The Irish Collections in Wilson Library
Samuel Beckett (ca. 1969).
The Samuel Beckett CollectionUnlike the other Irish Nobel laureates, Samuel Beckett has no separate collection focused on his writings in Wilson Library. Instead, our very extensive representation of his works is divided between the general holdings of the RBC and its special collection devoted to the Grove Press, Beckett's American publisher from the mid-1950s until the mid-1980s. Beckett's bibliography is greatly complicated by the fact that he wrote in both English and French, the latter increasingly important after World War II. Translations between the two languages were common and were generally done either by Beckett himself or under his close supervision. He was, indeed, active in the preparation of many later editions, whether in the original language or a translation, a fact that makes these publications of great interest to the researcher. These considerations have shaped the building of the Beckett collection in the RBC. The combined holdings of the department number more than 800 items, nearly all of them printed. As with the other Irish laureates, the collection is rich in first editions (English, French, and American), important bibliographical variants (including signed and inscribed copies), significant later editions, and translations into languages other than English and French. In addition to Beckett's own editions, the collection is strong in printed ephemera, especially playbills and notices relating to performances of his plays in Great Britain and the United States. The Beckett holdings of periodical appearances, while substantial, are less impressive than those of the other three Irish Nobel laureates. This is an area for future collection growth. The Rare Book Collection holdings contain many important rarities. Notable among these are first editions of Whoroscope (1930; one of 100 signed copies); Proust (1931); Murphy (1938); and both En attendant Godot (1952) and the oddly rare first English-language translation of that play, Waiting for Godot (New York, 1956). Most of the French publications are in the signed, limited issues of their respective editions. The collection is also especially comprehensive in publications and variant printings of the New York-based Grove Press, whose editor, Barney Rosset, was a close friend and a critically important ally in building Beckett's reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. Indeed, one of the notable books in the collection is Beckett's last prose piece, Stirrings Still (1986), which was dedicated to Rosset and printed by him under the Blue Moon imprint. Except for the large body of materials that came with the Grove Press Collection, most of the Beckett holdings have been built volume by volume. In developing the collection, we have been fortunate to have monies available from the William Whitaker Fund and, more recently, the Alfred G. Engstrom Fund. Access to the Beckett holdings is provided through the University Library's online catalog.
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