Titled "Mr. Shaw’s Time Is Filled Up for Months to Come," the exclusive exhibit is comprised of a striking array of items -- including priceless original manuscripts, first editions and signed books, letters, photographs, programs, playbills and paintings -- drawn from the archive which the Sunday Times called "one of the world's most important collections" of material related to the Anglo-Irish comic dramatist George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), winner of the 1925 Nobel Prize for Literature and regarded as one of the greatest playwrights of the modern era for such works as Major Barbara, Pygmalion and Saint Joan.
"This is considered by many to have been the finest Shaw collection in private hands," said Boston College Burns Librarian Robert O'Neill. "It catapults our holdings into a place among the major Shaw collections in the world," he said, and represents a significant addition to the Boston College Irish Collection, already considered to be the premier, most comprehensive repository of Irish research materials in the United States.
"The exhibit from the collection is titled 'Mr. Shaw's Time Is Filled Up for Months to Come' because that reflects the busy and very long life of George Bernard Shaw," added the exhibit's principal curator David Horn, who heads the library's archives and manuscripts department. "He facilitated replies to his many correspondents by using pre-printed post cards, and the title is a quotation from one of them. We hope the exhibit will be busy – will attract many visitors -- in the months it is on display."
The exhibit is one of the largest showings ever at Burns Library, occupying all display areas on the building's main floor. It is drawn from the Burns Library's Samuel N. Freedman George Bernard Shaw Collection, acquired in 2002, which contains more than 3,400 items amassed from the 1950s to the end of the 20th century by private collector Samuel Freedman, a rare books and manuscripts dealer. The acquisition was made possible by the library's Brian P. Burns Endowed Acquisitions Fund.
Specifically, the collection encompasses approximately 3,000 books and other printed items, including many pamphlets written by Shaw on all the controversial subjects of his day: education, war and peace, socialism, every aspect of economics, relations between England and Ireland, and the like, according to Horn.
Shaw was a socialist, a pacifist and a vegetarian, Horn notes, and his opinions on these and other subjects are expressed at length in the collection. Hundreds of clippings also reflect his views in letters to newspapers and his replies to other letters.
The collection also holds more than 400 other items, among them portraits, photographs, programs, posters, letters and notes. In particular, a large number of playbills reveal the extensive and varied productions of Shaw's major and minor plays as well as offer insight into the playwright himself.
For example, a "Back to Methuselah" program on display is for a performance by the Arts Theatre Club in London in 1947. "Shaw used his plays to expound on his many social and economic theories," said Horn, "and this play reflects his views on the perfectibility of man -- if a person could live long enough.
"Another playbill is for Shaw's 'You Never Can Tell' -- the 103rd week of its run, dated November 1918," he added. "This play is a romantic comedy that addresses parent-child relationships and the equality of women in society."
The acquisition of the Shaw Collection enhanced the Boston College Irish Collection at Burns Library, widely regarded as the foremost assemblage of its kind outside Ireland. This comprehensive archive documents the history, life and culture of the Irish people, with strong holdings in Irish history, religion, politics, and literature, and including some of the world's finest archives related to Nobel Laureates William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.
The John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections is named in memory of the Honorable John J. Burns, a distinguished alumnus of the class of 1921 who became the University's first "Friend of the Library" and one of its principal benefactors. It was dedicated in 1986, and today is home to more than 160,000 volumes, 15 million manuscripts and impressive holdings of artifacts, maps, paintings, photographs, ephemera and architectural records.
"Mr. Shaw's Time Is Filled Up for Months to Come" -- Exhibition from the George Bernard Shaw Collection at The John J. Burns Library at Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, Mass. Free and open to the public. Hours: Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. or by appointment. Venue is handicapped accessible. For information the public may call: 617-552-3282.