Saturday 10 December 2016

Treasure Hunting in UBC's Rare Books Collection

 I’ve often dreamed of viewing Malcolm Lowry’s books and papers, which are part of the Rare Books & Special Collections at the University of British Columbia.

Events conspired and I had a chance in November to visit the collection. Now I understand why scholars from all over the world come to Vancouver to pour over Lowry’s writing with magnifying glasses.

The library is beautiful and well managed. No notebooks are allowed but the staff supply paper and pencils. Cameras are permitted, with conditions. I was given a nice overview and asked where I would like to start.

I decided to look through a box of photographs, mainly taken by Margerie and Malcolm after 1946. I also mentioned that I would like to see anything about Dylan Thomas’s visit to Vancouver. Dylan Thomas has several mentions in my radio play, October Ferries to Gabriola, as he and Lowry were friends and fellow writers. They met for the last time in 1950 when Thomas was touring, but there isn’t much information about the meeting.

Both had been working on their own masterpieces for years. Lowry had always used the title Under the Volcano, and it is generally agreed that Thomas changed the title of his play to Under Milkwood, as a tribute to Lowry.

So, there I was, with white gloves on, looking at a folder marked “Dylan Thomas.” The librarian opened it and said in a disappointed voice, “Oh, it’s a postcard.” A small item, but what a find! A personal note from Dylan Thomas to Malcolm Lowry, hoping they would be able to meet in Vancouver. For me it is proof of the affection Thomas had for Lowry. 

No comments:

Post a Comment