ReadySteadyBlog

Iris Murdoch fans and scholars finally have an opportunity to read between the lines as fifteen volumes of the writer’s private journals, covering the period from 1939 to 1996, become available at Kingston University. The documents – which until now have been kept privately – have been donated to the University by Mrs Audi Bayley, the widow of John Bayley who was married to Iris Murdoch from 1956 until her death in 1999.

The gift also includes hundreds of unpublished poems, manuscripts, notebooks and letters, adding to the comprehensive collection already owned by the University which encompasses the late writer’s Oxford and London libraries along with more than 3,500 letters written by Murdoch.

University archivist Katie Giles said it was impossible to overestimate the value of the archive. “We now have the most significant collection of Murdoch-related material in the world,” she explained. “This latest generous gift of her personal diaries shows that Kingston University remains one of the leading global destinations for Iris Murdoch scholars.”

Among the collection is a journal from the 1980s which is packed with descriptions of domestic incidents and accounts of dreams. Most significantly, there are hundreds of cryptic comments on philosophy, theology, literature and the writing process itself.

There was quite a difference in style between the first and last journals, Dr Rowe said. “The first journal from 1939 captures the brief carefree period when Murdoch travelled the countryside with the Magpie Players – a group of Oxford students who performed ballads and songs,” she explained. By contrast, Dr Rowe added, her last entries comprised fragments of sentences that were written when Murdoch was in the grip of Alzheimer’s – with the final pages taking the form of letters, where she repeatedly wrote, ‘My dear, I am now going away for some time...’.

The procurement of the journals heralds a new collaboration between Kingston University and the University of Chichester which, in 2016, launched its affiliated Iris Murdoch Research Centre headed up by Dr Miles Leeson.

Find out more about the Iris Murdoch Collection.

The Kierkegaard Library "is a special collection that serves anyone interested in the writings and ideas of Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th-century Danish philosopher, and related thinkers. The collection includes approximately 11,000 book volumes, some of which are a collection of editions matching those owned by Kierkegaard himself... The library also publishes the Søren Kierkegaard Newsletter, an independent publication started by Robert Perkins in 1978. Issues are produced twice a year and include articles on subjects of interest to Kierkegaard studies and book reviews of recent Kierkegaard-related publications" and they are all online!

Short notice, I know (this is happening, erm, today):


A special one-day event will celebrate the launch of The Original Frankenstein, the latest Bodleian Library publication. Frankenstein Day at the Bodleian Library will take place on 7 October 2008. Events include: a special display of Mary Shelley's original manuscripts; a lecture by Charles E. Robinson, the author of the new edition and a book launch with Brian Aldiss as guest speaker (more...)

And now for some local news! Manchester Libraries now has its own literature blog. The Manchester Lit List is "dedicated to literature news and events in Manchester Libraries and partnering organisations. If you're looking for any information on readings by poets and novelists in Manchester, or if you would like to find out more about local and famous writers, then take a look."

Via The Bookseller:


Library campaigner Tim Coates has made his last contribution to his popular blog, The Good Library Blog, and opened it up as a public web forum instead. "I wanted to change the tone and open up the discussion to other people. It was in a rut," he said.

Coates' last entry on 18th October attracted praise from both sides of the debate. One commenter, "Peter", said: "I don't always agree with your views, but you've raised many important issues (and some hackles) that needed to be aired." Another, Amanda Field, praised its "consciousness-raising" brilliance. "[It's useful to know] that people all around the UK are battling against the same problems."

The Database of Mid-Victorian Illustration (via Literature Compass):


... contains records and images of 868 literary illustrations that were published in or around 1862, providing bibliographical and iconographical details, as well as the ability for users to view images at exceptionally high quality.

The database is the culmination of a three-year project, based in Cardiff University’s Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The aim of the project has been to examine the feasibility of developing an online database application that would allow users to view images at high quality, as well as providing access to images by accurate bibliographic classifications and an appropriate iconographic taxonomy.

There is an online petition calling on the government to keep the British Library free to users. Many of you will be aware of the recent publicity around the 10 Downing Street web site petition on the subject of road tolls, well this is a similar thing! I wonder how many libraries the government could fund if it stopped bombing kids in Iraq for ten minutes?

Via the HUP publicity blog, a story from the New York Times about Saad Eskander, the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive in Baghdad, who has kept a diary (hosted at the website of the British Museum Library -- thanks Catriona!) of his efforts to keep the library open amid the increasing violence:


I received bad news, as soon as I arrived to my office. In my absent, INLA was bombed twice and snipers' bullets broke several windows. Fortunately, no body was hurt. My staff withheld these information from me, when I contacted them. They claimed that they did not want me to be worried and to spoil my visit.

I spent the rest of the week trying to advise a number of my employees what to do, as they got death threats. The Sunnis, who lived in Shi'i dominated districtwere given an ultimatum to abandon their homes and the Shi'is, who lived in a Sunni dominated district, had to leave their homes. So far, two of my employees were murdered, the first worked in the Computer Department, and the second was a guard. Three of our drivers, who worked with us by contract, were murdered and three others were injured.

At WorldCat, you can search for "1.3 billion items in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide":


WorldCat is the largest library network in the world. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their free resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.

WorldCat will supersede the soon to be defunct RedLightGreen service (which you probably won't know about unless you are a librarian anyway!)

Oh, I'm not happy about this: nine more libraries are closing in Lancashire (via Booksurfer):


... and Lancashire is not the only county with plans to close libraries. Politicians come up with all sorts of phrases about "access", "social inclusion" and make great play about the new digital resources provided through public libraries - but the bottom line is that there are less books in public libraries now than there were a few years ago, and a lot fewer libraries.

I failed to mention, back on Beckett's birthday on the 13th, that the British Library have just released Samuel Beckett: Works for Radio. Steve Cleary, British Library Sound Archive Curator of Literature and Drama reckons: “Beckett was emphatic that his works for radio were conceived for aural reception only, and was disinclined to permit their presentation in another medium such as the stage, even as unadorned readings. They are works of art in themselves, presented here in their original incarnations, as their author intended.” This is a 4-CD set of the original BBC broadcasts and it is the first time these recordings have been made commercially available:


These rarely-heard historic recordings were originally broadcast by the BBC and feature the five works created by Beckett expressly for the broadcast medium: All That Fall, Embers, Words and Music, Cascando and Rough for Radio, together with the rarely heard curio, The Old Tune - Beckett's translation of Robert Pinget's La Manivelle - and the monologue From an Abandoned Work. The broadcasts span the period 1957-1976.

This Thursday, 30th March, between 1-2pm, (when surely most good folk are locked in offices?) at Manchester Central Library (in the second floor reception room), Comma Press are launching Parenthesis "a new generation in short fiction ... a showcase for emerging talent in UK short fiction." It's free, refreshments will be provided, and there will be readings by Anna Ball, Adam Marek, Alistair Herbert and L.E. Yates.

Love libraries is "a campaign to get everyone excited about what public libraries can do for readers and how we can make them better" (via Bookglutton). Over 12 weeks, three libraries will be transformed into "models of a future library service with reading at its heart" and you can follow the progress of the facelifts to Coldharbour library, Newquay library and Richmond library via the Love libraries site.