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Modern Literary Archives

Our collection of Modern Literary Archives, dating from 1900 to the present, is of international importance.

Kinetic poem Frog-Pond-Plop by dom sylvester houédard
Kinetic poem Frog-Pond-Plop by dom sylvester houédard. By kind permission of the Community at Prinknash Abbey.

It constitutes a treasure trove of primary source material representing most major literary movements from the period, with a strong emphasis on recent and contemporary poetry.

These collections encompass poetic forms ranging from the traditional to the avant-garde; poetries which acknowledge ethnicity, gender and sexuality; the publication, criticism, editing and reviewing of poetry; and poetry in translation.

There is also a strong representation of significant 20th century writers of fiction and prose.


Publishing Houses

At the heart of the Modern Literary Archives is the vast archive of Carcanet Press, the Manchester-based publisher of poetry founded in 1969 by Michael Schmidt and Peter Jones. Scores of prominent poets and authors feature in the correspondence files and editorial papers, such as John Ashbery, Eavan Boland, Christine Brooke-Rose, Donald Davie, Lorna Goodison, Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Geoffrey Hill, Ted Hughes, Elizabeth Jennings, Philip Larkin, Edwin Morgan, Les Murray, Laura Riding, Vikram Seth and R. S. Thomas. The Library also holds a complete collection of over fifteen hundred books printed by Carcanet.

Additional poetry publishing archives in our holdings include Anvil Press and Critical Quarterly. Critical Quarterly, a literary journal intended to promote new poetry, was founded by AE (Tony) Dyson & Brian Cox in 1958. In addition to the archive of Critical Quarterly, the library holds the personal archives of founders in the papers of Brian Cox and of Tony Dyson & Cliff Tucker, and of journal editor Kate Pahl.

Collections relating to Carcanet Press

Curation of the Carcanet Press Archive has led to the acquisition of the personal material of poets and artists with links to the press, and we also hold the papers of: Michael Schmidt, Elizabeth Jennings, James Dawson Jackson, Elaine Feinstein, Chris McCully, David Arkell, Adam Johnson, Grevel Lindop, Alison Brackenbury, Nicolas Tredell, John Walker, John Heath Stubbs, Bernard Saint and Simon Curtis, and artist Stephen Raw.

These archives are accompanied and augmented by printed collections held at the library, including full collections of Carcanet’s publications and of PN Review and Critical Quarterly, alongside the Brian Cox printed collection.


Further collections relating to modern poetry include an extensive series of collections relating to Norman Nicholson, Frederick Rose, Neil Curry, Ina Robert and Herbert Lomas. Also of note are papers relating to American poet Wallace Stevens, and smaller correspondence collections of Kathleen Raine, Peter Huchel, David Jones and Phoebe Hesketh. In addition, there are the papers of Wilfred Owen scholar Denis Welland. 



Extensive personal archives of fiction writers are held for Leslie Pole (L.P.) Hartley, Harold Blundell (George Bellairs) and Howard Spring. Novelist and playwright journalist collections at the Library are represented by Allan Noble (A.N) Monkhouse and Charles Edward (C.E.) Montague, alongside writer and politician Francis Neilsen. Private Press related papers are held for David Wishart and Hayloft Press, alongside several collections relating to the study of American writer Upton Sinclair. 

Children’s literature

Writers of Children’s literature are represented by Alison Uttley and Elfrida Vipont, alongside Jack Cox, long time editor of children’s annuals and magazines.

Criticism & translation

Although not numerous, there are collections in our holdings relating to art and literary criticism (in addition to the collections relating to Critical Quarterly) and translation, notably the papers of critic Marion Harry Spielmann, and translators Giovanni Pontiero and Geoffrey Strachan.

Art & counterculture

The library holds artworks, photography and sculpture for artists and poets Li Yuan-chia (LYC) and dom sylvester houedard (dsh), which are accompanied by their papers. The LYC archive contains poetry and records relating to the LYC Museum and the artists personal life, whilst the dsh papers relate to both his work as an artist and as a theologian.

There are significant collections of prominent UK counterculture figures Jeff Nuttall and Dave Cunliffe, which feature printed and archival material, and are accompanied by smaller collections relating to little magazines and poetry, including the papers of Jim Burns and Priscilla Staples.

List of collections

Physical collections

Digital collections

Collections analysis

Analysis of the Modern Literary Archives reveals major strengths in the following areas:

  1. An excellent representation of modern, recent and contemporary literatures in English including: significant 20th- and 21st-century poets and novelists; poetry in English from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, North and South America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa, and the Caribbean; Writing which acknowledges ethnicity, gender and sexuality.
  2. An excellent representation of the history and development of publishing during the 20th and 21st centuries.
  3. An excellent representation of translations into English of the works of significant 20th- and 21st-century writers from across the world.
  4. An excellent representation of the materiality of visual and literary texts.
  5. An excellent representation of literary and artistic networks especially where they engage with The University of Manchester and the North West region of England. In particular, the Collection demonstrates the strong contribution Manchester, and the North West region has made to the national and international literary scenes.
  6. A good representation of some significant 20th-century British artists, sculptors, letters artists and figures connected to art and visual culture.
  7. A good representation of some significant 20th-century British actors, and figures connected to film, radio and theatre.

Further information

Related subject pages

Further information

If you would like information or advice about the Modern Literary Archives, including potential acquisitions, please contact:

Jessica Smith, Creative Arts Archivist, email: jessica.smith@manchester.ac.uk.