Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

Tributes are already to be found everywhere on the web to the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, for many the greatest poet in English of his generation.  He died today.

For many years it seemed that Heaney’s literary manuscripts, on account of their high monetary value, would be found mostly in North American libraries, and especially at Emory University. Some British and Irish libraries and archives held small groups of literary papers, especially the University of Liverpool (see the Location Register entries under Heaney). But for literary researchers, until two years ago, the story was Heaney = Emory.

Then in December 2011 Heaney and his son walked into the National Library of Ireland and donated his personal collection of literary drafts, from all stages of his career. Heaney said that he knew that the collection was worth a fortune, but he wanted it to stay in Dublin.

The story of the NLI collection is here:

The catalogue of the Emory papers is here:

David Sutton

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1 Response to Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

  1. David Sutton says:

    A colleague at the British Library mentioned to me the similarity between what happened with the manuscripts of Ted Hughes and those of Seamus Heaney. It provides an interesting light on the much-discussed question of “split collections”. Both Hughes and Heaney prepared a collection of papers for sale, and it happens that Emory University was the purchaser in both cases. But both authors retained papers – because they couldn’t bear to part with them or they still needed them or they were embarrassed to sell them first time around. The retained manuscript collections eventually found their ways to different repositories (the British Library for Hughes; the National Library of Ireland for Heaney). Inevitably much of the more personal, more embarrassing, more revealing material is in the second collections. I wonder whether this will become an increasingly common form of split collection: first, the collection for sale, and, second, the Nachlass.

    David Sutton


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