The Department's holdings in the history, literature, culture, and politics of Ireland from the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth century are concentrated in three named collections, the James F. Spoerri Collection of James Joyce, the W. B. Yeats Collection, and the P. S. O'Hegarty Collection. However, there also exist extensive Irish holdings in the general Rare Book Collection, making the combined Irish holdings among the most significant and sizable outside of Ireland.
For tips on searching Spencer's Irish collections and for a listing of our Irish manuscript holdings, please consult our Irish Collections LibGuide.
James F. Spoerri Collection of James Joyce
A collection of over 900 James Joyce items. The collection is unusually complete in printed material in both book and periodical form, including all first editions of Joyce's works except five minor items printed for copyright purposes which exist in only one, two, or three copies.
In 1953 the Library acquired from the Chicago attorney and book collector James F. Spoerri his collection of James Joyce, commencing what has proved to be a continuing interest in the literature and history of Ireland. This collection of over 900 items is unusually complete in printed material in both book and periodical form, including all first editions of Joyce's works except five minor items printed for copyright purposes which exist in only one, two, or three copies. It contains nearly all the books and pamphlets devoted entirely to the author and his works and over two hundred books and periodicals containing critical and biographical material.
Particularly uncommon items in the Joyce collection are copies of the two broadsides, The Holy Office (1904 or 1905) and Gas from a Burner (1912), the latter bearing in holograph the author's story of the destruction of the first (Dublin) edition of Dubliners. Also present are all three states of the first edition of Ulysses (1922), as well as a copy of the first edition of Ulysses in French, signed by Stuart Gilbert, who oversaw the translation, and inscribed by Joyce to his daughter Lucia on the date of issue; this copy has the novelty of bearing the strange post-mortem bookplate of the author. There is also a copy of the elusive Pomes Penyeach (Cleveland, 1931).
P. S. O'Hegarty Collection
A collection of 25,000 items from the library of P. S. O'Hegarty, with incredible depth in Irish literature, history, and politics, including periodicals and ephemera.
In 1959 the University of Kansas acquired the remainder of the library of P. S. O'Hegarty, former Secretary of the Irish Post Office and an avid book collector, from whom the Yeats Collection had already been acquired. The 25,000 items of this purchase, the greater part of which is now housed as a group in the Department of Special Collections, immeasurably strengthened our resources in Anglo-Irish literature and history, giving rise to new interests and new courses.
The Irish literary renaissance figures other than Yeats are here in profusion: the Abbey Theatre plays; an extensive group of Abbey Theatre programs, more than 160 of them ranging from 1904 to 1922; the plays of Lady Gregory and of Synge; the complete output of the Dun Emer and Cuala presses, including the broadsides and other ephemera; books and periodicals reflecting this national literary movement.
Irish history, from the seventeenth century to the revolutionary movements of the twentieth century, is extraordinarily well-represented, with newspapers, propaganda pamphlets, broadsheets, local history publications, songs, and scholarly works. Indeed the Irish holdings of the O'Hegarty library, taken together with the Joyce collection, the Sean O'Casey publications given to the Library by Franklin D. Murphy, former Chancellor of the University, and the earlier Irish writers already in the collections, give Kansas outstandingly strong Hibernian resources.
In addition to its Irish riches, the O'Hegarty Library contains excellent holdings in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century English literature, and children's literature, especially nineteenth-century boys' books and magazines.
W. B. Yeats Collection
A premier W. B. Yeats collection containing all but two of his works in first edition, numerous periodical publications, and several score of books from his personal library (including copies of his own works with his annotations) or having close association in one way or another with the Yeats family.
In 1955 the Library purchased from P. S. O'Hegarty, former Secretary of the Irish Post Office, one of the premier collections of William Butler Yeats. O'Hegarty, a one-time member of several revolutionary groups, bookseller, historian, bibliographer and editor, was well-acquainted with most of the legendary figures of the Irish literary renaissance, Yeats and his family, Synge, Lady Gregory, and the Abbey Theatre group, and this acquaintance produced a matchless opportunity for the collection of their works as they appeared.
The William Butler Yeats collection is a remarkably rich one: all of Yeats' works in first edition except the very scarce Mosada (1886) and The Hour-Glass (1903), with many later and variant editions and printings; books edited or containing contributions by Yeats; several score of books from his personal library (including copies of his own works with his annotations) or having close association in one way or another with the Yeats family; runs of periodicals with which he was associated, such as Samhain, The Arrow, Shanachie, and Dana; many single issues of periodicals in which material by or about Yeats appeared, including particularly elusive journals such as the Kilkenny Monitor and the Irish Home Reading Magazine; even the published Debates of the Irish Parliament in which Yeats was a Senator from the beginning.