The special interest of the library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Walker Percy began in the early 1980s, when the noted American novelist and UNC alumnus (B.S., 1937) agreed to place his papers on deposit in the Southern Historical Collection (now part of the Manuscripts Department) in Wilson Library. Following the author's death in 1990, the Percy family formally deeded the manuscript materials to the library, and in 1999 they transferred ownership of Percy's very large working library to the Rare Book Collection in Wilson Library. Throughout much of this period the Rare Book Collection has been active in developing an extensive collection of first and other important lifetime editions of Percy's writings. Together these materials constitute the most comprehensive resource for the study of Percy and his writings in North America.
The exhibition on view in the Rare Book Collection presents a sampling of these manuscript and printed materials in an effort to illustrate the breadth and depth of the exceptional Percy holdings at UNC. We also hope that the display of these diverse materials will suggest how they complement and reinforce each other, providing different angles from which to approach the study of this fascinating author and offering scholars and students the possibility of fresh and expanded insights into the author's life, writings, and creative process.
We would like to acknowledge the generous cooperation of the Manuscripts Department in allowing us to display some of the remarkable holdings from the Percy Papers as well as selections from the closely related papers of Shelby Foote and Robert Coles. We are also indebted to the North Carolina Collection and the Photographic Services Department in Wilson Library for providing both textual and photographic materials relating to Percy's experiences as a student here at UNC. Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to Mary Bernice Townsend Percy for giving us permission to borrow and reproduce photographic images of her husband for use in the exhibition.