Rare Book & Manuscript Library Acquires Papers of Rafael Steinberg

In more than 30 years as a reporter, author, and editor, Steinberg wrote for Time, Newsweek, the Washington Post, and numerous other major publications. Described by the New York Times in 1966, as “one of the most knowledgable American journalists in Japan,” he reported on life, death, culture, and politics in key hotspots around the world during some of the most tumultuous events of the 1950s and 1960s. His research materials, reporter’s notebooks, and original telexes to editors back home, comprise an exceptional, and previously unavailable, repository for the study of U.S. foreign relations, American journalism, and Asian history. 

“From his early days as a war correspondent in Korea, it was evident that Rafe Steinberg was one of the most perceptive journalists in the business,” said Bob Gibson, retired foreign editor at the Los Angeles Times. “As he moved on to postings elsewhere in Asia and Europe, his intuition and quick grasp of events showed brilliantly in reporting on subjects that ranged from diplomacy and disarmament talks to a world heavy-weight boxing championship bout and the cuisines of Asia. His talents never flagged. In his '80's, he created a blog of his own commentary; its insights and gentle humor won devoted fans. Mr. Steinberg's papers are a rich addition to the library's archival holdings.”

Rafael Steinberg worked as a war correspondent for the International News Service from Korea in the early 1950s and was hired by Time magazine in 1952 for work in New York, London, and Tokyo throughout the mid-1950’s. In 1959, Steinberg signed on as Tokyo bureau chief for Newsweek, arriving in time to cover the protests against the U.S.-Japanese security treaty. From 1963 to 1967, he freelanced about East Asia for the Saturday Evening Post, Washington Post, The Reporter, New Society, CBS, and other publications. In the 1970s, he brought his knowledge of world affairs and his journalistic skills to the post of Managing Editor of Newsweek International.

His first book, Postscript from Hiroshima, was published in 1966 by Random House. The eight other titles he authored include several works on East Asia for Time-Life Books, as well as Javits: The Autobiography for a Public Man, which he co-wrote with Senator Jacob K. Javits, and was published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1981.

“Rafael Steinberg had one of those legendary careers as a foreign correspondent,” said Thai Jones, Herbert H. Lehman Curator for American History at the RBML. “He had the good fortune to work in interesting times, and was on the scene for almost every significant world event that occurred in East Asia during the most turbulent period of the twentieth century. Researchers will benefit enormously from his hard-won experience.” 

The collection is comprised of 31 linear feet of materials collected during Steinberg’s career as a newspaperman and author. It includes correspondence, research materials, story drafts, reporter’s notebooks, audio interviews, news clippings, photographs, and other significant ephemera. 

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1927, Rafael Steinberg served in the U.S. Navy in 1945 and 1946. In 1950 he graduated Cum Laude from Harvard College. He lives in Mount Kisco, New York.

The Rafael Steinberg papers join the RBML’s already-significant holdings in the history of journalism. Other important Columbia collections in this field include materials related to editors Joseph Pulitzer and John Oakes, TV pioneers Roone Arledge and Fred Friendly, and distinguished columnists, correspondents, and reporters, including Walter Lippmann, Lincoln Steffens, Herbert Matthews, and Harrison Salisbury.  

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 13 million volumes, over 160,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff and hosts over 4.7 million visitors each year.  The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources: library.columbia.edu.