Manuscripts and Special Collections

Collected Words: From the Literary Collections at the University of Nottingham


This exhibition ran between the 8th September and 3rd December 2017.

In 2015 Nottingham became one of only 20 cities around the world to be recognised by UNESCO as a City of Literature – a reflection of the city’s unique literary heritage and creativity. This exhibition of material from the literary archives and collections of printed books held by the University of Nottingham, highlighted the work of Nottinghamshire writers and the treasures to be found in the historic collections of local literature lovers. It also looked at the University’s role in shaping the reputations and inspiring the early careers of local poets and authors.

This exhibition, curated by staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections, offered the opportunity to see a range of literary material including a masterpiece of medieval poetry and the recently acquired previously unknown typescript of Pansies (a late collection of poems by DH Lawrence which attracted the attention of the Home Office on grounds of indecency).

 'Collected Words' looked at how authors down the centuries have been inspired by different aspects of Nottinghamshire, ranging from the beauty of the countryside to the often harsh realities of industrial working life. The importance of local aristocratic families as early book collectors and authors was also examined, drawing on the literary papers from the Library of the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey, which contains gatherings of the manuscripts of poets including the Duchess of Newcastle, known to some as Mad Madge but celebrated by others as the earliest writer of science fiction. Visitors also saw a curious manuscript describing the antics of ‘Restoration rock star’ poet, the Earl of Rochester.


The curators discuss items from the literary collections selected for the exhibition.




Exhibition themes

The exhibition boards which were displayed in the Weston Gallery are available to download:

Unfortunately it is not possible to display representations of original archive material and items which featured in the exhibition cases.

In addition to the lunchtime talks, the exhibition programme involved a screening of the 1960 film 'Saturday Night and Sunday Morning' introduced by Andrew Graves, and a talk by novelist and alumna Clare Harvey.

Visitor comments

Brilliant cornucopia - great diversity and erudition!

Very interesting, with surprises in each display!

...drawing our attention away from what we know, helping us find more and want to know more is where this exhibition excels. 

Left Lion review


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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651