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Close-up of the corner of a manuscript page written in black ink.
A small embossed “LC” as seen in the bottom corner of Sigmund Freud’s 1924 manuscript of Die Geschichte der Psychoanalyse [The History of Psychoanalysis]. Box OV 9, Sigmund Freud Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

Grief and the Embossing Device: Anna Freud’s Dreams for Her Father’s Legacy

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In 1946, Anna Freud suffered a bout of pneumonia that left her bedridden for weeks. In her illness, she dreamed.

Anna Freud was a pioneering psychoanalyst, the youngest daughter of Sigmund Freud, and his most devoted child. Her father had passed away seven years earlier in the London home where she still lived, but in the dream, he reappeared. Wandering over hills and mountains, he aroused in Anna a feeling that “I should stop whatever I am doing and go walking with him.” When he called for her, she rested her body against his and cried. She felt childlike, puzzled, sympathetic toward a father alone and lost. According to biographer Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, those dreams of “losing and being lost” recurred whenever Anna felt she might be acting against her father’s wishes, or failing to fulfill a wish they’d both shared. She remained in that London home for the rest of her life, her father’s study fastidiously dusted but its treasures unmoved, as if trapped in amber.

Among those treasures were over a thousand of Sigmund Freud’s handwritten book and article drafts. Anna knew their importance to history, but she couldn’t bring herself to part with them. The manuscripts remained in the home for decades, until a visit by a Library of Congress staff member in 1975 helped persuade her to begin to let go. A subtle, embossed mark on the manuscripts, still visible to the Library’s most careful readers, bears testament to their encounter.

Monochrome image of three people -- a man, a woman, and a child -- seated at a table with a fireplace in the background.
Sigmund Freud with his daughter Anna, and granddaughter Eva, 1929. Box 16, Princess Marie Bonaparte Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

Donors sometimes view archival repositories as final resting places, mausoleums that preserve a loved one’s papers for posterity but extract one last death: a permanent break between a creator and the once-indispensable things that powered their creation. But we don’t all grieve in the same way. Anna’s five siblings had sold their interest in their father’s drafts to the American Psychoanalytic Association (APA) in 1957. The APA, in turn, promised to convey them to the Sigmund Freud Archives (SFA), which then committed to place them in the Library’s collections, furthering a collaborative relationship the Manuscript Division had established with the SFA in 1951 and that continues to the present day. Unlike her siblings, Anna retained her share in their father’s drafts, and agreed to have them insured, safeguarded, microfilmed, and her interest transferred only upon her death. She insisted that they remain in her father’s study until then.

The drafts, everyone seemed to agree, were of immense historical value. Psychoanalyst Ilse Grubrich-Simitis later argued that reflection and writing had lain at the very core of Sigmund Freud’s intellectual life, that he called both of them “work” while dismissing everything from lecturing to attending conferences to treating patients as a “nuisance.” “It was precisely by writing,” she noted, “that he would feel his way toward new works, which he would nurture for a while like pieces of himself” before sending them out into the world.

As a result, the Library was prepared to make extraordinary concessions to secure ownership of the drafts. By the 1970s, the APA was moving to sell the interest in the manuscripts it had purchased from the Freud siblings, and Anna was nearing her eighties. The time to secure her formal commitment to donate her remaining share had come. Jennifer Magnus, assistant chief of the Library’s Order Division, was dispatched to London to follow up on a February 1974 visit by Manuscript Division specialist Ronald Wilkinson. In August 1975, she sent a letter inviting herself to the Freud home in London and enclosed a gift agreement, a document formally transferring full ownership of the drafts to the Library. Anna Freud accepted the invitation but declined to sign until they could meet and discuss her “wish to retain possession of my part of my father’s MSS during my life-time” and explore “how this difficulty can be solved.”

Magnus appeared in person that October. During a visit she later called “one of the high points of my time at LC,” she and Anna Freud came to a cordial compromise, one that allowed the Library to acquire the Freud drafts while leaving them, for a time, under Anna’s continued care. Anna herself had suggested the solution: “Well, if I were a member of the Library of Congress, I could continue to own them – we could own them together!” Freud certainly knew that ownership was passing from her hands, but the fictive membership was a breakthrough. Magnus soon found herself in Sigmund Freud’s study where, the following day, she would emboss 1,161 individual manuscripts with minute, interlocking “LC” marks, permanently stamping them with a symbol of what Magnus called their “ultimate resting place.” The embossing device, typically reserved for stamping books in the Library’s general collections rather than manuscript materials, and certainly no longer applied to them today, therefore took on an unusual purpose: not only marking ownership, but signaling the growing trust between a repository and a donor in her time of extended grief.

Black and white newspaper clipping showing an image of three children on a playground and an image of two children reading a book.
Anna Freud was a pioneer of child psychotherapy. Much of her early work was with child survivors of the Second World War. “Play is Curing Bomb-Shocked Children,” The Hardin Tribune-Herald, June 12, 1941. Chronicling America, Library of Congress.

That relationship between repository and donor already had a long history, one grounded in Anna Freud’s decades of involvement with the Sigmund Freud Archives, in the 1972 donation of her own papers, and in the boxes of her father’s files Anna had helped the Manuscript Division secure from her late brother’s home. Yet understandably she still sought additional information and assurances. Where in Washington was the Library, exactly? Magnus offered a postcard and explained its proximity to the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court. Later, she sent more postcards and a recent article in National Geographic that pictured the main reading room in vivid color, believing it important that Freud fully visualize exactly where her father’s papers would be preserved. Anna Freud’s request for “membership” was in a sense fulfilled as well. Recognizing her extraordinary contribution to psychoanalysis and her additions to the Library’s collections, in 1976, Anna Freud was made the Library’s first Honorary Consultant in Sigmund Freud Studies. Six years later, she passed away in her home.

The book and article drafts were conveyed to the Manuscript Division after her death, but the embossed marks remain. The stamps have become a subtle but integral part of their history. They document the relationship between a father and daughter, a lifelong fear of losing and being lost, and the unseen layers of grief that lie beneath many of the manuscript collections on which researchers now depend. Anna Freud’s home has become a museum, her father’s study preserved “just as it was” during his lifetime.

Would you like to donate items to the Manuscript Division? Some of our procedures have changed since the 1970s. Take a look at our website to find out what we collect. If it seems like a good fit, write to us through Ask A Librarian.


Sources Cited

“According to biographer…” Elisabeth Young-Bruehl. Anna Freud: a Biography. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 286-287. These dreams later inspired a 1967 article entitled “About Losing and Being Lost,” which Freud published in The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child.

“Donors sometimes view… See: Sasha Sagan, “Lessons of Immortality and Mortality From My Father, Carl Sagan,” April 15, 2014. The Cut.

“Psychoanalyst Ilse Grubrich-Simitis later argued…” Ilse Grubrich-Simitis, Back to Freud’s Texts: Making Silent Documents Speak. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 76, 84.

Anna Freud accepted…” Anna Freud to Jennifer Magnus, August 21, 1975. Box 1546, Order Division Series, Library of Congress Archives, Manuscript Division.

“During a visit…” Jennifer Magnus to John Kominski, circa 1980. Box 1546, Order Division Series, Library of Congress Archives, Manuscript Division.

“ultimate resting place.” Jennifer Magnus, “Report on my visit to Miss Anna Freud, October 9 & 10, 1975.” Box 1546, Order Division Series, Library of Congress.

“Later, she sent more postcards…” Jennifer Magnus to Kurt Eissler, November 7, 1975. Box 1546, Order Division Series, Library of Congress.

“Recognizing her extraordinary contribution…” The appointment was for a three-year term, with no salary. Freud was reappointed to the position shortly before her death. “Two Honorary Consultants Appointed to LC,” Library of Congress Information Bulletin 35, no. 1, January 2, 1976.

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