Muriel Spark website launched

Living legend goes online at the National Library of Scotland

A unique insight into the life and work of Scotland's greatest living novelist can be viewed online as the National Library of Scotland launches a new website today, to celebrate the grand dame of literature, Muriel Spark.

The website which was produced with the approval and help of Dame Muriel, showcases the Library's Muriel Spark Archive which is the largest in the world and unique among the Library's collections, being one of the most comprehensive personal records relating to a Scottish author.

Many of the items featured on the website have never be seen by the public and marks a further development in the Library's ongoing digitisation programme which aims to widen access to all of its collections.

Using original source documents from Spark's personal records, the website details the life of the writer before and after she found fame and worldwide success. The earliest papers featured date from the 1940s and reveal the struggles of an unknown author in wartime Britain. The site places Spark's writing in the context of her biography by detailing when books were written and the real-life episodes that inspired her work.

Alan Taylor, Associate Editor of the Sunday Herald, says of the site: 'Muriel Spark exemplifies what it takes to be a great writer. Of course, you need talent, which she has in super-abundance, but you also need dedication. The story of her life — as told in this welcome new website — is the story of a woman whose focus on her vocation has never wavered. A terrific website and very classy.'

The site goes live to coincide with the return to Edinburgh of Dame Muriel Spark: Scottish by Formation, the Library's travelling display about Spark's life and work, which was staged last year to commemorate her 85th birthday. The exhibition opens at the Writers' Museum on 9 July and runs until the end of October.

Notes to Editors
  • This is the only website which includes original source documents from Spark's personal archive. The items displayed on the website illustrate the range of material included in the Spark archive: notebooks, diaries, letters, manuscripts of her work, photographs, awards and certificates, press cuttings, and also more ephemeral items like betting slips and library tickets.
  • The earliest papers date from the 1940s, when Muriel Spark made a decision to keep all kinds of documentary evidence. The early sparse records of wartime poverty that chart the struggles of an unknown author are joined by scores of diaries, numerous accounts and cheque books, and tens of thousands of letters, growing in number as her fame has risen.
  • Spark used the collection extensively to write her autobiography, Curriculum Vitae, and it was after the publication of this book in 1992 that the first consignment of papers arrived at the Library. Regular additions are still being made to the archive with the manuscript of The Finishing School (Spark's latest publication) to be added shortly.
  • The National Library of Scotland is Scotland's largest library, serving both as a general research library and as the world's leading centre for the printed and manuscript record of Scotland's history and culture. It also promotes access to the ideas and cultures of the world. It is funded by the Scottish Executive, and is governed by a Board of Trustees.
  • The National Library of Scotland is one of the leading research libraries in Europe. It houses eight million printed items and has been a Legal Deposit library since 1710. Every week it collects more than 4,500 new items.

8 July 2004

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