The International Anthony Burgess Foundation is an educational charity in the heart of Manchester that seeks to encourage and promote engagement with all aspects of the life and work of the novelist and composer Anthony Burgess (1917-1993).
Established in 2003 by Burgess’s widow, Liana (1929-2007), the Burgess Foundation cares for an extensive library and archive, consisting of books, photographs, music, audio, personal and business papers, furniture and other objects that belonged to Burgess and his family.
The book collection consists of more than 9000 volumes, most of which formed Burgess’s private library. Over two thirds of the book collection has been catalogued and is searchable on Jisc Library Hub Discover. The books were acquired by Burgess and his family over a number of years and for a variety of reasons. Some books date from the period of Burgess’s school and university studies in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s; some were sent to Burgess as gifts and document his wider interactions and friendships; some were acquired through Burgess’s role as a literary critic and reviewer; and some served as key reference texts for novels and other projects that Burgess worked on. The high number of works by James Joyce, William Shakespeare, DH Lawrence, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others, in the library reveal particularly favoured authors.
The content of the collection is diverse and reflects the breadth of Burgess’s interests. Topics include: language and linguistics; literary criticism; poetry; drama; social science; geography and travel; history; politics; biographies, autobiographies, collected letters and diaries; general fiction; art and architecture; TV and film; and music. There are also novels and other literary works by Burgess (in English and in translation); copies of books and journals to which Burgess contributed; and a range of secondary works on Burgess’s life and writing.
A 55-page guide to the library of books at Burgess’s home in Bracciano in Italy survives from the 1970s and has influenced decisions around the physical arrangement of books in our reading room, allowing visitors to browse the library in a way with which Burgess would have been familiar.
The Burgess Foundation continues to acquire new editions of works by Burgess and related critical materials. A collection of 137 books, largely consisting of titles by Burgess and by, or relating to the study of, James Joyce, were donated to the Burgess Foundation in c.2003 by Peter Lees. A further 47 titles which were confiscated from Burgess on his arrival in Malta in 1968 were purchased by the Burgess Foundation in 2018 and added to the library.
Among my favourite items in our printed collection is a fragile minature score of Claude Debussy’s Prelude à l’après-midi d’un faune, published by Jean Jobert in Paris in the early 1920s. At first glance, the score – yellowing and quite battered in appearance – may appear insignificant, but it plays a key part in Burgess’s story. In This Man and Music (1982), Burgess describes the first time he heard the piece of music as a boy on his crystal set radio as a kind of epiphany: ‘There is, for everybody, a first time. A psychedelic moment, as they say or used to say nowadays, an instant of recognition of verbally inexpressible spiritual realities, a meaning for the term beauty.’ The experience drove him to pursue composition and he describes buying the miniature score in our collection with money given to him for his fifteenth birthday. The score has been inscribed by Burgess, “J.B. Wilson, 261 Moss Lane East, Manchester, 14.” and is a remarkable survival from his early life.
Ordinarily, our library and archive is accessible to researchers (by appointment) in an onsite reading room, however our physical collection is currently closed due to Covid-19. We are still answering enquiries via email and encourage anyone with a question about our collection to contact our Archivist on firstname.lastname@example.org . You may also be interested to explore our growing range of online resources (https://www.anthonyburgess.org/), including exhibitions, podcasts, and blogs, or attend one of our online events. On 21 January we presented a special concert by Richard Casey of music by Burgess, Beethoven, Debussy and Ravel, played on Burgess’s own Bösendorfer. Full details and a link to the recording on YouTube are here: https://www.anthonyburgess.org/event/richard-casey-piano-music-by-beethoven-burgess-debussy-and-ravel/
The Burgess Foundation also contributes to the Archives Hub. Cataloguing of our archive is ongoing and descriptions are searchable at https://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/data/gb3104-ab
International Anthony Burgess Foundation
Explore the International Anthony Burgess Foundation Library’s collections on Library Hub Discover:
- Browse their records here.
- Find out more about the library, including full contact details and visitor information, on their Discover information page.
Copyright: All images copyright International Anthony Burgess Foundation, reproduced with kind permission of the copyright holder.