October 1, 2014

Acquisitions: Ian McEwan’s Archive Acquired by Harry Ransom Center

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From the Ransom Center/U. of Texas at Austin:

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has acquired the archive of writer Ian McEwan (b. 1948), one of the most distinguished novelists of his generation.

The archive documents McEwan’s career and includes early material from his childhood and adolescence, as well as his earliest abandoned stories dating from the late-1960s and early 1970s. The archive includes drafts of all of McEwan’s later published works including his critically acclaimed novels “Amsterdam” and “Atonement” up through “On Chesil Beach” and “Solar.”

his acquisition represents a rare opportunity to share the work of a living, internationally acclaimed author whose works are of strong interest to readers everywhere,” said Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss. “McEwan’s archive builds on the strengths of the Ransom Center’s notable collections of contemporary authors and will give students and scholars unprecedented access and insight into the development of his critically acclaimed novels.”

McEwan composed his novels partly in longhand, typically in uniform green, spiral-bound notebooks, and party on the computer. After an initial draft, he would transfer the entire text to a computer, printing out multiple drafts, which he would revise further by hand. McEwan’s Booker Prize-winning novel “Amsterdam” is represented in the archive in its earliest form as a handwritten notebook, followed by two further revised drafts. McEwan often notes details of composition in these drafts, including their completion or revision dates.

The Guardian reports that the Ransom Center paid $2 million for the archive.

Read the Complete Announcement/Learn More About McEwan

Read Full Text Q&A With Ian McEwan

Q. What do you consider the value of archives?

A. McEwan: I was recently awarded the (Oxford) Bodleian medal. After accepting it, I was shown some of the items in their extensive historical archives. It was deeply moving, to hold in my hand a notebook of the 17-year-old Jane Austen. And then, to turn the pages of Kafka’s first draft of Metamorphosis. An archive takes you right to the heart of the literary creation; it makes for an emotional connection that anyone who loves literature will understand. The experience is almost sensual. Beyond that, of course, critical and biographical work on writers is completely dependent on the resources of a world-class archive collection like the Ransom Centre.

See Also: Visit the Ransom Center’s Digital Collections

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.