Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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About the Archive

The purchase of the library of T. E. Hanley in 1958 brought the first substantial group of books and manuscripts by Samuel Beckett into University special collections, including a fair copy manuscript of Waiting for Godot that Beckett wrote out for the collector and dealer Jake Schwartz. This acquisition had been preceded only by the purchase of a group of letters from Beckett to Arland Ussher from Stanley Smith's Marchmont Bookshop in London in 1957. Beckett's letters to Jack MacGowran were added in 1975, a purchase from the Gotham Book Mart in New York City.

In 1976, through Lew David Feldman's House of El Dieff, the Ransom Center acquired the extensive John and Evelyn Kobler collection of Beckett's works totaling 430 items, including eighty-nine presentation copies and twenty-six inscribed copies. A group of 90 letters from Beckett to John Kobler was added in 1990, a purchase from the Gotham Book Mart.

When the publication of the exhibition catalogue Baudelaire to Beckett: A Century of French Art & Literature in 1976 announced to the world the presence at Texas of the renowned research collection of modern French literature put together by Carlton Lake, notable among the listing of authors was Samuel Beckett, represented by thirteen items, most of them manuscripts. Lake's personal acquaintance with Beckett led to a gift from Beckett himself of six manuscripts in 1981. Lake continued to play a major role in the Center's acquisition of Beckett manuscripts and publications until his retirement in 2003.

At the Swann Galleries auction of 4 June 1981, the Center acquired, through J. Howard Woolmer of Revere, Pennsylvania, 176 letters from Beckett to George Reavey ranging in date from 1932 to 1976, also purchasing at the same sale the George Reavey/Europa Press Archive.

Within the decade, the Center added significantly to its holdings of Beckett letters, acquiring them from their recipients and through booksellers. Beckett's letters to Mary Manning Howe Adams and Susan Manning were added in 1982 and 1990, to David Hayman in 1984 through Bertram Rota Ltd., and to the Irish poet Aidan Higgins in 1984 and 1990. Rota brokered the acquisition in 1985 of Beckett's letters to Mary Hutchinson. This purchase also included typescripts of Beckett's Play and From an Abandoned Work.

In 1990, the Gotham Book Mart sold to the Center the complete archive documenting the publication of Beckett's Beginning to End, a selection from Beckett's work adapted by Beckett and Jack MacGowran and illustrated by Edward Gorey. That same year, the Center acquired through Serendipity Books more than 100 letters from Beckett to Kay Boyle. In 1991, the antiquarian firm of A. Rosenthal in London sold to the Center the Samuel Beckett collection of A. J. (Con) Leventhal, Beckett's lifelong friend and sometime secretary.

Over the years many Beckett manuscripts, especially letters, were acquired along with the papers of friends and associates: Sir Donald Albery, Nancy Cunard, Ronald Duncan, John Fletcher, Joseph Maunsell Hone, and the archive of New Departures magazine.

Although fewer and fewer Beckett manuscripts come on the market, the Center remains very interested in opportunities to add to its Beckett holdings.

Links to Ransom Center Samuel Beckett finding aids

Samuel Beckett Collection

Samuel Beckett Collection (Lake)