The Irish Collections in Wilson Library
Seamus Heaney with
Nobel Prize diploma
The Seamus Heaney CollectionHenry Pearson began donating his Seamus Heaney materials to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980. From only a small number of titles given in that year, the collection has grown steadily over the past two and a half decades to contain more than 1,300 cataloged books, pamphlets, broadsides, periodicals, sound recordings, and manuscripts. In addition, there are approximately 125 relatively ephemeral items that are as yet uncataloged. These include photographs, newspaper clippings, program announcements, publishers' catalogs, exhibition catalogs, and printouts from the World Wide Web. Approximately 250 of the books, pamphlets, broadsides, and recordings are by Heaney himself. While many of the materials are first editions, Mr. Pearson has made a determined effort to create a true research collection, documenting as fully as possible the evolution of a text and its publication history. Thus, he has sought to include a wide range of bibliographical variants, including prepublication printed states (page proofs, bluelines, bound proof copies, etc.); all issues of the first edition (limited and trade, hardcover and paperback); Irish, English, and American printings; and significant later editions, printings, or translations. Many of these items have been signed by the author; some bear personal, often quite substantial, inscriptions to Mr. Pearson.
First edition of Seamus Heaney's North (1975).
Checklist no. 50. Many of these Heaney items are very scarce, and more than a few possess the kind of special or even unique qualities that set this collection apart from similar ones elsewhere. Among the exceptionally rare items are a complete set of the three printings of Heaney's first book, Eleven Poems (1965); an uncorrected proof copy of his first major collection, Death of a Naturalist (1966); and the signed and limited hardcover issue of his third book, A Lough Neagh Sequence (1969). One of the collection's copies of Night Drive (1970) may well prove to be unique. In this copy, identified by the publisher as number one, every poem has been written out in ink by the author on blank pages facing the corresponding printed text. In at least one poem, "Wedding Day," there are substantive textual differences between the manuscript and printed versions. Among the most interesting special items in the collection are the publisher's production artifacts for several Heaney books. For example, there is an extensive selection of materials created by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the course of publishing the first American edition of Field Work (1979), including complete sets of page proofs and bluelines, an original drawing for and various proof states of the dust jacket, several trial bindings, and other more ephemeral pieces. There are similar sets of production materials for the American edition of Preoccupations (1980), Heaney's first volume of collected essays, and for the two Heaney volumes that Henry Pearson himself illustrated, Sweeney Praises the Trees (1981) and Poems and a Memoir (1982). In addition to materials exclusively by Seamus Heaney, the collection today contains more than 200 books with contributions by Heaney, most notably poetry anthologies and books to which the poet contributed a preface or introduction. As with Heaney's own publications, many of these are quite rare or special, for example, the splendid 1993 Ecco Press edition of selections from Dante's Inferno, with individual cantos translated by twenty-one contemporary poets, among them Seamus Heaney. Our copy is one of 125 of the limited edition, signed by nearly all of the poet-translators. As with so many of the books donated by Mr. Pearson, the volume is accompanied by a variety of supporting materials, including the original publisher's prospectus; the printed program of the Unterberg Poetry Center (at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan), where the new publication was celebrated with readings by most of the poets (including Heaney); and news clippings from The New York Times Book Review and Publishers Weekly describing the event.
First edition of Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy (1990) and first American edition of his District and Circle (2006). Checklist nos. 54 and 58. The collection also contains more than 300 of Heaney's appearances in periodicals, from his early publications in such Belfast journals as The Kilkenny Magazine to recent issues of The New Yorker. These early versions of texts are sometimes significantly different from the forms which appeared later in collected editions and may provide scholars and students with insight into the evolution of the author's intentions or meaning. Finally, the collection includes about twenty manuscripts. Most are letters or postcards from Heaney to Henry Pearson, many of them closely related to specific items in the collection. Two pieces merit special mention: the original manuscript version of "Nerthus" (a poem eventually published in Wintering Out ) and several draft versions and a final fair copy of a poem written in memory of Kathleen Cooke, a friend of both the poet and Mr. Pearson. This poem remains unpublished. Access to the collection is provided through the University Library's online catalog.
Back to Top | Checklist