Special Collections

Special Collections

There are four major repositories of material by and about Lawrence Durrell:

  1. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale

    The two-part SIU holdings can be seen online at Collection 42 and Collection 163. If you have any questions about these Durrell inventories, contact:

    Special Collections, Morris Library
    Southern Illinois University
    Carbondale, IL USA 62901-6623
    Phone: (618) 453-2516 or 453-1453

  2. The British Library

    A finding list of The British Library’s special collection of Lawrence Durrell material has been placed on the Library’s Modern British website. (Thanks to Dr. Richard Price, Curator, Modern British Collections, The British Library, for making this information available.)

  3. The University of Victoria

    The University of Victoria holds several overlapping collections, with the bulk of the Durrell materials tied to the Lawrence Durrell Collection, the Henry Miller Collection, and the Alfred Perles Collection. A large body of material was recently added via the James A. Brigham Collection, new accessions to the Perles fonds, and individual letters from Durrell remain in other collections and fonds as well. The McPherson Library Special Collections also holds an extensive print collection of primary and ancillary materials.

  4. University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense

    The Lawrence Durrell Research Library at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense is a “writer’s library” that holds 2,500 documents comprising Durrell’s personal notebooks, his manuscripts, his correspondence and many of the books he owned and used.

    The library holds an impressive collection of Lawrence Durrell’s own sources – literary, poetic, philosophical or religious works often annotated by the author himself – as well as books written and signed by his friends and rare editions. The library also holds various translations of Durrell’s novels, poems and plays as well as various contributions such as illustrations, prefaces and interviews. One may also find there critical works on Durrell’s opus (biographies, PhD theses, academic publications or newspaper clippings).

    The library holds a large collection of passive correspondence which can be consulted. Among the best known correspondents were Jacques Lacarrière, Paddy Leigh-Fermor, Alfred Perlès, Henry Miller and Anais Nin as well as Yehudi Menuhin and Theodore Stephanides. The library also holds 7 handwritten notebooks providing readers with a unique insight into the composition of The Avignon Quintet. Almost all the notebooks contain newspaper clippings, drawings, doodles, pasted items.

    Lawrence Durrell’s personal library comprises a fascinating collection of psychological, philosophical, religious and esoteric works on which he heavily drew for inspiration when he wrote the Quintet. Many books contain a handwritten index on the last page and the reader finds discrete annotations and underscores on each corresponding page, thus helping him identify the relevant passages.

    The greater part of the present collection comes from Lawrence Durrell’s own house in Sommières where, in 1990, a few months after his death, Françoise Kestsman, his last companion, created the CERLD (the Lawrence Durrell Study and Research Centre) for researchers specializing in Durrell’s work. It was closed in 1994. This is when the idea arose to create a Lawrence Durrell library in France. Lawrence Durrell had expressed the wish to Corinne Alexandre-Garner that the books from his own library which he had not yet sold to other foreign countries should remain in his adopted country. The Library was inaugurated in 1997 by Corinne Alexandre-Garner who, up to 2018, was in charge of its preservation and development.

    The collection comprises documents written in English, French, Greek, German and Flemish. It was fully inventoried in 2008 by Sarah Varron and this detailed description of the archives is available online: Fonds Lawrence Durrell – Inventaire rédigé par Sarah Varron

    It contains five collections:

    • Lawrence Durrell’s works and his contributions
    • Critical publications on Durrell’s work
    • Sources on the Mediterranean world, the Middle East and Provence
    • The author’s personal library comprising many books signed by his friends or which he annotated himself, rare editions, some of the letters he received from friends, his handwritten notebooks dating from the period of The Avignon Quintet as well as typescripts of later works.
    • The new Durrell collection (created by the University).

    The Lawrence Durrell Research Library was closed in 2018. Today, the Lawrence Durrell archives are held by the BDIC at the University Paris Nanterre and will be made available to the public in 2019.

Other significant holdings include:

  • The University of Louisville
  • Wake Forest University
  • The University of Toronto
  • McMaster University
  • The American College of Greece, Athens
  • The University of Tulsa
  • Columbia University
  • The Gennadius Library (in the Seferis papers)
  • The National Library of Canada
  • The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center