Special Collections Department
PAUL BOWLES AT 80
Checklist of an Exhibition
at the Hugh M. Morris Library
University of Delaware
February 1 - May 29, 1990
by Alice D. Schreyer
by Timothy D. Murray
"Paul Bowles at 80" celebrates the achievement of Paul Bowles, one of the most distinctive literary voices of the twentieth century, on the occasion of his eightieth birthday. The exhibition also affords an opportunity to bring to scholarly notice a distinguished collection that exemplifies the University of Delaware Library's collecting program in twentieth-century literature. Items in the exhibition, on view February 1 - May 29, 1990, in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery, Hugh M. Morris Library, have been drawn from the author's literary papers as well as from related manuscript and printed holdings in Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.
Paul Bowles's career spans over half a century, from high modernism in the 1920s and 1930s through the contemporary period. He has published more than fifty books, including novels, collections of poetry and fiction, travel essays, translations, and musical compositions. Bowles traveled to remote corners of the world, living outside the United States for the past fifty years, and his status as the quintessential expatriate writer is enhanced by the fact that he inhabited these realms before they were established literary meccas. Despite his contacts and collaborations with many of the important literary and artistic figures of his time -- Gertrude Stein, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, W. H. Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Tennessee Williams, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg -- and the critical esteem in which he is held, Bowles has never attained a mass readership. He remains a legendary, elusive figure on the remote edges of the American literary scene, respected, even revered, by the relative few who know his work. Paul Bowles has written an autobiography; and he has been the subject of several essays seeking to rediscover a "neglected master," a bibliography, and a recent biography. This exhibition seeks to encourage appreciation of Paul Bowles's work by making better known the superb holdings at the University of Delaware Library.
The University of Delaware Library's printed and manuscript collections contain strong representation from each point on the continuum of twentieth-century literature spanned by Paul Bowles's career, including the papers of Louis Untermeyer and Emily Coleman, the archives of Pagany, the Captain Louis Henry and Marguerite Cohn Ernest Hemingway Collection; the papers of John Malcolm Brinnin, and the Tennessee Williams Collection. "Paul Bowles at 80" suggests the richness of these sources in support of biographical, bibliographical, and textual scholarship in the field of twentieth-century literature.
I wish to thank Timothy Murray, Associate Librarian, Special Collections, for organizing this exhibition and preparing the checklist. His efforts as selector for contemporary printed materials in Special Collections have substantially strengthened the holdings of Paul Bowles and other twentieth-century authors. Nathaniel H. Puffer, Assistant Director of Libraries for Collection Management, began to develop strong holdings of twentieth-century literary manuscripts and acquired several of the collections featured in this exhibition. For her leadership and support of the programs and activities of Special Collections, University of Delaware Library, I wish to thank Susan Brynteson, Director of Libraries.
The University of Delaware Library began the task of assembling a comprehensive collection of the published work of Paul Bowles during the early 1970s. Special Collections currently houses a nearly complete collection of first British and American editions of Paul Bowles's books, a substantial collection of variant and subsequent editions of his books, and a strong, representative collection of the author's published music, his appearances in periodicals and anthologies, and translations of his work into other languages.
In 1985, The University of Delaware Library had the opportunity to acquire a substantial collection of Paul Bowles's literary papers. These papers contain Bowles's literary correspondence and manuscripts from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. (Bowles's earlier papers are housed at the Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.) Included in Bowles's papers at the University of Delaware Library is a substantial amount of correspondence to Bowles from a wide range of individuals, including William S. Burroughs, Alfred Chester, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Charles Henri Ford, Brion Gysin, Peggy Guggenheim, James Leo Herlihy, Joseph Losey, James Purdy, Edouard Roditi, Ned Rorem, Virgil Thomson, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams. The Paul Bowles Papers also include manuscripts for most of the writing Bowles produced from the early 1960s through the mid-1980s. Also housed in the Paul Bowles Papers is a small group of material relating to his wife Jane, including a series of Bowles's letters to Jane written from 1962 to 1968, and the manuscript of her play At the Jumping Bean.
During the past decade, Special Collections has also had the opportunity to acquire additional manuscripts and correspondence by and relating to Paul Bowles. These materials have come to form a separate-and growing-Paul Bowles Collection. Included in this collection are letters from Bowles to the authors Charles Henri Ford, William Wright, Peter Rand, and Oliver Evans; Bowles's letters to the small press publisher Michael Wolfe; and a substantial correspondence between Bowles and his British publisher, Peter Owen, pertaining to the firm's publication of Bowles's work. This latter group also includes a significant amount of manuscript and editorial matter. The Paul Bowles Collection also contains a series of Bowles's manuscripts of his fiction and translations, and several groups of letters from Mohammed Mrabet which Bowles has transcribed and translated.
In addition to the collections described above, Special Collections also houses a number of other literary manuscript collections which contain relevant material by or relating to Paul Bowles. Of particular note are the archives of Pagany magazine, which contain Bowles's letters to the magazine's editor, Richard Johns, and the Tennessee Williams Collection, which includes manuscript, photographic, and ephemeral material relating to the scores Bowles produced for Williams's plays.
Finally, the most recent addition to the University of Delaware Library's Paul Bowles holdings is the archive assembled by Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno during his research for An Invisible Spectator, A Biography of Paul Bowles (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1989). An Invisible Spectator represents the first substantial biographical treatment of the life and career of Paul Bowles, and Sawyer-Lauçanno's papers contain a rich assortment of research materials.
"Paul Bowles at 80" draws material from all of the above collections and strives to document the life and work of Paul Bowles during every phase of his extensive career. In the process, the exhibition also demonstrates the strengths and ongoing commitment of the University of Delaware Library's collecting program in twentieth century literature.
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