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Douglas Munro Dumas Collection

Portrait of Dumas by A Maurin, lithographed by Delpech, 1842.

2,500 items.

The collection relating to the novelist and dramatist Alexandre Dumas père (1802-1870) was amassed by the late Douglas Munro of Cupar in Fife, compiler of three definitive Dumas bibliographies, and acquired after his death in 1994. The description below is reproduced from the John Rylands Research Institute Newsletter, no. 10 (Summer 1995), pp. 10-12.

'The sheer mass of plays, memoirs, tales of travel, novels, historical studies and poetry which poured from that dynamic Frenchman, Alexandre Dumas, père, pose particular problems for the bibliographer.' So begins the foreword by Dugald-MacArthur to Douglas Munro's Alexander Dumas, père: a bibliography of works translated into English to 1910 (New York, 1978). The proliferation and bibliographical complexity of the author's literary output are fully reflected not only in the three extensive Dumas bibliographies compiled by Douglas Munro, but also in The Douglas Munro Alexandre Dumas, père, Collection itself.

This extensive Collection of more than 2,500 printed volumes and associated materials came to the Library in late 1994 following the death of Douglas Munro, who maintained a lifelong passion for the life and work of Alexandre Dumas, père (1802-70).

It is impossible to do justice to the Collection in a few short paragraphs. However, it is hoped that at least a flavour of this rich and varied research resource will emerge from the brief description which follows.

Through his contacts with booksellers worldwide, Douglas Munro was able to amass an impressive array of Dumas first editions, whether in serialized, book, illustrated or indeed pirated form. Take, for instance, the first illustrated edition of Le Comte de Monte Cristo, published in Paris in two volumes in 1846, or the first editions of works such as Richard Darlington: drame en trois actes et en prose, written in collaboration with J.F. Beudin and P.P. Gobaux (Paris, 1832), Antony, apparently the rarest and most sought-after of Dumas' early dramas (Paris, 1831), and Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle (Paris, 1839). These are all in the Collection, as is a copy of the first 'pirated' Belgian edition of Histoire de Napoléon and a complete run of Dumas' most important journal Le Mousquetaire, published between 1853 and 1857.

The Three Musketeers and d'Artagnan, from Dumas, The Three Musketeers
(New York: Appleton, 1894), p.79.

There are numerous English translations of Dumas' works, including first translations into English as well as later versions from the second half of the twentieth century. A notable and rare translation is that of Louis XIV et son siècle which appeared in instalments in the literary periodical The Home Circle (1849-54), volumes 7-9, and which was acquired with great joy by Douglas Munro during the last years of his life.

There is a copy of a very rare and early edition of The history of a nutcracker, published in London by Chapman and Hall in 1847. There are numerous standard and rather dull English translations of the Victorian era, but also many colourful yellowbacks with their startling and gaudy cover designs. These include Captain Paul and The Vicomte de Bragelonne and are in perfect condition.

The extent of the collector's bibliographical knowledge enabled him to track down the most obscure of items, for instance 'Extraordinary adventures of a donkey', translated from the French of Alexandre Dumas and published in The student, or the Midland counties' literary repository (London, c. 1840).

Douglas Munro also collected adaptations of Dumas' work including a wide range of translations and abridgements for children. Some of these he produced himself, including The adventures of Lyderic and The phantom white hare and other stories, to name but two.

The Collection is also important for the many titles it holds which include contributions, essays or prefaces by Dumas. One notable example is a six-volume elephant folio set of Galerie de Florence which began publication in 1841 and includes introductory matter by Dumas as well as a study entitled 'Histoire de la peinture depuis les Egyptiens jusqu'à nos jours'.

There is much Dumas ephemera and memorabilia too. There are albums and envelopes containing portraits of the author, press cuttings, stamps, theatre programmes and photographs including one of the collector at home in his study and library in Cupar, Fife. One package contains an enormous full-size cinema poster advertising the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer production of the film Le secret de Monte-Cristo (1961), the English version of which was apparently censored. There are many framed portraits and engravings of the author as well as of actors or scenes from Dumas' works.

Supporting the original works is much secondary literature of a bibliographical and critical nature. The whole Collection represents a monument not only to the author but also to the late Douglas Munro. It has come fittingly to the University of Manchester Library to join other extensive collections in the area of nineteenth-century French literary studies and should provide a feast of research potential for many scholars for years to come.

Finding aids

Recorded in general printed-book catalogue.


Main Library

Using the reading room in the Main Library

Further information

The Alexandre Dumas père website contains information and links to other sites.

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