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Harry Ransom Center

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Harry Ransom Center

300 W 21st St, Austin, TX 78712, USA

Open today · 10AM–5PMFriday10AM–5PMSaturday12–5PMSunday12–5PMMonday10AM–5PMTuesday10AM–5PMWednesday10AM–5PMThursday10AM–7PM

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird

University of Texas at Austin, Blanton Museum of Art, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Bullock Texas State Hist, Texas Memorial Museum


Encouraging discovery an introduction to the harry ransom center

The Harry Ransom Center is an archive, library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States and Europe for the purpose of advancing the study of the arts and humanities. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs, and more than 100,000 works of art. The Center has a reading room for scholars and galleries which display rotating exhibitions of works and objects from the collections.


mad men archive donated to harry ransom center

History of the Center

Harry Ransom founded the Humanities Research Center in 1957 with the ambition of expanding the rare books and manuscript holdings of the University of Texas. He acquired the Edward Alexander Parsons Collection, the T. Edward Hanley Collection, and the Norman Bel Geddes Collection.

Ransom himself was the official director of the Center for only the years 1958 to 1961, but he directed and presided over a period of great expansion in the collections until his resignation in 1971 as Chancellor of the University of Texas System. The Center moved into its current building in 1972.

F. Warren Roberts was the official director from 1961 to 1976 and acquired the Helmut Gernsheim Collection of photographs, the archives of D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, and Evelyn Waugh, and in 1968 the Carlton Lake Collection.

After Roberts's tenure, John Payne and then Carlton Lake served as interim directors from 1976 to 1980. It was during this time (in 1978) that the Center acquired its complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

In 1980, the Center hired Decherd Turner as director. Turner acquired the Giorgio Uzielli Collection of Aldine editions, the Anne Sexton archive, the Robert Lee Wolff Collection of 19th-century fiction, the Pforzheimer Collection, the David O. Selznick archive, the Gloria Swanson archive, and the Ernest Lehman Collection. Upon Decherd Turner's retirement in 1988, Thomas F. Staley became director of the Center. Staley has acquired the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers, a copy of the Plantin Polyglot Bible, and more than 100 literary archives. In September 2013, Stephen Enniss was appointed director of the Ransom Center. Enniss was formerly the Head Librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Notable collections

The two most prominent items in the Ransom Center's collections are a Gutenberg Bible (one of only 21 complete copies known to exist) and Nicéphore Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras, the first successful permanent photograph from nature. Both of these objects are on permanent display in the main lobby.

Beyond these, the Center houses many culturally important documents and artifacts. Particular strengths include modern literature, performing arts, and photography. Besides the Gutenberg Bible and the photograph, notable holdings include:


  • Three copies of the First Folio of William Shakespeare's plays
  • A suppressed first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, one of only 23 copies known to exist.
  • The first edition of the book Os Lusíadas, printed in 1572.
  • The personal libraries of writers such as Ezra Pound, Evelyn Waugh, Alice Corbin Henderson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the Coleridge family
  • Extensive manuscript collections of Lewis Carroll, Doris Lessing, Aleister Crowley, James Joyce, T. E. Lawrence, D. H. Lawrence, T.H. White, Carson McCullers, Norman Mailer, Anne Sexton, Don DeLillo, Graham Greene, Brian Moore, Erle Stanley Gardner, David Foster Wallace, Julian Barnes, Elizabeth Bowen, J. M. Coetzee, Kazuo Ishiguro, Julia Alvarez, Billy Collins, T. C. Boyle, McSweeney's, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Ian McEwan.
  • Edgar Allan Poe's writing desk
  • A large collection of rare and valuable comic books
  • A writing journal kept by Jack Kerouac in preparation for writing On the Road
  • The Cardigan manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
  • The rare original first edition of Liber Al (among other original Crowley First Editions), also known as the Vellum books but more popularly known as the Holy Book of Thelema by Aleister Crowley.
  • Tarot cards hand-colored by Aleister Crowley
  • Theatre and Performing Arts

  • The papers of Stella Adler, David Mamet, Arthur Miller, David Hare, George Bernard Shaw, Tom Stoppard, Tennessee Williams, Harry Houdini, Lillian Hellman, Samuel Beckett, Laurette Taylor, Paul Bowles, Audrey Wood, Adrienne Kennedy, T. S. Eliot, John Osborne, Edward Gordon Craig, J. B. Priestely, Arnold Wesker, Terrence McNally, Sandy Wilson, Jule Styne, Harry Frazee, Frith Banbury, Richard Buckle, James Roose-Evans, Spalding Gray, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Jerome Weidman, James Purdy, and many others.
  • The organizational archives of B. J. Simmons, Theatre Guild, and the College of Fellows of the American Theatre.
  • An extensive library of early modern plays and theatrical books including three Shakespeare First Folios and one of only three known copies of the 1594 quarto of the True Tragedie of Richard the Third published by an anonymous writer.
  • A historic collection of 19th and 20th century portrait photography of actors and dancers, and production photography holdings including Joseph Abeles and Leo Friedman, Fred Fehl, and Bob Golby.
  • Design archives of Norman Bel Geddes, Gordon Conway, Eldon Elder, and Boris Aronson.
  • David Garrick's diary from his 1751 trip to Paris, which formerly belonged to Harry Houdini.
  • John Wilkes Booth's personal production promptbook for Richard III.
  • Original costumes from the Ballets Russes including pieces from Narcisse and The Rite of Spring. Design holdings include two of Pablo Picasso's costume designs and a set design from The Three-Cornered Hat.
  • The original manuscripts for George Aiken's 1852 stage adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the archive of its producing company, George C. Howard.
  • A 1730 manuscript of George Frideric Handel's Coronation Anthems made by his principal copyist.
  • Film and Television

  • The papers of Robert De Niro, David O. Selznick, Nicholas Ray, Edward Carrick, Alfred Junge, Jay Presson Allen, Lewis Allen, Ernest Lehman, King Vidor, Tobe Hooper and Gloria Swanson.
  • Selected costumes, script drafts, storyboards, and audition tapes from Gone with the Wind. These are part of the David O. Selznick Collection
  • Unused props designed by Salvador Dalí to have been used in the dream sequence in Spellbound
  • The sunglasses worn by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard
  • Scripts, drafts, notes, props, costumes, digital video and research material from the American television series Mad Men
  • Art

  • Two paintings by Frida Kahlo: Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird and Still Life (with Parrot and Fruit)
  • A complete set of Picasso's Vollard Suite
  • A she-wolf statue carved in stone and coated with gold leaf (now worn off) by Eric Gill, creator of Gill Sans
  • Busts of various writers (on display in the lobby and reading room)
  • Large holdings in art by writers and portraits of literary figures
  • Facsimile of the piano suite Gaspard de la nuit composed by Maurice Ravel
  • History

  • A 16th-century globe designed by Gerardus Mercator
  • Kraus Map Collection, a 16th- and 17th-century cartographic collection
  • An official declaration by Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The love letters of the Mexican Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Carlota
  • Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's notes, interviews, manuscripts, and other documents relating to the Watergate scandal
  • References

    Harry Ransom Center Wikipedia

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