Morgan

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The Edwin Morgan Collection

The Mitchell Library has a large amount of material donated by the well-known Glasgow poet - and first Scottish 'Makar' - Edwin Morgan (1920-2010). As well as manuscripts, photographs and other items, the largest part of the collection is Morgan's own working library.


About Edwin Morgan

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“I’ve always been equally attracted to something that’s intensely local and things that are international. I don’t know how far back this goes, but it must presumably go pretty far back…An interest in science as well as the arts for example. I never thought there should be a split between the famous two cultures. I think if you think in that kind of way, you don’t find dilemma or split or paradox really in writing sometime about your own native place which in my case is Glasgow, and something which perhaps is science fiction or relates to some other country or culture altogether. It just seems to come naturally to me and I just go on doing it.” Edwin Morgan, Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on work and life (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1990)

Born in Glasgow, Edwin Morgan lived there all his life, except for service with the RAMC, and his poetry is grounded in the city.  Yet the title of his 1973 collection, From Glasgow to Saturn, suggests the enormous range of Morgan's subject matter. He was Glasgow's first Poet Laureate 1999-2002, and the first to hold the post of 'Scots Makar', created by the Scottish Executive in 2004 to recognise the achievement of Scottish poets throughout the centuries. 

Read full biographies at the Scottish Poetry Library's website and the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


About the collection

The Library

The collection contains Morgan’s large collection of books. His library showcases his wide range of interests – both academic and personal. Browse or search the online catalogue, you will find books on language texts, novels, translations, science texts, history, travel, art, and many, many volumes of poetry. A large number of the books contain inserts inside the front cover, added by Morgan. Press cuttings and book reviews are often found, though some books come with an inscription, card or postcard, sent to Morgan from the author, almost all starting with ‘Dear Eddie…’

A reader may request a book from the collection, only to find it has a selection of words or paragraphs carefully cut out from the pages. Morgan began creating scrapbooks in the 1930s, eventually amassing around 3600 pages. The scrapbooks included cuttings from books, newspapers and magazines, as well photographs and his own illustrations and notes. His well-used copy of Sweet’s ‘Anglo-Saxon Reader’ has had many segments cut out – and some even pasted back in! Some of the cut-out passages were pasted in to his scrapbooks, which are held in Archives and Special Collections in the University of Glasgow. Their blog post describes cut-outs and includes examples from the Mitchell collection. The Digitising Morgan website has many examples of Morgan's scrapbooks.

 

Art

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Paintbox

The poet had a keen interest in art from a young age, creating his own art work and then, later in life, becoming a collector. Alongside a small case containing paint, brushes and other art supplies, The Mitchell holds a number of his original artworks. These sketches and etchings, as well as a set of surrealist tablemats, were displayed in the library as part of the exhibition ‘Edwin Morgan: Drawings, etchings, etc. 1932-1943’ in June 1981

 

Photographs and slides

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Photographic album, 1937-1945

As with much of Morgan’s work, this collection contains photographs of his local and international interests. There are many photographs and slides of Glasgow, including friends, partners, family and many photos of his flat and landscapes taken around the city. Equally, there are many photographs of his travels – from destinations around Scotland and the rest of the UK, to travels around the world, including his time spent serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps during WWII.

 

Manuscripts

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Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. Edited, with introduction, bibliography, notes, glossary, and appendices by Friedrich Klaeber. DC Heath and Company. 1936. Newspaper, magazine and book cuttings, correspondence, postcards and photocopy inside front cover, with annotations by Edwin Morgan. Text in English and Anglo-Saxon

The Mitchell houses a number of Morgan’s original manuscript writings. Highlights include:

  • A small pocket diary from 1933, inside which Morgan has listed ‘Books I have read (1927-1940). The list of these books can be found in ‘Nothing Not Giving Messages: Reflections on work and life’ (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1990)
  • A notebook filled with words and definitions. The 79 completed pages include entries written in Morgan’s recognisable script as well as cut-outs from newspapers and books. Featuring languages from across the world and through the ages, the dictionary reflects Morgan’s love and study of words and illuminates his creative process.
  • The Beowulf Manuscript. Running to 3,182 lines, Beowulf is the longest poem written in Old English. The original medieval manuscript, likely copied out during the 11th century, is held in the British Library. The number of translations of the poem is extensive and includes writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and Seamus Heaney. Morgan began work on his translation in the 1940s, after serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps during WW2. His copy was published in 1952 by The Hand and Flower Press. 50 years later, the publisher Carcanet republished the title.

“(Morgan’s) collection of Old English materials held in the Mitchell Library is not that of a poetry reader who has a passing interest in medieval verse. It would be quite unremarkable if Morgan had been a professional scholar of Old English, teaching the subject year in year out at Glasgow University. But Morgan was not. Like the notes taken in his undergraduate jotters, Morgan’s library of Old English shows a commitment to the subject that, for a non-specialist reader, bordered on the obsessive.” From Chris Jones, ‘While Crowding Memories Came: Edwin Morgan Old English and Nostalgia’, Scottish Literary Review, Vol.4 No.2 2012

 

Miscellaneous

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Matt McGinn record album

The collection includes a small vinyl record collection as well as ephemera from various events, exhibitions and readings such as leaflets, posters and invitations.

 


Finding aid

The Edwin Morgan Showcase lets you browse through the online catalogue records and discover a wealth of information about Edwin Morgan and his works.


Further reading and resources

Edwin Morgan Trust

The Concrete World of Edwin Morgan (17 minute video)


Image gallery

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Example of one of Edwin Morgan's notebooks

 

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Example of one of Edwin Morgan's notebooks

 

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Notebook cover

 

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Diary cover

 

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Diary 1933

 

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Photos by Morgan of Glasgow landscapes, September 1982

 

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Edwin Morgan's Glasgow flat, August 1984

 

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Edwin Morgan's desk, 1987

 

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Beowulf manuscript

 

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Beowulf manuscript, page 27

 

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Beowulf manuscript, glossary

 


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