A new online database allows users to track down the location of every known letter, postcard, and correspondence by Samuel Beckett listed in a public archive

The Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives (beckett.library.emory.edu) is an open-access website listing the archival descriptions and locations of the letters of the Irish Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett. Users can browse the Location Register by recipient, physical description, sender and recipient addresses, language, repository, collection, and previous publication.

The Location Register has been developed in collaboration with literary archives in the US, Canada, Ireland, and the UK. Continental and other archival holdings will be the next phase of the project. The website has been made possible through a grant by The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and gifts from Christopher Herbert and Nancy Welch, as well as from the College of Arts and Sciences of Emory University, Emory Libraries and Information Technology Services (LITS), and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship (ECDS).

samuel-beckett-letters-volumes-1-2-3-4-cambridgeuniversitypress-cupThe Location Register is a result of The Letters of Samuel Beckett at Emory University, a project established to collect, consult, and transcribe all extant letters by Beckett, and to publish the selected edition of “The Letters of Samuel Beckett” in four volumes (Cambridge University Press, 2009-2016). The edition has been published in French, German, Italian (Volume I) and Chinese (forthcoming), a reflection of worldwide interest in Beckett’s writing.

The Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett is the first step to preserve the cumulative knowledge of this unique archive. Also in development is a Linked Data Project of the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives. In addition to the data in the Location Register, this open-access website will index the content in each letter: persons, places, organizations, productions, and publications mentioned, as well as Beckett’s writing, translating, directing, reading, and attendance at events.

Over 16,000 letters were consulted and transcribed in the editing process, but the selected edition could include only about 20 percent of them. “Shortly after the publication of the final volume, the question arose of how to make the research of more than 30 years available to future scholarship,” says general editor Lois More Overbeck. “It was not feasible to publish all of the letters for many reasons, not least because letters have two owners, the writer and the holder of the physical property. Metadata provided a methodology to make it possible to respect these rights, as well as to make the archival location and descriptions of the letters accessible.”

The Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett is the first step to preserve the cumulative knowledge of this unique archive. Also in development is a Linked Data Project of the Letters of Samuel Beckett in Public Archives. In addition to the data in the Location Register, this open-access website will index the content in each letter: persons, places, organizations, productions, and publications mentioned, as well as Beckett’s writing, translating, directing, reading, and attendance at events.

Visit the Location Register of the Letters of Samuel Beckett at beckett.library.emory.edu.

Photograph credit: Vera Spoerri Mercer
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Posted by:Rhys Tranter

Rhys Tranter is a writer based in Cardiff, Wales, UK. He is the author of Beckett's Late Stage (2018), and his work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, The Spectator, and a number of books and periodicals. He holds a BA, MA, and a PhD in English Literature. His website RhysTranter.com is a personal journal offering commentary and analysis across literature, film, music, and the arts.

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