Samuel Beckett Collection

Designated status logoThe Beckett Collection is the world's largest collection of resources relating to Samuel Beckett (1906-1989). It has been recognised as being of national and international importance by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Its contents include:

  • over 600 manuscript, typescript and photocopied typescript items of original Beckett material, including manuscript drafts, annotated copies and corrected copies. There are also manuscript notebooks containing a wide variety of material, including the notebooks for Beckett's first novel, Murphy.
    Please note that surrogate copies, not originals, are normally made available for consultation
  • correspondence, including over 200 items of correspondence between Beckett and the scholar Ruby Cohn reference number BC MS 5100 [COH], around 120 items of correspondence between Beckett and the theatre designer Jocelyn Herbert reference number BC MS 5200 [HER], and over 70 items of correspondence between Beckett and his lover Pamela Mitchell reference number BC MS 5060 [MIT] in the late 1950s and 1960s
  • stage files relating to over 680 productions of Beckett plays, each containing material such as programmes, publicity material, reviews etc.
  • nearly 500 editions of Beckett's work in more than 20 languages, most on open access in Room G7 at the Special Collections Service
  • nearly 1000 critical and biographical works, most on open access in Room G7 at the Special Collections Service
  • other printed material, including over 1500 offprints and photocopied articles on Beckett, around 170 journals and over 40 dissertations
  • artwork, including framed works by Avigdor Arikha, Geer van Velde and Henri Hayden, presented to the collection by Beckett himself; designs for Beckett productions; and artists' illustrated books by Avigdor Arikha, H.M. Erhardt, Max Ernst, Sorel Etrog, Jasper Johns and William Hayter

In addition there are over 2500 news cuttings relating to Beckett, around 50 posters from Beckett productions, over 500 photographs, a number of audiovisual recordings, and a remarkable variety of Beckett ephemera.

The collection supports the work of the Beckett International foundation, based in the School of English and American Literature at the University of Reading.

The collection originated in the Samuel Beckett Exhibition held in the University Library in 1971, which contained material donated by Beckett himself and by many friends and admirers from the worlds of literature and theatre. The collection grew rapidly, in large part through the patronage and generosity of Beckett, who continued to donate material until his death in 1989. Material is constantly being added, both by donation and by purchase.

The University of Reading and the Beckett International Foundation recently purchased the archive of actress Billie Whitelaw's work with playwright Samuel Beckett.  The collection is catalogued and available for consultation.

More information

  • Over 5000 items are catalogued on our online database, including all the manuscripts, and almost all the books, offprints, stage files and other printed materials.  Use the drop down menu on the top left of the screen to restrict your search to items in the Beckett Collection only. 
  • There are handlists for the correspondence with Ruby Cohn (PDF), Jocelyn Herbert (PDF), and Pamela Mitchell (PDF) and the Murphy notebooks MS 5517 (82kb)
  • The manuscript and typescript items are also described in Beckett at Reading: catalogue of the Beckett manuscript collection at the University of Reading, [compiled by] Mary Bryden, Julian Garforth, Peter Mills (Whiteknights Press and the Beckett International Foundation, 1998) and Supplements containing subsequent additions to the collection are available at the Special Collections Service as well as being on the online database.
  • James Knowlson, 'The Beckett Archive', in As no other dare fail: for Samuel Beckett on his 80th birthday (John Calder, 1986)
    James Knowlson, Samuel Beckett : an exhibition (Turret Books, 1971)
literature, theatre & film printed books (post-1850), correspondence, literary manuscripts, other archives/mss Y beckett collection

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