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Rare book collection donated to Milner

Robert Graves image from the Poetry Foundation

Robert Graves image from the Poetry Foundation

Illinois State University’s Milner Library announced the addition of the Robert Graves Collection to the Special Collections Department.

Graves, who is perhaps best known for his well-researched historical fiction I, Claudius series, was a poet, novelist, critic and historian. A survivor of World War I, he is often recognized as one of the great figures of 20th century English poetry and literature.

The collection, donated by former Illinois State Provost John Presley and his wife Katherine, includes books, annotated bibliographies and poetry from Graves. “There are some autographed copies, some books that are clear variations on what bibliographers have described, some very rare WW II versions and first editions – even Canadian first editions,” said Presley.

Much of the material from the collection was used for research by Presley, who is a Graves scholar. “I hope the collection takes people in new directions,” said Presley, who noted faculty members and students can approach pieces for different reasons. “Drafts of the proposed I, Claudius film scripts could be used to study draft sequences, revision patterns, authenticity and even authorship.”

Milner Library Dean Dane Ward said that the collection of materials is unique for Milner. “It is a relatively rare event for an academic library to receive a collection of works that have been carefully developed over the lifetime of such a well-regarded scholar as John Presley.”

The addition of the collection, which has been in the works for a year, adds a new dimension to the department, said Maureen Brunsdale, head of Special Collections. “The Graves material not only offers new insights into a great writer, but provides amazing access for students, scholars and the public to his work,” she said.

Ward added that the collection speaks to the idea that Graves’ work goes beyond the famed I, Claudius. “He also interpreted a large number of mythological tales, reinterpreted British mythology in The White Goddess: A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, and reworked the story of early Christianity in The Nazarene Gospel Restored,” said Ward, who was instrumental in bringing the collection to the library. “There are many intriguing directions to explore in Graves’ work.”

A list of items in the collection can be viewed online through the library catalog. The materials themselves may be accessed in the Special Collections Department of Milner Library.

For additional information, contact Brunsdale at (309) 438-5519.