KU News Release

March 13, 2012
Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860

KU's expansive Irish literature collection would make St. Patrick proud

More Information

LAWRENCE — There’s an old saying that everyone is a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. The KU Libraries are a lot Irish every day, thanks to one of the largest collections of Irish literature in existence outside of Ireland.

Elspeth Healey, special collections librarian, oversees the Irish collections in KU’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library, including 25,000 items from the library of Irish nationalist, civil servant and writer P. S. O’Hegarty. She can speak to media about the items in the collections, including works by James Joyce, William Butler Yeats and Irish political literature — including newspapers, political pamphlets, broadsheets, local history publications, songs and scholarly works — from the 17th century on.

Recent acquisitions of Irish materials include “Under the Influence,” a 2011 photography book by Irish-born photographer Alen MacWeeney, containing 27 leaves of black-and-white photographs taken in 1965 in Ireland, the centennial of Yeats’ birth. The volume, which interweaves the photos with paper vellum sheets containing excerpts of Yeats’ poetry, is limited to 30 copies.

Other collection highlights:

James Joyce: The library contains more than 900 items dedicated to the author, including all first editions of his works except five minor items printed for copyright purposes. It contains numerous books and pamphlets devoted to the author and his works and more than 200 books and periodicals containing critical and biographical material. Particularly uncommon are copies of the two broadsides, “The Holy Office” (1904 or 1905) and “Gas from a Burner” (1912), the latter bearing in holograph the author’s story of the destruction of the first (Dublin) edition of “Dubliners.” Also present is a copy of the first edition of “Ulysses” in French, signed by Stuart Gilbert, who oversaw the translation, and inscribed by Joyce to his daughter Lucia on the date of issue; this copy has the novelty of bearing the strange post-mortem bookplate of the author. There is also a copy of the elusive “Pomes Penyeach” (Cleveland, 1931).

William Butler Yeats: The William Butler Yeats collection is a remarkably rich one: All of Yeats’ works in first edition except the scarce “Mosada” (1886) and “The Hour-Glass” (1903), with many later and variant editions and printings; books edited or containing contributions by Yeats; several scores of books from his personal library (including copies of his own works with his annotations); and the published “Debates of the Irish Parliament,” in which Yeats was a senator from the beginning.

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