February 23, 2021, by Kathryn Steenson

Unlocking the DH Lawrence Collection

This is a post by Amy, D H Lawrence Project cataloguer.

After a delayed start due to Covid, work is currently underway on a two-year project aimed at making our D H Lawrence collections accessible to a wider audience. The project will incorporate a number of different elements, including the digitisation of Lawrence’s correspondence and literary manuscripts, the creation of brand new catalogues for previously unlisted sections of the collection, and an events programme centred around an exhibition at Lakeside Arts curated by world-renowned expert on DH Lawrence, Dr Andrew Harrison from the School of English.

Young male wearing a face mask places a document on a black covered table beneath an overhead camera

Digitisation Assistant Jonny Davis capturing high quality images of our DH Lawrence literary manuscripts

The digitisation strand of the project will see the creation of over 10,000 high quality digital images of our unique Lawrence literary manuscripts, letters and artworks. Sixteen percent of the images will be from The White Peacock, the only example of a manuscript novel by Lawrence remaining in the United Kingdom today.

Young woman wearing a mask looking at the camera, standing in front of shelves of archive boxes, next to a table on which is a laptop, archive documents and books.

Cataloguer Amy Bowler at work appraising and repackaging the Cambridge University Press editorial papers

Anyone familiar with early 20th century archival collections knows just how vulnerable they can be. Our Lawrence manuscripts are no exception, many being written in soft pencil on thin, acidic paper, or bound using poor quality materials and workmanship, which has led to important marginalia being obscured. The preservation work carried out will mean that in a few cases the manuscripts and artworks will be seen in their original state for the first time in decades, whilst digitisation will reduce the need to handle the fragile originals.

Black book cover with a photo of DH Lawrence and the text The Letter of D H Lawrence

Advertisement for Cambridge University Press Lawrence edition books, DH Lawrence Collection, From La E 1/1.

Black book cover showing a white phoenix rising above red flames under the title Books on D H Lawrence

Advertisement for Cambridge University Press Lawrence edition books, DH Lawrence Collection, From La E 1/1












The cataloguing strand of the project will provide access to previously uncatalogued sections of our Lawrence Collection. These are papers relating to the Cambridge University Press edition of the Letters and Works of D.H. Lawrence, and related research papers of the late James T. Boulton (1924-2013), a former University of Nottingham academic and one of the foremost Cambridge editors. Work on the Cambridge edition started in the late 1960s with the aim of publishing every single extant letter written by Lawrence, and soon evolved into an ambitious project to publish a scholarly edition of Lawrence’s complete works, a three-volume biography, and a comprehensive bibliography of everything written by the author. The papers at Manuscripts and Special Collections document over 40 years of editorial work and painstaking academic research by the Cambridge team.

The ‘Unlocking the DH Lawrence Collection’ project is funded by the Arts Council England Designation Development Fund , and runs until March 2022.

The editorial board at the DH Lawrence Letters Conference, 13-14 September 1973. Keith Sagar is sat at the head of the table with Michael Black and David Farmer on one side, and Gerald Lacy and Harry T. Moore on the other. DH Lawrence Collection, La E 1/2/6/1/2/3


The DH Lawrence collections are available to view by appointment in our Reading Room on King’s Meadow Campus. There is currently some disruption to service caused by coronavirus restrictions, so please check out the latest opening hours on our homepage. You can also read more about our Covid-19 precautions on our blog.

Our enquiry and copying service are operating as normal.





Posted in Projects