Russell and Volkening is one of New York's oldest literary agencies, opened in 1940 by Diarmuid Russell and Henry Volkening. They represented some of the most noted writers in the history of American publishing, including Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, Anne Tyler, George Plimpton, Barbara Tuchman, Saul Bellow, Ann Petry, A. J. Liebling, and Nadine Gordimer. In 1972, they sold their agency to Timothy Seldes, formerly the Managing Editor of Doubleday, Vice President of Macmillan, and Assistant Publisher of The New York Post .
Diarmuid Russell was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1902. He was the son of George (AE) Russell, who, among other things, was the editor of The Irish Homestead, with James Joyce, and, later, of The Irish Statesman . Diarmuid worked at The Irish Statesman as editorial assistant for three years after his graduation from The Royal College of Science, Dublin in 1925. In 1929 he emigrated to the United States and worked in a number of cities and in different fields before moving to New York City in 1935 to accept a position in the editorial department at G. P. Putnam. He enjoyed his work at Putnam until he realized that publishers were interested more in making money for themselves than for the author. Maxwell Perkins had for many years been trying to convince Russell to open a literary agency with Henry Volkening. In 1940, Russell left Putnam and took Perkins' advice. Russell died in 1973.
Henry Volkening was born in 1902 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He graduated from Princeton in 1923. He received a master's degrees in literature from Harvard University and in law from Fordham University. He was an instructor in English at New York University before he left to form the agency with Russell in 1940. Volkening died in 1972.
As of 2010, Russell and Volkening is still representing some of America's best authors. With a backlist filled with such canonized talents as Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, Ann Petry, A.J. Liebling and Barbara Tuchman and a front list that includes Anne Tyler, Annie Dillard, Nadine Gordimer and Jim Lehrer, among many others, they championed a diversity of authors writing across genres. Seldes, current (and long running) head of the agency, has been in the business for over fifty years and is well known throughout the industry. They handle fiction, non-fiction, and children's books, focusing on quality of writing and literary merit across the board.
From the guide to the Russell and Volkening records, 1940-2008, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)