Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gene Wolfe holdings at the Merril Collection

Late last year I completed a three-week professional placement at the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy at the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library for my Master of Information Studies (Librarianship) - I wrote a bit about the experience on my other blog. One thing I loved about the Merril Collection was its extensive holdings of Gene Wolfe material, including many of the limited/special editions produced by small presses. As I was sifting through some photos recently, I thought I'd post a few here, for those readers and collectors interested in the bibliographic side of Wolfe's work.

Most of the Merril Collection's Wolfe holdings are in their main run of fiction and spread across three shelves. All of the hardcovers' dustjackets are in archival sleeves and the particularly fragile materials are in archival boxes - I love seeing books so well preserved!

I took the time, while I was at the collection, to check out some of the hard-to-find (and now incredibly expensive) printings of some of Wolfe's shorter fiction, such as this stunning embroidered and illustrated copy of Empires of Foliage and Flower (Cheap Street, 1987):

I think the collection also holds a complete set of the small Cheap Street chapbooks that were originally sent out as 'greeting cards', including "The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin Is The Sun" and "The Arimaspian Legacy" (pictured below with the original artwork used for its cover, and the covers of some other Cheap Street chapbooks):

Hidden in the basement of the Lillian H. Smith branch is the Merril Collection's store room, which contains many shelves of uncatalogued foreign language materials, including many foreign language Wolfe books donated by Wolfe himself, who has visited and spoken at the Merril Collection several times. I found these very interesting for the different cover art they used - I've noticed that there is almost no consistency between how different cover artists depict Severian and Silk, in particular (check out Hoof&Hide's great Wolfe cover art gallery for more examples of this).

Czech translation of The Shadow of the Torturer
Polish translation of The Shadow of the Torturer
French translation of Lake of the Long Sun
Spanish translation of There Are Doors

As I was rummaging through the store room, I stumbled upon some of the Merril Collection's ephemera and manuscripts, including a manuscript of Wolfe's Letters Home, which collects some of the letters he wrote to his parents during the Korean War:

So, there you have it, a brief recap of some of the great Wolfe holdings at the Merril Collection. If you're in Toronto, I strongly recommended checking out the library, especially if you're a Wolfe fan!