Review: ‘The Samuel Beckett Collection: A Catalogue’ (The Library, University of Reading. £2.50)


Martha Fehsenfeld


The recently published catalogue of the Samuel Beckett Collection at the University of Reading Library is now available. It is a further tangible reminder of the debt all Beckett scholars owe to this Library, to the definitive and invaluable resource that is the Samuel Beckett Collection and to Dr. James Knowlson its originator.


The initial appearance of the catalogue is a starkly handsome one; the cover in black and white is appropriate and stunning and this striking clarity is apparent throughout. The typed entries are clear, brief and succinct, covering eighty-one pages and eliminating the extended discussion previously found under entries of the Samuel Beckett Exhibition Catalogue published at Reading in 1971 (and reportedly now bringing up to £12.50/$25.00 on the second-hand book market). There is a welcome table of contents which includes ‘Correspondence,’ ‘News cuttings,’ ‘Paintings and drawings,’ ‘Photographs,’ ‘Posters,’ ‘Programmes,’ ‘Recordings’. There is also an extensive listing under the general heading ‘Writings in manuscript and typescript’. Under this are original or photocopies of evolutionary materials on twenty-one plays including manuscript notebooks, Regiebuchs (frequently in several languages) and often as many as ten to twelve versions of a single play as Beckett develops it from concept to performance. Godot, Endgame, Krapp s last tape, Happy days, Eh Joe, Play, Come and go, Not I, That time and Ghost trio are particularly generously represented. There are also some twenty-seven other works of fiction at various stages of progression, including Jean du Chas (1930), Dream of fair to middling women (1932), Mercier and Camier (1946), Imagination morte imaginez, Assez, Le dépeupleur, (1965); Bing (1966), Sounds, Still, Still 3 and As the story was told (1973); Foirades I-VI (1973-1974), Pour finir encore and La falaise (1975). The unique record of Beckett’s creative process that these documents represent is unparalleled in other University holdings anywhere. There is also a section headed ‘Other works’ containing references to untitled manuscripts and typescripts, and another entitled ‘Related works by other authors’ includes familiar critical scholarship. The last two entries under ‘Contents’ are ‘Sundry papers’ and ‘A selection of published works’.


Finally, it should be kept in mind that this catalogue is only a printed manifestation of the continuing interest and conscientiousness of the staff, headed by Dr. J.A. Edwards, which is highly skilled and warmly receptive to every inquiry. It is their dedicated work which allows the collection to be of inestimable use to visiting scholars and it is their mutually creative energies which make it possible.