Stevenson MSS in Philadelphia
A few days ago, Glenda Norquay, researching in Princeton for her edition of St. Ives, came across the Literary MSS finding aid of the Free Library of Philadelphia, and saw that it contains, unexpectedly, sixteen RLS manuscripts. A few of these were catalogued by the Library when Roger Swearingen’s compiled his Prose Works of Robert Louis Stevenson and are found there (the Earraid sketchbook, the fragment of Sophia Scarlet), but this new finding aid (published 2012) reveals a number of items (subsequently acquired or catalogued) that came as a complete surprise:
Autograph manuscript signed (fragment) of Weir of Hermiston. 4 pages
Two copies of Deacon Brodie with corrections in Stevenson’s hand
Corrected proof sheets of Memories and Portraits (‘1 volume’—no information on the number of pages; could this be proofs for the whole volume?)
South Seas material, from “Part V. The Gilberts. XLVIII. Butaritari”, 2 pp.
MS of part of ch XIX of The Wrecker (probably precede the 5 leaves at Princeton), 19 leaves, making this the most important fragment of MS material of this work
Corrected copy of Father Damien
Fragment of Weir of Hermiston, 4 pp.
Autograph manuscript signed (draft) of several verses and revisions, with a sketch, 1 page (“Previously identified as intended for A Child’s Garden of Verses, but unpublished there.”)
A finding aid to finding the finding aid
Archive material may be fully available and exhaustively catalogued, but sometimes the catalogue (or the MS finding aid) is very difficult to find. When Gill Hughes told me about Glenda’s discovery, I went to the home page of the FLP and searched for ‘special collections’, ‘rare books’ and manuscripts’—no joy. Then I tried the green side-tab ‘Explore’, and then the top-tab ‘Find a location’—but for all my exploration, never a thing did I find. So I tried ‘Programs and Services’ (could that cover library departments?) and finally found ‘Rare Books Department’. Hooray! So I clicked on that, clicked on ‘Collections’ and then on ‘Literature – Learn more’ which contained links to… only two finding aids: Dickens and Poe. No mention of Stevenson. I’d reached a dead-end.
Research in these labyrinths his slaves detains…
In the meantime a kind friend sent me the pdf, but I was determined to find the dang thing myself. This is how I did it: I clicked on Ask, made a desultory stab at Browse or Search FLP Knowledge Base (who knows?), browsed, searched, then found and clicked ‘Rare Books’ (I’d been given a help: Gill had told me the department was called by that name); this took me to Rare Books FAQ, where FAQ-18 is ‘Does the Rare Book Department have any finding aids?’ The brief answer to this has a clickable link which—unlike that decoy Rare Books page with only two finding aids—had the whole list. I’d finally reached the centre of the maze with the champaign luncheon! And there it was: Literary Manuscripts Collection, readable online or downloadable as pdf.