The Reporter
Issue 486, 25 November 2002
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Literary treasures for Leeds library


Original manuscripts by Oscar Wilde and Evelyn Waugh are some of the literary treasures in a new collection presented to the University of Leeds Library by Fay and Geoffrey Elliott. The collection also contains Kim Philby’s passport, giving a fascinating insight into the movements of the notorious Cold War spy. The extremely valuable collection of around 200 rare books, manuscripts and letters includes items relating to the artist Aubrey Beardsley, novelists Graham Greene and Frederick Rolfe, and former poet laureate John Betjeman.

Fay and Geoffrey Elliott with Jan Wilkinson“Many of our books and manuscripts are British and we felt they should have a permanent home in the UK,” said Geoffrey Elliott. “But we also wanted the collection to be part of a broad academic centre of excellence, ideally outside London, where it could be used in active support of teaching and research.”

A stunning collection – Fay (seated) and Geoffrey Elliott, with Jan Wilkinson and below, some of the treasures

Many of the collection’s treasures have not yet been studied in close detail. Kim Philby’s passport offers a different account of his movements than was published in official accounts. The writing in the manuscript of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies shows physical manifestations of the stress he was under during the breakup of his marriage.

Geoffrey Elliott was impressed with the expertise and support provided by Russian archivist, Richard Davies, while carrying out research at the University for his book on the history of the Joint Services School for Linguists where he trained during the 1950s: Secret classrooms – an untold story of the Cold War. Leeds became the obvious choice for the collection’s home.

When librarian Chris Sheppard received the letter from Fay Elliott, asking if the Library would be interested in the collection, he couldn’t believe his eyes: “I didn’t sleep for days, just thinking about it.”

University librarian Jan Wilkinson said: “This is the most important gift since the library was started with a donation from the Brotherton family in the 1930s.”

Early copies of Waugh's Vile Bodies and Decline and Fall.

For more information, see the press release.


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