Ian Rankin to launch £250,000 fundraising bid for vast archive of post-war author Muriel Spark

By Culture24 Reporter | 05 February 2015

Final boxes could join huge public archive of author named as one of Britain's best and lauded by Rankin

A black and white photo of a woman sitting in a library writing on a piece of paper
Muriel Spark was one of Britain's finest post-war writers© NLS
A dame and self-confessed hoarder who achieved international fame as one of Britain’s most important post-war novelists will have her life’s records turned into an “extraordinary” literary archive if a £250,000 library campaign, backed by author Ian Rankin, succeeds in Edinburgh.

The National Library Scotland has received the final instalment of boxes in the Muriel Spark archive, named after the author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, in 1961. Spark’s collection takes up 46 metres of shelving, but the library will keep the boxes sealed until they have raised the money to buy and catalogue the records for the public.

“Muriel Spark's novels are compelling: charming and witty, complex and puzzling, dark and shocking,” says Rankin, who spent years studying Spark’s work for an uncompleted PhD at Edinburgh University and will launch the fundraising bid at the library tonight.

“As a long-time fan of Muriel Spark's writing, I'm determined her treasure trove of an archive should have its home in Edinburgh, the city of her birth and the setting for her most famous work.

“She also led an extraordinary life, and this is what is revealed in the archive – an archive that belongs right here.”

A photo of rows of shelves in a library containing folder after folder of literary archives
Shelves of boxes containing Muriel Spark's archive© NLS
Rankin has an enduring admiration for a writer who kept hold of manuscripts, letters, diaries, photos, newspaper cuttings and even car repair receipts between the 1940s and her death in 2006.

Archivists expect the collection will take “several years” to fully present. The library owns a range of author records, but says this is the most deliberate and carefully preserved of its kind.

“Completing the acquisition of this magnificent archive will be a major coup for the library,” said National Librarian John Scally.

“There is work to be done to create a full catalogue of what is in all these boxes but when that is complete, the full detail of what the archive contains – and the remarkable stories it tells – will be made clear and become accessible.

“A number of the library’s supporters have already donated a substantial sum and we are very grateful for their contribution. We are confident that the total will be achieved."

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