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The Archibald Henderson Collection
of George Bernard Shaw

With several thousand bibliographical items by or about George Bernard Shaw, the Henderson Collection is the RBC's largest author collection and one of the most important concentrations of Shaw materials on either side of the Atlantic.

History of the Collection:

Shaw and Archibald HendersonArchibald Henderson, a professor of mathematics at the University of North Carolina, established the collection in 1948. He first met Shaw in 1904 when the author was still relatively unknown in the United States, and in 1911 he became Shaw's official biographer. Over the next several decades, Henderson published over seventy-five articles on the English playwright as well as three major biographies, including the highly acclaimed George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century (1956). During the course of his research Henderson attempted to acquire everything he could afford by or about Shaw, whether published in the United States, Great Britain, or Europe. After establishing the collection in the University Library, he added to it until his death in 1963. The collection continues to grow today through both gifts and purchases in the antiquarian book market.

Content of the Collection:

The Shaw Collection contains over 3,000 printed volumes; more than 1,000 playbills, programs and pictures of play productions; 350 photos and photographic reproductions; and 240 cartoons and caricatures of the author and his contemporaries. The collection also includes seventy-five scrapbooks containing hundreds of news clippings by and about Shaw covering the period from 1892 to 1973. The writings by Shaw extend from his first publication in 1884 to his death in 1950. Posthumously published editions continue to be acquired when they contain significant new textual or critical material.

The collection is exceptionally strong in life-time English language editions of the author. With Shaw's plays, for example, the RBC has virtually all the first editions, comprehensive holdings of later editions, and, most remarkably, fifty-five early proof or rehearsal copies. These last are often quite rare and represent important intermediate steps in the genesis of many of the plays between the original manuscript versions and the first editions. The collection extends far beyond Shaw's dramatic works and provides a remarkable documentation of the depth and diversity of his literary and political interests. The RBC holdings are notably strong in the author's ephemeral works, such as his contributions to the publications of the Fabian Society. It should also be noted that, because of his unique relationship to Shaw, many of Henderson's copies were inscribed to him by the playwright, sometimes with accompanying commentary on the contents or history of the text in question.

The RBC continues to add to the collection. Notable recent acquisitions included Shaw's own prompt copies of How He Lied to Her Husband: A Warning to Playgoers (London, ca. 1904) and The Shewing Up of Blanco Posnet (London, ca. 1909). Both copies contain minor corrections in the hand of the author.

The Henderson Collection also contains a substantial number of manuscripts, including correspondence between the playwright and his biographer and drafts of Henderson's writings (sometimes with accompanying comments and suggestions by Shaw). These along with other Shaw manuscript materials are housed separately in the Library's Manuscripts Department. An inventory is available at its web-site. See the inventory.

Access Tools:

The principal access tool for the collection is the card catalog in the Rare Book Collection. For materials acquired since 1979, readers may use the Library's on-line catalog. As the records of older materials are converted to machine-readable form, the on-line catalog will eventually provide access to the entire collection.

Supplementary access tools available on site include:

1. An annotated copy of Dan Lawrence's Bernard Shaw: A Bibliography (1983).

2. Daniel Breen. An Index to Cartoons and Caricatures Depicting George Bernard Shaw in the Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (A local index produced in 1983 and revised in 1988 by Elaine Mangrum.)

3. Daren Callahan. An Evaluative Study of the Shaw Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (Master's Thesis, UNC, 1989)

4. Elaine W. Mangrum. Index to Photographs in the Archibald Henderson Collection of George Bernard Shaw in the Rare Book Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (A local index produced in 1987).

5. Isabel Van Rennselaer Masterton. The Archibald Henderson Collection of Books and Other Materials Relating to George Bernard Shaw. (Master's Thesis, UNC, 1964)

Description Created: June 10, 1997