The Irish Collections in Wilson Library
George Bernard Shaw
The George Bernard Shaw CollectionArchibald Henderson, a professor of mathematics at UNC, established the George Bernard Shaw Collection in 1948. He first met Shaw in 1904, when the author was still relatively unknown in the United States, and in 1911 he became Shaw's official biographer. Over the next several decades, Henderson published over seventy-five articles on the Irish playwright as well as three major biographies, including the highly acclaimed George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century (1956). During the course of his research, Henderson attempted to acquire everything by or about Shaw that he could afford. After establishing the collection in the University Library, he added to it until his death in 1963. The Shaw Collection contains over 3,000 printed volumes; more than 1,000 playbills, programs, and photographs of play productions; approximately 350 other photographic images; and some 240 cartoons and caricatures of the author and his contemporaries. The collection also includes seventy-four scrapbooks containing hundreds of newspaper clippings by and about Shaw. The writings by Shaw extend from his first separate publication in 1884 to his death in 1950. Posthumously published editions continue to be acquired when they contain significant new textual or critical material. The collection is exceptionally strong in lifetime English-language editions of the author. Among Shaw's plays, for example, the collection has virtually all the first editions, comprehensive holdings of later editions, and, most remarkably, fifty-five proof or rehearsal copies. These last are often quite rare and represent important intermediate steps in the development of many of the plays between the original manuscript versions and the first editions. The collection extends far beyond Shaw's dramatic works and provides remarkable documentation of the depth and diversity of his literary and political interests. The RBC holdings are notably strong in the author's ephemeral works, such as his contributions to the publications of the Fabian Society. It should also be noted that, because of his unique relationship to Shaw, many of Henderson's copies were inscribed to him by the playwright, sometimes with accompanying commentary on the contents or history of the text in question. The RBC continues to add to the collection. Notable recent acquisitions include Shaw's own typed prompt copies of How He Lied to Her Husband: A Warning to Playgoers (ca. 1904) and The Shewing-up of Blanco Posnet (ca. 1909). Both copies contain minor corrections in the hand of the author.
First edition of Shaw's A Manifesto (1884)
and later edition of his Major Barbara (1941).
Checklist nos. 14 and 22. The Southern Historical Collection in Wilson Library's Manuscripts Department also contains very extensive holdings of or about Shaw. The collection housed in that location contains approximately 5,000 items. It includes the drafts and proofs of Archibald Henderson's biographical treatments of Shaw (often with extensive corrections by the subject) and an extensive file of correspondence between the two men. The manuscript holdings also contain letters between Shaw and several publishers, most notably Constable and Company. Recent additions include a series of letters from Shaw to the actor Louis Calvert dealing with American performances of Shaw's plays, most importantly the first New York production of Major Barbara in 1905. Access to most of the printed Shaw holdings of the Rare Book Collection is provided through the University Library's online catalog. Some of the printed ephemera, photographs, and scrapbooks are accessible mainly through on-site finding aids. The Manuscripts Department also has an extensive finding aid for its Shaw holdings on its Web site.
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