Seamus Heaney papers bound for National Library of Ireland

The literary archive has been welcomed as an extraordinary addition to the National Library's treasures

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney has donated a collection of his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland.

The world famous poet's collection, worth tens of thousands of pounds and regarded as a treasure trove by scholars, was handed over at a reception in Dublin on Wednesday.

The fascinating literary archive, regarded as the working papers of one of Ireland's greatest living writers, has been welcomed as an extraordinary addition to the National Library's treasures.

At its heart are the manuscripts of his poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks.

The collection spans Dr Heaney's literary career, from the publication of his first major collection, Death of a Naturalist (1966), to volumes such as Wintering Out (1972) and North (1975), right through to Station Island (1984), Seeing Things (1991) and his most recent publications, District and Circle (2006) and Human Chain (2010).

It also highlights his extensive career as a teacher, academic, broadcaster, literary critic and man of letters.

Included are typescripts and manuscript drafts of his prose works and the early drafts of lectures delivered as Oxford Professor of Poetry, which were subsequently collected and published in The Redress of Poetry (1995).

Start Quote

"It is unique in its comprehensiveness, its range and multiplicity. Given the move to electronic records, it may be one of the last paper archives of a major writer to become available.”

End Quote Fiona Ross Director National Library of Ireland

Frances Clark, archivist in the National Library's Irish Department of Manuscripts, said Seamus Heaney had a close relationship with the library and had actually written some poems in its reading room.

"It's a great day for the library and we are absolutely delighted to have acquired the collection.

"It's basically working drafts of all of his major poetry collection, some of his prose collection and his dramas.

"The focus, really, is going to be on the working writer and how he produced his poems so it's really all about the written word.

"We've done a survey and cataloguing is taking place at the moment."

Welcoming the donation, the director of the National Library of Ireland, Fiona Ross, said Dr Heaney's "extraordinary gift as a poet enriches us all and is a source of great honour and pride to Ireland".

"The archive is an extraordinary record of a lifetime's work by one of the leading Irish writers of his generation, the best-known poet in the English-speaking world," she said.

"It is unique in its comprehensiveness, its range and multiplicity. Given the move to electronic records, it may be one of the last paper archives of a major writer to become available.

"The library is proud to become a centre for Heaney scholarship and we look forward to making this collection available to scholars and researchers from all over the world."

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