Collections and Resources, Events, Literary, Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Wordsworth Mystery To Be Topic of Program March 17

Deciphering “Laverna,” an Unpublished Poem by William Wordsworth
Thursday, March 17, 2011
5 p.m. Reception | 5:45 p.m. Program
Wilson Special Collections Library, Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza TerllFriends of the Library, (919) 962-4207

A poem left incomplete and unpublished by William Wordsworth will be the topic of a collective sleuthing effort March 17 in UNC’s Wilson Library.

Wordsworth expert Paul Betz will lead a participatory exploration of “Laverna.” With audience assistance, Betz will attempt to decode Wordsworth’s notoriously difficult handwriting; to work out when, where, and why the poem was composed; and to determine why Wordsworth failed to complete it.

The program will celebrate a gift of more than 1,700 volumes of Wordsworth’s poetry, from Mark L. Reed III, professor emeritus of English at UNC, to the Rare Book Collection in the Wilson Special Collections Library. Highlights from the Wordsworth Collection will be on display during the event.

Reed, a Wordsworth scholar, is best known for his critical edition of the thirteen-book Prelude and his Wordsworth chronologies published by Harvard University Press.

“This gift is transformative for UNC,” said Claudia Funke, curator of rare books.

The Wordsworth Collection is remarkable in its own right, said Funke. But combined with existing collections devoted to Byron and Keats, she said, it solidifies Wilson Library’s position as one of the major repositories in the United States for printed editions of the British Romantic writers.

The collection contains Wordsworth’s first book publications, as well as almost all of the dozens of lifetime “library” editions of his works. It is especially strong in so-called “popular” printings published after the poet’s death in 1850. These are the editions through which most Victorian readers came to know and appreciate Wordsworth.

Betz, a leading Wordsworth scholar and good friend of Reed, retired in 2007 from Georgetown University. He has served as president of the Wordsworth Trust America.

The Wordsworth Collection is being cataloged and will be available to readers for use in the Wilson Special Collections Reading Room. For information about the collection, contact Claudia Funke, (919) 962-1143, cfunke@email.unc.edu.

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