Subject: Political History/Literature
Format: 11 reels of 35mm microfilm
Editor: Professor Peter Davison
Release Date: January 2004
Microfilmed from the Orwell Archive at the University College London and various libraries around the UK, this collection brings together Orwell's original manuscripts (including 1984 and Animal Farm), correspondence and personal papers. There will also be a separate publication on 98 microfiche of all of Orwell's journalistic output, including his famous articles in the Tribune. With printed index/guide.
Further details on this microfilm collection written by Peter Davison:
George Orwell Microfilm Collection
We live in an age of the photocopy, the fax, the mobile phone, text messaging, e-mails, and, as this itself demonstrates, the internet. We still use the telephone and might even write the occasional letter. Letters, despite frequent complaints about the postal service, may even be more reliable than working through a computer prone to crash. In the seventeen years it took me to prepare the 20-volume Complete Works of George Orwell not a single letter or document was lost of the tens of thousands of pieces of paper sent to and from the USA, Italy, - where my editorial colleague, Ian Angus, spent many months - and, within the United Kingdom, and there were hardly any delays even to and from Italy. The handwritten or typed letter is generally felt nowadays to be passe - hardly 'cool'.
However, when Orwell wrote, the postal service was then the principal form of communication for him. There are a few telegrams and in his last years, from 1946, he had a telephone in his London flat (Canonbury 375 l), though not at Barnhill on Jura, where he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four. Rather than use a telephone when he worked at the BBC or Tribune, he would often write a note in the afternoon to a friend arranging to meet at a Soho restaurant for lunch the following day, and he could be assured the letter would arrive in time. For Orwell, the letter was the chief mode of converse over distance. Although I was born just over twenty years after Orwell's birth, the letter still dominated and the telephone came late into my life. When I served in the Royal Navy in Colombo and Singapore just after the Second World War we had no access to a telephone. Back in England, if I wanted to telephone the girl who would become my wife it meant standing in a queue outside a public telephone box in order to enjoy a mere three minutes of rationed endearments. Even when I taught in Australia in the early sixties, a telephone was hard to come by and calls to England had (for us, at any rate) to be booked in advance.
These personal reminiscences may seem indulgent but what I wish to get across to those of this generation who may use these microfilms of Orwell's correspondence (and other writings) is how very important the letter was when Orwell lived and worked. Orwell was of a generation when the letter held prime place in keeping in contact at a distance. What is remarkable is that, eve;' during the bombing of London, letters might be delivered on the same day as that on which they had been sent. There is an example in Volume XVI of 7;The Complete Works. On p. 275 is printed a letter Orwell received on 6 July 1944 from the BBC; that letter bears the same date. Of course, the dating might be incorrect, but, as my footnote shows, the comedienne, Joyce Grenfell, writes in one of her books (Darling Ma) of a letter posted in Burnham in the morning on 28 September 1941 and delivered at 5.OOpm that day in Windsor: of course, there was then a late post, war or no war.
In presenting the library and archival letters and papers of George Orwell, Microform Academic Publishers are presenting the work of a great author who was one of the last to communicate so much by letter. Of course, most of this material -- but not all, especially letters to him -- is available in The Complete Works, but here one can sense the immediacy of the moment when Orwell wrote his letters. This is particularly apparent from the letters which he wrote to his mother from his preparatory boarding school, St Cyprian's, Eastbourne, often decorated with Orwell's schoolboy drawings. In addition, there are many more replies reproduced here than are included in The Complete Works, or are only summarised there. But this is not all. In Volume X of The Complete Works a selection of Orwell's research materials for The Road to Wigan Pier was included. Here it is possible to reproduce all that survives of the materials he collected in order to provide a solid factual background to what he was to publish. This microfilm collection also reproduces what survives of Orwell's personal documents held in the Orwell Archive at University College London and in the former India Office collection (now in the British Library), for example, his baptismal certificate. A large proportion of the articles Orwell wrote, especially all his 'As I Please' columns for Tribune, are reproduced as they appeared in that journal without the intermediary of editing and printing.
Orwell did not tend to keep drafts and final typescripts of his books. However, his typescripts for Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four survive - evidently Orwell did not live long enough to destroy them. These, and a set of proofs of each, are held by the Orwell Archive and these are reproduced. Corrected proofs of Down and Out in Paris and London and Coming Up for Air are reproduced together with the few surviving pages of typescript for Keep the Aspidistra Flying and the related correspondence that survive (those I used in restoring the text). The Gollancz archives hold a number of valuable letters related to the publishing of Orwell's early books and these are included.
There is an obvious advantage to the large number of those who wish to examine Orwell's letters and materials in having all this so readily available without having to travel to London, often from as far a field as Australia, Japan, or the United States. The microfilms will make a worthwhile addition to scholarly libraries. But there is another and very important advantage. When I examined some of these letters very recently I was quite shocked by how fragile some of the paper had become. It will obviously be desirable for people to be able to examine the origins of materials reproduced in The Complete Works without unwittingly further shortening the life of the materials. If there is a particular need to examine the paper, as opposed to what is written on it, for example to check for watermarking, inspection will be required and, doubtless, will be allowed. Microfilming will, however, ensure a much longer life for what Orwell physically wrote or typed.
To sum up, Orwell material (and some associated material) in the following collections in the United Kingdom will be included in the microfilm collection: Orwell Archive, University College London; Penguin Archive, Bristol University; British Library (including former India Office Library holdings); Secker & Warburg, Routledge, and Allen & Unwin materials, Reading University; Public Record Office; National Museum of Labour History; Brynmor Library, Hull University; Edinburgh University (Koestler Archive); Liverpool University; Jack Common Papers, University of Newcastle upon Tyne; Liddell Hart Centre, King's College London; London School of Economics; Lydia Jackson Archive, Leeds University; Eton College Library; Victor Gollancz Archive; Royal Literary Fund; Christchurch College, Oxford.
of microfilm will be accompanied by a booklet laying out their
contents and these lists will be preceded by an introduction.
Peter Davison, October 2002
Contact information for the George Orwell Microfilm Collection:
Microform Academic Publishers
Main Street, East Ardsley, Wakefield,
West Yorkshire, WF3 2AT, ENGLAND
Tel: 01924 825700, Fax: 01924 871005
Paul Knights (Editor): firstname.lastname@example.org
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