Ballard archive saved for nation

  • Published

The archive of visionary writer JG Ballard has been acquired for the nation.

The 15 large storage boxes containing manuscripts, notebooks and letters offer an "extraordinary insight" into the novelist, said the British Library.

Empire of the Sun author Ballard died in April 2009 at the age of 78.

The library will hold the archive, which has been acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, satisfying £350,000 of tax.

The papers cover Ballard's output from 1962's The Drowned World to Miracles of Life in 2008.

They demonstrate how his fiction and memoirs were composed, and include corrections written on A4 sheets of paper, as well as notebooks filled with ideas such as: "Topics that interest me - airports ideas re passengers take over airport & establish a city-state."

His manuscript for 1984's Empire of the Sun runs to 840 numbered pages and contains "extensive" re-workings, the British Library said.

Other items include photographs of a young Ballard with his family, and ephemera including school reports, passports and his birth certificate.

The archive takes up around 12 linear metres in shelf space in the British Library and is expected to be fully accessible by summer 2011.

Public access

Before his death, Ballard had expressed a wish to his two daughters, Fay and Bea, that the archive should be kept at the Library.

They said in a statement that they were "pleased" the documents would be made widely available to the general public.

"The material has been gathered from his home to offer an insight into his creative process," they said.

Image caption,
The archive includes the heavily revised typescript for Crash

"We hope the public will come and read his manuscripts, notebooks, letters and more, knowing that these materials will be cared for by the British Library in perpetuity."

Jamie Andrews, head of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, welcomed the acquisition.

"It's hugely exciting that the British Library has acquired the pre-eminent archive of one of Britain's most consistently inventive and thoughtful writers: J G Ballard," he said.

"Our sincerest thanks go to the Ballard family for entrusting us with this archive and we look forward to making this fascinating collection accessible to a wide public over the coming years."

The archive was acquired through the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme, which has previously helped the Library secure the archives of John Berger, Ted Hughes and Harold Pinter.

The scheme, managed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), is one of the primary ways of ensuring that important cultural treasures pass into the UK's public collections

MLA chair Sir Andrew Motion said: "The preservation of our literary heritage is a matter of vital importance - and it's tremendously good to know that the expertise and attention of those on the panel of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme has been able to secure the papers of such a powerful, original and distinctive writer as JG Ballard."