Exploring Leonard and Virginia Woolf’s Personal Library: Mirrors of the Soul?

By Jane de Gay.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will present findings from archival research in the personal library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, now housed at Washington State University, Pullman USA. Focusing on a set of specific examples, the paper discusses how much we can learn about the Woolfs’ interests from the contents of the collection and what we learn about their reading methods from the marks of use and even abuse they left on the volumes they owned. Acknowledging that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions simply by examining the collection itself, the paper tests findings against further evidence from their published writings and Virginia Woolf’s reading notebooks. The paper asks whether the collection bears out Virginia Woolf’s ironic comment in her novel ‘Between the Acts’ that books are ‘the mirror of the soul’. The paper makes an unashamed case for the importance of the printed book as artefact.

Keywords: Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Library, Reading

The International Journal of the Book, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.41-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 770.264KB).

Revd Dr. Jane de Gay

Associate Principal Lecturer in English, Humanities Department, Leeds Trinity University College, Leeds, UK

Revd Dr. Jane de Gay is Associate Principal Lecturer in English and Director of MA Programmes in Humanities at Leeds Trinity University College, and is also an Anglican priest. She is the author of the monograph Virginia Woolf’s Novels and the Literary Past (Edinburgh University Press, 2006) and several articles on Virginia Woolf. With Marion Dell, she is editor of Voyages Out, Voyages Home, selected papers from the 11th Annual Virginia Woolf Conference (Clemson University Digital Press, 2010). She delivered a keynote paper at the 2007 Annual Virginia Woolf Conference in Oxford, Ohio USA, and also gave the Virginia Woolf Birthday Lecture in London, England in 2009.

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