About the Woolfnotes Website

by Michèle Barrett

WoolfNotes.com is the website of a project to digitize Virginia Woolf’s reading and research notes, the last major Woolf materials as yet unpublished.  The aim is to make them accessible, in order to demonstrate the range of her scholarship and reading.  WoolfNotes.com provides high quality images of Virginia Woolf’s lifetime reading and research notes.  It shows how her writing, both fiction and non-fiction, was indebted to extensive and rigorous research on social, historical, economic, political and imperial issues.   This large collection of reading and research notes corrects the myth (partly generated by Woolf herself) that she was uneducated. 

The project started in 2016 as a collaboration between two Woolf scholars, Michèle Barrett and Brenda Silver, with the idea of juxtaposing the notebook manuscripts with Silver’s 1983 guide to their contents.  The technical director, Gilly Furse of Osprey Websites, has played an important role in bringing the project to fruition in this website.  The community of Woolf readers and scholars have engaged with this project and the team now includes Clara Jones, who will be taking the work forward.  Others who have provided assistance include Nadia Atia, Catherine Lee and Victoria Walker.

We would like to thank the bodies who provided modest funding for this project: Queen Mary School of English and Drama, the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy.  The Society of Authors, on behalf of the Woolf Estate, have given permission for the project to go ahead, and we are grateful to them.

Digitisation projects of this kind can be developed on the basis of extensive funding, but this was not the case for WoolfNotes.  I did some research on the notebooks while in receipt of a one year Leverhulme Scholarship; in addition the School of  English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London gave me £2k towards development costs, and the British Academy awarded a small grant of £9.6k. These monies covered the scanning costs and some of the technical director’s work with the archives and in processing the images.  The cost of development of the website was largely borne on a pro bono basis, for which Gilly Furse receives our heartfelt thanks. 

The website is open access, and free.  It is built in WordPress.

At this stage of the project, the aim has been simply to make available high-quality images of Woolf’s notes, with a certain amount of background information that should help readers to put them in context. Much of this material is notes that were taken for Woolf’s own use, and her handwriting can verge on the illegible. Transcriptions of some of the items included in WoolfNotes.com do currently exist, whether published or deposited in archives, and full details of these, along with other bibliographic materials, will be added to this website in due course.


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