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Archives of the Poetry Book Society


Archives of the Poetry Book Society
Poetry Book Society
Collection number:
0.25 linear feet
Bulk dates:
Inclusive dates:
Collection Area:
Literature and Rare Books
Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries, Hornbake Library, College Park, MD 20742. Tel: 301-405-9212, Fax: 301-314-2709, Email:

The Poetry Book Society was founded in 1953 under the auspices of the Arts Council of Great Britain to foster the art of poetry and to promote the work of contemporary poets. It continued to operate as recently as 2005. The society mails subscribers a book of poetry quarterly, accompanied by a Bulletin containing a contribution from the selected poet of the quarter. The collection includes proofs and issues of the society's Bulletin, typescripts, and correspondence between contributing poets and Charles Osborne, assistant secretary of the society. Among the significant figures represented are Barry Cole, Martin Dodsworth, Douglas Dunn, Thomas Kinsella, Geoffrey Grigson, Thom Gunn, John Fuller, David Harsent, Seamus Heaney, and David Holbrook.

Important Information for Users of the Collection


This collection is open for research.

Preferred citation:

Archives of the Poetry Book Society, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Publication rights:

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.


This collection is PROCESSED.

Historical Note

The Poetry Book Society was founded in December 1953, under the auspices of the Arts Council of Great Britain, its purpose to "further the education of the people of this country by fostering and propagating the art of poetry and particularly by promoting knowledge, appreciation and enjoyment of the published work of contemporary poets." The first directors of the society included B. H. Blackwell, Joseph Compton, R. N. David, T. S. Eliot, Sir George Rostrevor Hamilton, and Erica Marx. Eric W. White became the society's first secretary. For further information about the society's beginnings, see Poetry Book Society: The First Twenty-Five Years, 1954-1978, by Eric W. White (London, 1979: Poetry Book Society).

Charles Osborne, assistant secretary of the society in the period represented in the Archives of the Poetry Book Society, was born in Brisbane, Australia, in 1927. He published more than fifteen works on opera and several novelizations of Agatha Christie stage plays. His best known work is W. H. Auden: The Life of a Poet (Harcourt, 1979).

The Poetry Book Society celebrated its fiftieth birthday in 2003. It continues to publish a quarterly Bulletin which is mailed along with a selected poetry book to subscribers. It also sells poetry books, offers poetry education programs and materials for teachers, and awards the annual T. S. Eliot Prize for poetry. The society is based in London. Its web site is (last accessed October 2005).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Archives of the Poetry Book Society span the years from 1962 to 1970. The collection is comprised of correspondence between Charles Osborne and poets contributing to the Bulletin, typescripts and manuscripts, and short biographical notes written by the poets for inclusion in the Bulletin. There is also correspondence related to the administration of the society, proofs, copies of Bulletins, and material related to the International Poetry Festivals of 1967 and 1969, which the society organized.

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The University of Maryland Libraries purchased the Archives of the Poetry Book Society on August 1, 1973.

Processing Information

Processed by:

Processed by: Linda Eileen Parris, October 1982. Reprocessed by Glen R. Gray, September 1998. Reprocessed and revised by Elisabeth Cohen, September 2005.

Processing note:

Before reprocessing in 2005, the arrangement of the collection included three series: Series I: Correspondence; Series II: The Poets; and Series III: Miscellaneous. Series I contained intra-organizational memoranda and correspondence between staff members of the Poetry Book Society, while correspondence between the society and contributing poets was included in Series II. That series, arranged alphabetically by poet, also contained manuscripts. In 2005, all correspondence was moved into a single series and a second series for manuscripts was established. Manuscript material was separated from correspondence for Barry Cole, Martin Dodsworth, Douglas Dunn, John Fuller, Geoffrey Grigson, David Harsent, John Hewitt, David Holbrook, Glyn Hughes, Thomas Kinsella, R. S. Thomas, and Peter Whigham. Material originally filed in Series III: Miscellaneous was redistributed between the two series created for correspondence and manuscripts, and a third series, Publications, was created for issues and proofs of the Bulletin that had been housed in a single folder.

Encoded by:

EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Elisabeth Cohen, November 2005. Markup checked and verified by Jennie A. Levine, November 2005.

Arrangement of Collection

The collection is organized as three series.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence, 1967-1970 and undated (18 folders)

This series contains business correspondence exchanged between Charles Osborne and poets contributing to the Bulletin and memoranda related to the publication of the Bulletin. The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Brown, Victor, 1969 series 1box 1folder 1
Cole, Barry, 1968 series 1box 1folder 2
Dodsworth, Martin, 1968-1969 series 1box 1folder 3
Dunn, Douglas, 1969 series 1box 1folder 4
Fuller, John, 1968-1969 series 1box 1folder 5
Grigson, Geoffrey, 1969 series 1box 1folder 6
Guest, Harry, 1968 series 1box 1folder 7
Harsent, David, 1969 series 1box 1folder 8
Hewitt, John, 1969 series 1box 1folder 9
Hill, Geoffrey, 1968 series 1box 1folder 10
Holbrook, David, 1969 series 1box 1folder 11
Hughes, Glyn, 1970 series 1box 1folder 12
Kinsella, Thomas, 1967 series 1box 1folder 13
Roberts, Bernard, 1968-1969 and undated series 1box 1folder 14
Stallworthy, Jon, 1968 series 1box 1folder 15
Thomas, R.S., 1968 series 1box 1folder 16
Watkins, Simon, 1968 series 1box 1folder 17
Whigham, Peter, 1968-1969 series 1box 1folder 18

Series 2: Manuscripts, 1966-1970 and undated (21 folders)

This series is comprised of typescripts and manuscripts of essays and biographical notes submitted for inclusion in the Bulletin, with formatting notes. There are a few typescripts of poems and an unbound copy of Peter Porter's The Last of England. The material is arranged alphabetically by author.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Clarke, Austin, 1966-1967 series 2box 1folder 19
Cole, Barry, 1968 series 2box 1folder 20
Dodsworth, Martin, 1968-1969 series 2box 1folder 21
Dunn, Douglas, 1969 series 2box 1folder 22
Fuller, John, 1968-1969 series 2box 1folder 23
Grigson, Geoffrey, 1969 series 2box 1folder 24
Gunn, Thom, undated series 2box 1folder 25
Hamilton, Ian, 1970 series 2box 1folder 26
Harsent, David, 1969 series 2box 1folder 27
Heaney, Seamus, 1969 series 2box 1folder 28
Hecht, Anthony, undated series 2box 1folder 29
Hewitt, John, 1969 series 2box 1folder 30
Holbrook, David, 1969 series 2box 1folder 31
Hughes, Glyn, 1970 series 2box 1folder 32
Jennings, Elizabeth, undated series 2box 1folder 33
Kinsella, Thomas, 1967 series 2box 1folder 34
Montague, John, 1970 series 2box 1folder 35
Porter, Peter, 1970 series 2box 1folder 36
Thomas, R.S., 1968 series 2box 1folder 37
Whigham, Peter, 1968-1969 series 2box 1folder 38
Williams, Hugo, 1970 series 2box 1folder 39

Series 3: Publications, 1962-1970 and undated (11 folders)

The series contains proofs and issues of the Bulletin, accompanied by lists of the poetry books considered for selection. There are notes and a clipping related to the Poetry International Festivals of 1967 and 1969. The individual issues and materials related to them are arranged chronologically by issue, followed by undated manuscripts and then by the Poetry International Festival material.

DescriptionSeriesBox / ReelFolder / Frame
Bulletin #34, September 1962 series 3box 1folder 40
Bulletin #57, Summer 1968 series 3box 1folder 41
Bulletin #58, Autumn 1968 series 3box 1folder 42
Bulletin #59, Christmas 1968 series 3box 1folder 43
Bulletin #60, Spring 1969 series 3box 1folder 44
Bulletin #61, Summer 1969 series 3box 1folder 45
Bulletin #63, Winter 1969 series 3box 1folder 46
Bulletin #65, Summer 1970 series 3box 1folder 47
Bulletin #66, Autumn 1970 series 3box 1folder 48
Bulletin manuscripts, undated, undated series 3box 1folder 49
Poetry International Festival, 1967-1969 series 3box 1folder 50

Related Material

Material related to the operation of the Poetry Book Society from 1952 to 1965 is held by the University of Maryland of Washington University in Clayton, Missouri, in the Erica Marx collection. Issues of the Poetry Book Society Bulletin from the 1980s and 1990s are held by Yale University Library and the University of Colorado. Cambridge University Library holds a major collection of Charles Osborne's correspondence and papers from the 1950s through 1986. The University of Maryland has a small collection of Thom Gunn's papers, mostly from the late 1960s. Of the other poets who appear in the collection, the University of Texas holds a collection of Austin Clarke's manuscripts and correspondence and some of Geoffrey Grigson's literary papers and correspondence. Boston College holds a Seamus Heaney collection. The University of Delaware has Elizabeth Jennings's papers from 1940 to 1969. Princeton University has Ian Hamilton's notes, drafts, letters, and legal briefs related to his unpublished biography of J. D. Salinger. The University of Indiana holds a collection of Peter Porter's manuscripts dating from 1960 to 1966.

For other related archival and manuscript collections, please see the following subject guides.

Selected Search Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.


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