In 2015 Nottingham became one of only 20 cities around the world to be recognised by UNESCO as a City of Literature — a reflection of the city’s unique literary heritage and creativity.
This exhibition of material from the literary archives and collections of printed books held by the University of Nottingham, highlights the work of Nottinghamshire writers and the treasures to be found in the historic collections of local literature lovers. It also looks at the University’s role in shaping the reputations and inspiring the early careers of local poets and authors.
This exhibition offers the opportunity to see a range of literary material including a masterpiece of medieval poetry and the recently acquired previously unknown typescript of Pansies (a late collection of poems by DH Lawrence which attracted the attention of the Home Office on grounds of indecency).
It looks at how authors down the centuries have been inspired by different aspects of Nottinghamshire, ranging from the beauty of the countryside to the often harsh realities of industrial working life. The importance of local aristocratic families as early book collectors and authors is also examined, drawing on the literary papers from the Library of the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey, which contains gatherings of the manuscripts of poets including the Duchess of Newcastle, known to some as Mad Madge but celebrated by others as the earliest writer of science fiction.
Visitors will also see a curious manuscript describing the antics of ‘Restoration rock star’ poet, the Earl of Rochester.
The involvement of the University’s Writer in Residence, award winning author Jon McGregor, with Creative Writing MA students in editing the literary journal The Letters Page, is showcased with a selection of submissions. The drafts, proofs, typescripts, scrapbooks and rejection letters to be found in writers’ archives are used to show the trials of getting published, and the exhibition also reflects upon the changing fortunes of published authors, including how DH Lawrence himself was considered for a time to be ‘a skeleton in the cupboard’ by some at the University.
The exhibition has been curated by staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham.
Find out more on the Manuscripts and Special Collections webpage.