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

01 Sep 2017 16:30:25.057

PA 194/17

A new exhibition will showcase the work of Nottinghamshire writers and the treasures that can be found in the historic collections of local literature lovers.

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. In celebration of this, the University of Nottingham’s Manuscripts and Special Collections team has created a new exhibition ‘Collected Words’ highlighting the work of writers in the region.

The exhibition also looks at the University of Nottingham’s role in shaping the reputations and inspiring the early careers of local poets and authors.

The exhibition will be held in the Weston Gallery at Nottingham Lakeside Arts from Friday 8 Setember to Sunday 3 December 2017 and is free to attend.

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The exhibition shows 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 is also examined, drawing on the literary papers from the Library of the Dukes of Portland at Welbeck Abbey.

The involvement of the University’s Writer in Residence, award-winning author Jon McGregor, with Creative Writing MA students in editing the literary journal The Letters Page, is showcased in the exhibition with a selection of letters submitted in wild and wonderful formats from around the globe.

The drafts, proofs, typescripts, scrapbooks and rejection letters to be found in writers’ archives are used to show the trials of getting published, and the exhibition also reflects upon the changing fortunes of published authors, including how DH Lawrence himself was considered for a time to be ‘a skeleton in the cupboard’ by some at the University.

‘Developing the city’s literary history’

Sarah Colborne Collections Archivist and co-curator of Collected Words said: "This exhibition has been a wonderful opportunity to explore the role the University has played in developing the City's literary heritage. We're really enjoying exploring the archives and reading the novels of the writers whose work we're displaying."

The exhibition has been curated by staff from Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham and it will be opened on Thursday 7 September (5pm-7pm) by representatives of Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature.

Items of particular interest:

  • A masterpiece of medieval poetry on display, Confessio Amantis by John Gower.
  • A 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). 
  • Works by Margaret Cavendish,  Duchess of Newcastle, known to some as Mad Madge but celebrated by others as the earliest female writer of science fiction.
  • A curious manuscript describing the antics of ‘Restoration rock star’ poet, the Earl of Rochester when he disguised himself as a quack doctor and practiced medicine, as depicted in the Johnny Depp film, The Libertine.
  • A copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence, designed by the Nottingham-born designer Sir Paul Smith.
  • A first edition of The Unfortunates, the radical ‘book in a box’ by BS Johnson which describes his impressions of the City and the University of Nottingham
  • Audio recordings from the University’s 1968 Adult Education radio course including an interview with Nottingham’s Booker prize winning author Stanley Middleton discussing the locations for his novels, and a discussion with Raleigh factory workers about Alan Sillitoe’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

More information can be found at the website.

Story credits

More information is available from Manuscripts and Special Collections on +44 (0)115 951 4565 or at

Charlotte Anscombe – Media Relations Manager (Arts and Social Sciences)

Email:  Phone:+44 (0)115 74 84 417 Location: University Park

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