Archive tells of the prime of Dame Muriel Spark
The bestselling author Ian Rankin is backing a campaign to buy the final instalment of one of the most extraordinary Scottish literary archives of recent years.
He is supporting the National Library of Scotland in completing the purchase of the Muriel Spark archive which is one of the most comprehensive records of a writer's life ever assembled.
Edinburgh-born Dame Muriel who achieved international fame with the publication of 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' in 1961 is widely regarded as one of the most important post war British novelists. She was a self-confessed hoarder of documents and her boxed archive takes up some 46 metres of shelving — just short of the height of Edinburgh's famous Scott monument.
The Library needs to raise £250,000 to buy the final tranche of papers to add to those it has already taken into its possession. The money will also be used to catalogue the entire contents and make it fully accessible for people to see and study.
Spark counted literary giants, world leaders and film stars among her friends and acquaintances. She threw little away and her archive contains everything from precious manuscripts, fascinating letters, diaries, photographs, newspaper cuttings and school magazines to used train tickets, old passports and car repair receipts. It covers the period from the 1940s until her death in 2006.
The fundraising campaign will be officially launched tonight (5 February) at a reception at the Library where Ian Rankin will speak of his enduring admiration for the work of one of the finest writers Scotland has produced. He spent three years studying Spark's work for a PhD at Edinburgh University which he never completed. His own writing took over, leaving the thesis unfinished.
'As a long-time fan of Muriel Spark's writing, I'm determined her treasure trove of an archive should have its home in Edinburgh, the city of her birth and the setting for her most famous work,' said Ian.
He added: 'Muriel Spark's novels are compelling — charming and witty, complex and puzzling, dark and shocking. She also led an extraordinary life, and this is what is revealed in the archive, an archive that belongs right here.'
The National Library of Scotland holds many authors' archives but none has so deliberately and carefully preserved such a complete record of their life as Muriel Spark. That is reflected in the sheer size of the archive which will take years to catalogue fully.
The Library has already taken delivery of the final instalment of the archive which will remain in sealed boxes until the money is raised to complete the purchase.
National Librarian John Scally said: 'Completing the acquisition of this magnificent archive will be a major coup for the Library that will be welcomed by many people who have long admired Muriel Spark's work. There is work to be done to create a full catalogue of what is in all these boxes but when that is complete, the full detail of what the archive contains — and the remarkable stories it tells — will be made clear and become accessible.
He added: 'A number of the Library's supporters have already donated a substantial sum and we are very grateful for their contribution. We are confident that the total will be achieved.'
More information about the campaign is available on the Muriel Spark Campaign page.
See also related news story.
5 February 2015