous: Cables, Notes, Receipts, Booklets, etc.

Item Title Date
C.[1] Carbon of Cable from Irsky Amtorg to E. 11/26/1941
C.[2] 9 Cables Bearing RCA Letterhead from Eisenstein to Leyda in New York 1939-1942
C.[3] 3 Cables Bearing MacKay Radio Letterhead from E. to Leyda in New York

Two have no year indicated.

C.[4] 21 Cables Bearing Western Union Letterhead from E. to Leyda in Hollywood, CA. 1945-49
C.[5] 6 Typed Pages of Notes

First page entitled "Table of Contents for QVM Bulletin;" other pages provide more detailed outline of planned contents.

C.[6] 1 Typed Page in Purple Ink

Essay in Russian, "On Cinematic Form," Berlin, Autumn 1929.

C.[7] 7 Pages, Carbon, of Russian Typing by E.

Includes 2 page essay by E., "Our October," and 5 additional pages (biography of E.)

C.[8] 1 Montage Fragment

In negative photostat form, of a sketch by E. from the film An American Tragedy, showing Roberta alone in the boat. (Also 3 positive prints of the photostat.)

C.[9] 2 Small Notebook Pages

With notes in pencil; one in English beginning "Yes more than interested ... " the other in Russian.

C.[10] 2 Copies of the Dust Jacket for E.'s Book The Film Sense

(Harcourt, Brace & Company). Jacket design by E. McKnight Kauffer.

C.[11] 3 Receipts from Brentano's Bookstore, Los Angeles

For books purchased by Leyda, only one dated.


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Series D. Manuscripts, Drawings and Notes

Eisenstein's Treatment of An American Tragedy, 1930
Carbon copy, bound in green buckram, cataloged and stored in Part 4.

Note: A microfilm and bound photocopy of the treatment may be accessed in the Museum Library.
Permission to copy/publish from this typescript has to be cleared through Paramount and Jay Leyda.

Also includes drawings and notes for Bezhin Meadow; notes for QVM Bulletin; essay, 1929, "On Cinematic Form" - in Russian; notes, 1928, by E. including 2 page essay "Our October" and 5 page biography - in Russian; montage fragment/sketch by E. for An American Tragedy; notebook pages, n.d.; reproduction of drawing, "The Script Writer" (1949?); Facsimile of drawings for Pushkin film; photograph of Cherkasov as Ivan the Terrible, inscribed.

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Series E. Published Works

Volume Title Date
E.[1] Booklet entitled CTAYKA

17 pages in Russian. Inscription by E. inside front cover marked Moscow 1934 (?). Also marked Strike (1924).

ca. 1924-1934
E.[2] Small Booklet on Mei Lan-Fang

6.5"x4.75," paginated 7 through 34. Articles by E. and Tretyokov, Moscow, 1935, in Russian.

E.[3] Small Booklet by Vishnevsky Defending E.

6.25"x4.5," in Russian, Moscow, 1939. 31 numbered pages, signed inscription to Leyda on the title page.

E.[4] Program Booklet for Die Walküre, Moscow

Text by V. Ferman and S.M. Eizenshtein; Eisenstein designed the scenery and costumes for the production. MoMA's copy inscribed by Eisenstein, "Dear Jay [Leyda]!This here is for your personal fun and enjoyment..." with sketches and annotations.

E.[5] Film Chronicle no. 2

2 articles by E.

Feb. 1945
E.[6] Dreiser, Theodore, An American Tragedy (New York: Boni & Liverright, 1925)

Volume 2 only; boxed and bound in black. Cataloged: Spec. Coll. 88.2/D814
Manuscript notes by E.

An inquiry by Ted Berry to C. Phillpot, 4/6/78, prompted the following conclusions: vol. 2 was the only volume annotated by E.; vol. 2 was the only volume given to MoMA Library by Jay Leyda.

E.[7] Montagu, Ivor, With Eisenstein in Hollywood (New York: International Publishers, 1967)

Uncataloged, another copy cataloged and on regular shelf: 81.5/Ei84W

E.[8] Albera, Francois, Notes sur l'Esthetic d'Eisenstein((Bron: C.E.R.T. and Lyon: C.I.R.S., 1973)

Uncataloged; another copy cataloged and on regular shelf 81.5/Ei84/AL14; gift of the author.


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Series F. Russian Typescripts

All items in this series were at one time tightly rolled.

Item Title
F.[1] 27 Photostat Pages (Positive) of Russian Typescript


F.[2] 3 Photostat Pages (Positive) of Handwritten Russian Text
F.[3] 5 Typeset Pages of Russian Book

Numbered 192-199, of scenario by Sergei Tretyokov for film on China.

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Box and Folder List

Series Folders Box
A 1-13 1 (album)
14-16, 18 1 (album)
17-19 2 (album)
Photocopy of entire series 4 (box)
B 1-21 3 (album)
C 1-11 3 (album)
D 3 (album)
E 1-8 4 (box)
F 1-3 4 (box)

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