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Documenting the quest to track down everything written by (and written about) the poet, translator, critic, and radio dramatist, Henry Reed.

An obsessive, armchair attempt to assemble a comprehensive bibliography, not just for the work of a poet, but for his entire life.

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Henry Reed, ca. 1960


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I Capture the Castle: A girl and her family struggle to make ends meet in an old English castle.
Dusty Answer: Young, privileged, earnest Judith falls in love with the family next door.
The Heat of the Day: In wartime London, a woman finds herself caught between two men.


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«  A Scholarly Adventure, Part I  »

Reeding Lessons: the Henry Reed research blog

20.11.2017


A Scholarly Adventure, Part I

My most recent adventure begins with, of all things, an online newsletter. Each Thursday, the Librarians' Internet Index, a librarian-selected and -organized catalog of the Web, publishes a list of websites new to their index: "New This Week." In last week's news, there is an entry for a 1999 exhibition by the University of Delaware's Special Collections: The Frank W. Tober Collection on Literary Forgery.

Tober was a chemist by profession, but his interests extended to the study of history, stamp and coin collecting, and a special fascination with the process, results, and detection of literary forgery.

The collection at the University of Delaware Library includes items relating to some of the greatest forgeries of the literary world, including the Ossian poet hoax, the fake Rowley poems, pamphlets forged by Wise and Buxton, and the bogus "Butterfly" books, among others.

A title in the section on "General Material on Forgery" caught my attention: The Scholar Adventurers, by Richard D. Altick (New York: Macmillan, 1950). The book is described as an examination of 'literature's most famous research puzzles,' which immediately piqued my curiousity. I tapped the title into our university's catalog and viola! I had a copy.

The catalog also revealed that the book is the first part of a trilogy which also contains Selective Bibliography for the Study of English and American Literature, and The Art of Literary Research.

I've read the first couple of chapters of the Adventurers, and I can easily say it is the most entertaining book about the pursuit of rare books and personal letters, forgers, and librarying I have read since Perez-Reverte's The Club Dumas, filled with thrilling anecdotes of discovery which take place in musty attics and library file drawers. But it was a few snippets from The Art of Literary Research which inspired my scholarly adventure. Before I even checked it out from the library, I turned to the chapter titled "Making Notes," and found all my labors instantly affirmed and validated:

For every book and article you consult, make out a bibliographical (three-by-five) slip. If your project is a fairly modest one, to be finished in one or two months' time, before your memory starts to fail, this point is not so important; in such a case, modify the rule to read 'for every book and article in which you find information.' But if you are working on a dissertation or book, it is extremely useful to keep a record of every source you examine, whether or not you take anything from it. A few months later, running across a reference to a certain article that sounds as if it might be valuable, you may forget whether or not you looked at it. Quick recourse to your file of bibliographical slips may save you, at the very least, the labor of hunting it down again in the library and, often, the trouble of re-reading it (p. 195-96).

In essence, that is exactly how I decided to proceed, more than a year ago, with my own project. Here, at last, is a research barometer by which I can measure the progress of the bibliography, and acquire new tricks of the trade. For example, Altick suggests using 3x5 slips of high-quality bond paper instead of index cards, since they take up less room. And he recommends typing each entry, instead of writing them by hand, for clarity. Oh, to live in a world where we each still have a manual Underwood typewriter on our desk. At least I have one benefit which Altick did not: an SQL database.

This long, holiday weekend, Altick's authority and enthusiasm inspired me to undertake an adventure that I had originally planned for over the Winter Break, but which, out of laziness and fear, I had ultimately eschewed in favor of cable television and take-away dinners. On Friday, I took the opportunity to revisit Library of Congress, and re-baptize myself in the purifying white light of a photocopier.

(To be continued....)


  1 Notation  »

David Brunton: "It was interesting to meet you at the LOC, and I enjoyed seeing your site. I was the one looking for the ACRI journal that "wasn't on the shelf." Hope you found what you were looking for!"

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Notation for "A Scholarly Adventure, Part I":
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What is Henry Reed's first name?

1513. Hodge, Alan. "Thunder on the Right." Tribune (London), 14 June 1946, 15.
Hodge finds 'dry charm as well as quiet wit' in "Judging Distances," but overall feels Reed is 'diffuse and not sufficiently accomplished.'



1st lesson:

Reed, Henry (1914-1986). Born: Birmingham, England, 22 February 1914; died: London, 8 December 1986.

Education: MA, University of Birmingham, 1936. Served: RAOC, 1941-42; Foreign Office, Bletchley Park, 1942-1945. Freelance writer: BBC Features Department, 1945-1980.

Author of: A Map of Verona: Poems (1946)
The Novel Since 1939 (1946)
Moby Dick: A Play for Radio from Herman Melville's Novel (1947)
Lessons of the War (1970)
Hilda Tablet and Others: Four Pieces for Radio (1971)
The Streets of Pompeii and Other Plays for Radio (1971)
Collected Poems (1991, 2007)
The Auction Sale (2006)


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