The following email was posted to the MNSi network and contains some of the most accurate background information I've seen regarding "Desiderata"
Subject: Desiderata authorship
Date sent: Thu, 11 Jun 98 21:02:13 -0500
As I was searching the net to find out about Desederata, I came across several web pages with the poem. There seemed to be much confusion about the authorship and copyright. I thought I sould share what I have found (although you may already have knowledge of this information).
"Desiderata" was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). In 1956, the rector of Baltimore's St. Paul's Church anthologized the poem in a mimeographed pamphlet of inspirational writings for his congregation. Someone reprinting it later, separated from its original credit, erroneously described it as having been found in old St. Paul's Church dated 1692, misinterpreting the church letterhead. The year 1692 is in fact the founding date of St. Paul's Church and has nothing to do with
Mr. Ehrmann obtained a federal copyright (NO. 962402) on January 3, 1927. The copyright was bequeath to his widow, Bertha, upon his death in 1945. Bertha Ehrmann renewed the copyright in 1954 then bequeath it to her nephew, Richmond Wight, upon her death in 1962. Richmond Wight assigned the copyright for value to the Crescendo Publishing Co. in 1971 headed by Robert Bell. Books containing Desiderata are published by Crown Publishers and can be obtained through bookstores. Other permissions must be obtained from the owner of the copyright - Rorbert L. Bell, 427 South Shore Drive, Sarasota, Florida 34234.
Further reading on these issues can be found at the following:
--Indiana Media Journal, Fall/Winter 1997 Vol. 20 No. 1-2
--Bell vs. Combined Registry Co. 1975 court records
Your friendly researcher,