Museums at Night 2013: Behind the scenes at the Faber and Faber Archive

By Ruth Hazard | 17 May 2013

Museums at Night Report: Ruth Hazard enjoys an exclusive night behind the scenes at the Faber and Faber Archive in London.


a photo of a table strewn with manuscripts and a book
TS Eliot's desk strewn with Faber manuscript treasures...© Photo Ruth Hazard
Gathered around the same hexagonal table that once seated TS Eliot and Geoffrey Faber, six literary enthusiasts are poring over some of the greatest mementos from publishing history.

Spines bearing names such as Eliot, Hughes and Plath spill from the shelves around us and the tantalising smell of aging tomes lingers in the air. For any self confessed book geek, it’s a true ‘pinch yourself’ moment.

The Faber archive has prized open its usually sealed doors for a super-exclusive Museums at Night event. Not only are we treated to titbits from the publishing house’s glorious history, but the incredibly knowledgeable archivist, Robert Brown, brims with anecdotes about the great writers and editors who have frequented the Bloomsbury site.

From learning that Faber staff kept ‘fire watch’ from the roof during World War II or that Lord of the Flies had to be rescued from the slush pile after being labelled ‘absurd, pointless, rubbish and dull’, the evening passes in a flurry of impress-your-friends style facts.

After marvelling at the ghosts of literary past, current Faber poet Emily Berry ushers us back to the present with a beautifully emotive set of readings from her own anthology, Dear Boy.

In an age of digital publishing, the evening is a powerful reminder of the value of print on paper. After all this isn’t just a room of books, it’s an archive filled with stories – ones it’s been a privilege to hear. 

More images:

a photo of a man pointing to an open book on a table
A photo of a man leaning over a table of papers and manuscripts.© Photo Ruth Hazard
a photo of people peering intently at manuscripts at a table
Hmmmm... pouring over the literary manuscripts.© Photo Ruth Hazard
a photo of a woman reading from a book
Faber poet Emily Berry reads from Dear Boy.© Photo Ruth Hazard
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