C.S. Lewis Manuscript Collections and Reading Rooms

Marion Wade Center frontWhether you are new to C.S. Lewis and the Inklings or a long time reader, there are some resources spaces available that can augment your reading project. Researchers and biographers have learned to find the C.S. Lewis manuscript collections, but there are usually resources in these places for more than just the very few.

As part of my project of reading C.S. Lewis chronologically (you can find out why I did it here, and how you can do it too here), I visited some of these archives. They have also been part of conference trips and family vacation, places to dig in or read for long hours. I have also taken the to blog some of my archive experiences:

Brenton Bodleian MugshortSince I have had such a great experience at archives–and some of my friends and colleagues have found that archives have changed their entire career paths–I thought it would be a good idea to share this list with others. It is a living list, and meant to be completed by the archives and libraries you know. Make sure you share it as needed, and add suggestions in the comment section below.

C.S. Lewis Manuscript Collections

  1. bodleian library reading roomThe Bodleian Library, Oxford: The collection description is here, but is not very helpful if you haven’t been to the Bod. After my last visit I wrote this little article, “A Guide to Doing C.S. Lewis Research at the Bodleian: From One Who Started Badly.” I have phone pics of the table of contents and some of the listing titles of C.S. Lewis’ works. Feel free to contact me if you would like to see them for your own use.
  2. The Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton, IL: You can find a detailed listing of their manuscripts and typscripts here. They also have a library of 1st editions, a nearly complete collection of academic and popular writing about Lewis, and a large number of Lewis’ own books (which are sometimes marked up by him). The Bodleian and the Wade have a holograph sharing agreement, so photocopies of the original are housed at the other library. The Wade is also an archive for Tolkien, Williams, and the other Inklings.
  3. Edwin Brown Collection barThe Edwin W. Brown Collection, Taylor University, Upland, IN: A small but potent collection of Lewis 1st editions and rare manuscripts of letters and short pieces. They also have rare pieces from George MacDonald and Charles Williams, and a number of Inklings 1st editions. See here for the details. The collection is named for Dr. Edwin Brown, an avid collector who recently passed away. As he gathered together many true 1st editions and letters, I am not certain what will become of his literary estate.
  4. NYPL-Lions1The Berg Collection, New York Public Library, New York, NY: A huge Anglo-American literary collection, including Charles Dickens’ writing desk. The Berg acquired the handwritten manuscript of the 31 Screwtape Letters from Sr. Penelope, as well as a few letters and notes.
  5. Smaller named collections or holdings:
    1. The C.S. Lewis Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: this is the Southern Historical Collection that includes the Walter Hooper Papers (letters to and from C.S. Lewis and the Inklings, as well as some notes)
    2. The C.S. Lewis Collection, Lanier Theological Library, Houston, TX: includes 1st editions, handwritten lectures and letters, and so Lewisiana.
    3. Harvard University Library, Boston, MA: includes letters and early book editions.
    4. The Inklings Fellowship has an extensive Inklings Collections available for exhibit. I think it is housed at Union University in Jackson, TN.
    5. There are letters to and from Lewis at the Written Archive Centre, BBC, the Anglican office at Lambeth Palace, the Princeton University Library, Queen’s University (Belfast), the University of Victoria (British Columbia), and Cambridge University Press.

I have had the pleasure to spend time at each of the four major holdings, but I have not been to any of the minor ones. If you have blogged about your experience in the archives, let me know so I can link it.

new york public libraryLibraries with a Focus on C.S. Lewis

cs lewis reading room queens university belfastA broader category is the library that has an interest in C.S. Lewis–either as an Oxbridge scholar, fantasist, Christian apologist, or children’s author. Some of the reading rooms are quite accessible, while others are a challenge. This is only a partial list from my own knowledge. If you know of (or work at) a library or university with a space dedicated to C.S. Lewis, do let me know and I will link it. I have been fortunate to visit #s 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7.

  1. cs lewis reading room queens university belfast 1The Bodleian, Oxford, UK
  2. The Kilns, Oxford, UK
  3. The C.S. Lewis Reading Room, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK (is this still there?)
  4. The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy, Toronto, ON
  5. C.S. Lewis Reading Room, Tyndale University College & Seminary, Toronto, ON (includes an online reading room)
  6. The Edwin Brown Collection, Taylor University, Uplands, IN
  7. The Clyde S. Kilby Reading Room, Marion E. Wade Center, Wheaton IL
  8. The Inklings Collection, Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA (includes the Owen Barfield holdings)
  9. The C.S. Lewis Collection, Samford University Library, Birmingham, AL
  10. The C.S. Lewis Collection, The Trustee Library, Brenau University, Gainesville, GA
  11. The Rev. Perry C. Bramlett Collection, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University (collection opened 21 March 2021)

cs lewis reading room queens university belfast quote

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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31 Responses to C.S. Lewis Manuscript Collections and Reading Rooms

  1. robstroud says:

    Thank you for this comprehensive list. Would love to spend a few days or weeks at the Bodleian.

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  2. L.A. Smith says:

    This looks like a great list of places to go on a literary treasure-hunt. I’m surprised the British Library doesn’t have anything by Lewis! I would love to visit all of these, and the ones in England would probably be top of list because, well, England, but other than those the New York Public Library is calling me….the handwritten Screwtape Letters? Swoon. Charles Dickens’ desk would be a fabulous bonus, too. Thanks for sharing this!

    Like

  3. Hannah says:

    Thanks for your grea and comprehensive list!
    Maybe this one by Arend Smilde: http://www.lewisiana.nl/ is a useful addition?
    (it is in English & Dutch – e.g. at the bottom a link to an extensive Bibliography in English: http://www.lewisiana.nl/cslbiblio/index.htm )

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  5. I might have to book a trip to the Wade! I’ve never worked with archives before, and it sounds like a great experience.

    Like

    • Archival work is a tremendous privilege. You have been invited into a community’s past, and someone’s intimate life. It can be frightening and difficult, wearying to the eyes and neck and sketching hand. Yet it has been, for me, a transformational journey.
      I was fortunate to have done archival and semi-archival work in my education. When I first went to the Wade I was nervous, but the staff put each visitor at ease.

      Liked by 1 person

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  13. The Rev. Dr. J H Hans Kouwenberg says:

    Hello,

    I have a fairly extensive (2,000 volume) collection of UK and US 1st Eds. of C S L and Friends, a number per signed by CSL, Owen Barfield and Walter Hooper, as well as over 400 books about them. I am interested in donating them to a Canadian University. I would also consider donating an endowment to support an annual $1,000 scholarship that would ask for an essay about some aspect of the collection. I would want the room of books to be dedicated in my own and my wife’s name. Any ideas? The Rev. Dr. J. H Hans Kouwenberg, Abbotsford, BC V2T 5P1 – 604.864.9310

    Like

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  16. John Gough says:

    I am a retired university academic with a long-standing interest in C.S. Lewis.
    I am currently researching a forthcoming article on Eizabeth Goudge’s children’s fantasy novel “The Little White Horse” (1946) paralleling other articles on Goudge’s adult novels e-published at Academia.edu.
    I know from Goudge’s memoir “The Joy of the Snow” (1976) that she knew Lewis’s work and was a great admirer of his thinking and Christianity.
    In your researches about C.S. Lewis, have you found anything that indicates that Lewis was aware of Goudge’s adult and children’s novels? (She was always a Christian author, with many commonalities with Lewis — including a huge lion that acts as a guardian in “The Little White Horse”.
    I hope you may be able to shed some light on this.
    Thank you,
    Dr John Gough (Deakin University — retired)

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  20. Joe Christopher says:

    You might add as a reading collection the [Perry C.] Bramlett Collection, Jack Tarver Library, Mercer University, 1501 Mercer University Drive, Macon, Georgia 31207. The collection opened 21 March 2021. It has Bramlett’s papers, which are many; but I don’t know lots of details–that is, I saw a description, but I don’t retain much. Bramlett was an interesting man who had interviewed a number of people. I remember his telling me once that a cousin of Joy Davidman told him that Joy had re-written all of the women’s speeches in Bill Gresham’s most successful novel– _Nightmare Alley_–before its publication. Bramlett published a book emphasizing Lewis’s faith and collaborated on one about Lewis’s walking areas in Ireland. And he and I collaborated on another–that is, we wrote separate sections, his the longer by far.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Joe. That is interesting and I have added it to the list–though I see few details as of yet.
      Have you heard of a new film on Nightmare Alley this fall? It will bring new critical attention to the book, I am sure.

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      • Joe Christopher says:

        I wasn’t aware of the new film. I see that the book was first filmed in 1947, which I also didn’t know (or at least didn’t remember) until I just checked. What I did know was that it was reprinted in a Library of America volume–I have kept telling myself that I should buy a copy. That was with other novels under the title _Crime Novels: American Noir of the 1930s and 40s_ in 1997. I have read a couple of Gresham’s short stories, and if I ever find time, I’ll write a discussion of one of them. I also remember reading some of Gresham’s correspondence with Anthony Boucher (in the Boucher collection) in which Gresham is saying he is having trouble working out the short story pattern in drafting his fiction–that he has somehow lost it. It suggested to me that Gresham was an intuitive writer, not an analytic one.

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        • I have started the ’47 film a few times but never have the motivation to finish it. I don’t love old films just for oldness and it lacks a hook for me. I haven’t read anything of his except that conversion story in that Presbyterian volume (with Joy).

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  21. Great list! Just as a side note, Number 3 should be at “Taylor University” in “Upland, IN.”

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