History of The Lesbian In Literature


Cover, The Lesbian in Literature, 3rd Edition, 1981

In 1981, Barbara Grier published the third edition of the extremely influential The Lesbian in Literature. Maida Tilchen's foreword to the third edition gives a comprehensive overview of the history of The Lesbian In Literature.

"The Lesbian in Literature's history is typical of so much of lesbian culture. Although it was primarily compiled by one incredible woman, Barbara Grier, hundreds of women contributed information for it.
It began as an outgrowth of The Ladder, the lesbian magazine published from 1956 to 1972. Barbara Grier had been collecting information on lesbian writing for many years.
In 1958, Marion Zimmer Bradley (now a well known science fiction writer) compiled two brief booklists, entitled "Astra's Tower Special Leaflets #2 and #3." In 1960, Bradley and Barbara Grier, who was using the pseudonym "Gene Damon," issued a hand-typed, mimeographed bibliography called "The Checklist," followed by supplements in 1961 and 1962.
In 1967, The Ladder published the first edition of The Lesbian in Literature, by Gene Damon and Lee Stuart. It included about three thousand books published through 1965.
Meanwhile, Barbara had been writing a regular column for The Ladder called "Lesbiana," in which she briefly discussed new books by writers known to be lesbians or having some relevance to lesbianism. Ladder readers from all over the world sent her information for the column.
In 1975, the Second Edition. an updated version of the bibliography, was issued. The authors were Gene Damon, Jan Watson, and Robin Jordan.
I can remember how enthusiastically the upcoming publication of this second edition was discussed at the 1975 Lesbian Writers' Conference in Chicago. Every woman there knew how useful The Lesbian in Literature would be, whether they used it primarily as readers, writers, book collectors, bibliographers, biographers, archivists, historians, researchers, or librarians."

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Explore the 3rd edition of The Lesbian in Literature in the original format.

Codes in the Bibliography

In order to increase the research value of the bibliography, the authors of The Lesbian in Literature used a code to show varying amounts of the lesbian related content and genre of book. The following explanation of the code is excerpted from the introduction to the second edition (reprinted in the third edition).

A - This symbol, A, following an entry indicates major Lesbian characters and/or action.
B - This symbol, B, following an entry indicates minor Lesbian characters and/or action.
C - This symbol, C, following an entry indicates latent, repressed Lesbianism or characters who can be so interpreted. This type of behavior is properly termed "variant" behavior.
T - This symbol, T, following an entry indicates that regardless of the quantity of Lesbian action or characters involved in the book, the quality is essentially poor. The "T" is for "trash."


To aid those interested in finding Lesbian material of the best quality, we have adopted an asterisk coding system. The use of a single asterisk, *, indicates some interest beyond the ordinary. The use of two asterisks, **, indicates very substantial quality of Lesbian material, and the use of three asterisks, *** , indicates those few titles that stand out above all the rest and must properly belong in any collection of Lesbian literature. The asterisk system, in itself, has nothing to do with the "literary" quality of the material, only with the quality of the Lesbian material in the work in question...


Standard abbreviations are used throughout. Following is a list of some of the abbreviations which might not be in general usage:

pbo - paperback original title. A book that has not first appeared in hardback. The addition of "q" indicates the so-called quality paperback original, usually higher in price.
pbr - paperback reprint title
tct - title changed to
s.s - short story
s.n. - short novel (or novella)
(p) - poetry. Used to designate entire collections and also to indicate individual poems in a collection.
(d) - drama
(biog) - biography
(auto) - autobiography