Historical Sound Recordings

Spoken Arts Collection

About the Spoken Arts Founders

A Brief History of Spoken Arts Inc.

A Gallery of Highlights from the Collection

Founded in 1956 by Dr. Luce and Arthur Klein, Spoken Arts, Inc. was one of the first companies to record the spoken word. The company’s first news release clearly stated its mission “to encourage a revival and reevaluation of the importance of the spoken word.”  In the ensuing years, Spoken Arts became well known for its recordings of 20th century authors and poets reading their own works, including such notables as Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Langston Hughes, Cynthia Ozick, William Butler Yeats, Nadine Gordimer, Pablo Neruda, Gertrude Stein, James Baldwin, Cornelia Otis Skinner, S.J. Perelman, Grace Paley, W. H. Auden, Elie Wiesel, Anais Nin and many others.

The Spoken Arts catalog of over 750 recordings covers a wide range of literature, with subjects from Greek Mythology, Chaucer, Shakespeare, English Literature from the 17th and 18th centuries, English Poetry and Prose from the Romantic and Victorian Ages, Irish Literature, American Classics and Modern Drama, Great Women Writers, Treasuries of Fairy Tales and Folk Tales, Classic Children's Literature, French and Spanish Drama, German Poetry and Prose, Italian Verse, American History and Politics.

These great literary works were read by star actors and actresses including Richard Burton, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Kiley, Julie Harris, Siobhan McKenna, Sir Michael Redgrave, Frances Sternhagen, and Eli Wallach

On July 5th, 2001,Yale University and the Klein Family signed an agreement to establish the Klein Archive as part of the University’s Historical Sound Recordings (HSR) Collection.  In this agreement, Spoken Arts master tapes, a comprehensive collection of all commercially-produced Spoken Arts recordings, as well as the company’s business records became part of the collections of the Yale University Library. Shortly thereafter, all the master tapes of from recordings sessions were digitized.

The Klein donation not only added a significant number of scholarly spoken word recordings to HSR, it also expanded Library's capacity to support research and teaching in non-music disciplines. All of the commercially-released materials are now searchable in the Library's online catalogue.  The company archive of non-commercial recordings and business records are available for research and study and may be requested by contacting Mark Bailey, Head of the Historical Sound Recordings Collection (mark.bailey@yale.edu). 

Sample Spoken Arts Album Covers

Last modified: 
Tuesday, June 2, 2020 - 10:42am