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University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

In honour of Alan Garner:

speech given at a reception to mark the acquisition of the Papers of Alan Garner, Oxford, 27 October 2004

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It's my very great pleasure to welcome you to the Bodleian Library this afternoon, as the Library plays its part in Alan Garner Day, by celebrating the acquisition of Alan's literary archive. And I want to begin by thanking Stephen Tomlinson for organising today's events, and for laying out before us this small display, which is just a taster of the riches in the Alan Garner Papers.

We are very proud, in the Bodleian, of our literary collections. Indeed, to some extent, they define us as a library. From Anglo-Saxon poetry to the notebooks of Franz Kafka, and from the manuscripts of Alexander Pope through to those of Jane Austen, the Bodleian represents one of the foremost repositories of world literature. It is an integral part of our mission to ensure that we continue to develop those holdings by acquiring the manuscripts and archives of the best and the most important contemporary writers. And this is especially true for those writers whose work fits with our policy of deepening existing areas of collecting strength, and in supporting research undertaken here by our own university scholars as well as by others from the wider world of scholarship whose work the Library serves. For example, as many of you will know, we are currently seeking to secure that part of the archive of the Shelley family, known as the Abinger Papers, which includes among many other highlights the manuscript of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. And, happily, the fundraising for those important papers is tantalisingly close to being completed successfully.

We are therefore immensely pleased today to be able to add Alan Garner's literary and personal archive to our already outstanding collections. It is a real pleasure to be able to add the papers of yet another 'Oxford author' to those of C.S.Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, Joyce Cary, T.E.Lawrence, Barbara Pym, and many others.

Although Alan does not court the title 'children's writer', it is fair to say that his works have a strong readership among both the presently and the formerly young; and it is therefore fitting that his papers should come to an institution that already has a worldwide reputation for its scholarly collections of children's writings. The Bodleian's strength in this respect is based on that remarkable collection of early children's books formed by Peter and Iona Opie, augmented by the manuscript holdings of writers such as Tolkien, C.S.Lewis and, of course, of Kenneth Grahame, who had the great generosity to give us not only the manuscript of Wind in the Willows, but also the valuable copyright of that great children's classic. Alan Garner's papers therefore find themselves in distinguished company, and we believe they will settle in very comfortably in their new surroundings.

But, as the papers of a writer whose inspiration is drawn as much from history and landscape as from literature, Alan's archive will arguably be equally at home alongside the Bodleian's great historical materials. With the great Gough collection, and with material from medieval chronicles, through the extensive collections of state papers of the 16th to the 18th centuries, to the huge range of topographical manuscripts relating to every part of the British Isles, the Bodleian is a major centre, not simply for the study of English literature, but also for historical research into the history and culture of Britain more generally.

Topography and mythology can be found throughout our historical collections. And for that reason, the Garner Papers, interwoven throughout with Alan's deep understanding of the places, events, people and stories that have shaped and defined who we are today, and how we think of ourselves as a nation, can therefore be said to be the ideal acquisition for the Bodleian Library in this 21st century, augmenting as they do at least two of the Library's areas of outstanding strength.

It therefore gives me enormous pleasure to announce the formal acquisition of the Alan Garner Papers today. And it's with sincere gratitude and with warm good wishes that I invite you to raise your glasses and to join with me, both in thanking Alan for his singular generosity towards us, and in wishing him a very happy 70th birthday. Ladies and gentlemen: Alan Garner!

Reg Carr
27 October 2004