Barrett, travel, Borges, Declarations

Got lit? American authors abound in Barrett's stash

Scholars from all over the world come to Charlottesville to view such things as the letters of Charles Brockden Brown, America's first novelist; Thoreau's copy of A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, presented by the author to Alfred, Lord Tennyson; and Stephen Crane's manuscript of The Red Badge of Courage.

They're all part of the Barrett Collection, more than a quarter million pieces donated by UVA alumnus and shipping entrepreneur Clifton Waller Barrett from the 1940s until his death in 1991.

It may be the world's largest and finest collection of American literary history. Poet Robert Frost considered it such an important collection that in 1960 he spoke at the opening of the Barrett Room in Alderman Library, a new wing and secure reading room for Special Collections.

The Barrett name traveled with Special Collections and graces the new building's reading room as well.


COVER SIDEBAR- American Journeys: Set the pace and hit the road

Published March 3, 2005 in issue 0409 of the Hook

The first exhibit created for Harrison/Small pulls out all the stops. UVA librarians and curators used the theme of travel in America to assemble dozens of their finest treasures for public view.

From a 1495 Italian book chronicling Columbus's first New World discoveries to a 1957 first edition of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, the displays use books, manuscripts, photographs, maps, and archives to show America moving on. There's a 1524 map of Tenochtitlàn in a book by Cortés; game cards with characters from Uncle Tom's Cabin; John Steinbeck's handwritten The Grapes of Wrath; and a photo from the 1963 civil rights March on Washington.

The exhibit remains up through this fall– or catch a glimpse at


COVER SIDEBAR- Borges Collection: Capturing elusive remnants

Published March 3, 2005 in issue 0409 of the Hook

Jorge Luis Borges, the fascinating Argentine author whose poems, essays, and short stories fall somewhere between fiction, nonfiction, and philosophy, left little in the way of a literary archive. Because Borges himself deliberately destroyed many versions of his early books and stories, few archival records remain.

However, in 1977, UVA librarians took up the challenge and began building a Borges collection by acquiring first editions (some of which represent one of only four or five in existence), letters, manuscripts, and unpublished works.

The collection now contains more than 2,000 items, spanning the author's 65 years of productivity. Now scholars can simultaneously view manuscripts, revisions, printers' proofs, and published books and pieces, getting glimpses into the thinking of this elusive writer who deliberately tried to cover his tracks.


COVER SIDEBAR- Spirit of '76: Small's trove of Decs

Published March 3, 2005 in issue 0409 of the Hook

The familiar Declaration of Independence– the one with the big John Hancock– dates from 1823, when John Quincy Adams directed the State Department to engrave 200 official copies on parchment.

Thanks to library benefactor Albert H. Small, UVA owns and permanently displays an early draft Declaration: a broadside printed on July 4, 1776, by John Dunlap in Philadelphia. The library's copy, one of only 25 known, may have been George Washington's, since it came from his personal secretary.

The 1776 broadside is one of hundreds of letters, documents, and books in Small's collection, the most comprehensive Declaration archive in the world, recently pledged in full to UVA. Highlights are permanently on display in the Small Library's Declaration Gallery.


COVER SIDEBAR- Signifying plenty: UVA's Faulkner riches

Published March 3, 2005 in issue 0409 of the Hook

William Faulkner loved Charlottesville, which he considered his second home. He taught at UVA twice, the second appointment lasting until his death, and donned his pinks to fox-hunt at Farmington as often as he could.

When it came time for him to write a will, Faulkner bequeathed his personal collection of manuscripts and papers to UVA, amplifying a collection of Faulkneriana already begun by his friend Linton R. Massey.

Additional items have come into the collection since then, including donations from his daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, as recently as 2000. One scholar calls UVA's Faulkner collection "astonishingly rich." It even has one of his tattered hunting jackets.


COVER SIDEBAR- Let's Do the Numbers

Published March 3, 2005 in issue 0409 of the Hook

Special Collections' 12.82 miles of motorized shelving contain:

* more than 12 million manuscripts

* 2.5 million archival UVA history items

* 286,600 rare books

* 4,000 maps

* 4,000+ broadsides

* 200,000 photos and small prints

* 8,000 microfilm reels

* plus holdings in audio recordings, films, and ephemera