Discover Woolf’s Reading and Research Notebooks

King’s College London adopts WoolfNotes

We are delighted to announce that King’s College London is the new institutional home for WoolfNotes, where it will be steered by Woolf scholars, Clara Jones and Anna Snaith.  

Spearheaded by scholars Michèle Barrett and Brenda Silver, and technical director Gilly Furse, WoolfNotes is a major digital humanities project that brings into the public domain Woolf’s last remaining substantial unpublished work: her reading and research notes. Her personal reading and research notebooks demonstrate the depth of her historical knowledge and the wide range of her reading, casting new light on both her fiction and critical work. WoolfNotes presents high specification images of approximately 7000 manuscript and typescript pages from the archives of the Monks House Papers in Sussex (UK), the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, the Beinecke Library at Yale and the Smith College Special Collections, with the support of the Woolf Estate (managed by the Society of Authors). The open access availability of these materials, evidencing the extensive nature of Woolf’s scholarly research and reading, will change public perceptions of this important writer.  

The Project 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. 
At the core of the WoolfNotes project is the presentation of 67 Reading Notebooks, accompanied by the text of Brenda Silver’s authoritative summary of each one.  Of these 67, 33 notebooks are from the Woolf archive at The Keep in Sussex, 33 are from the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library, and 1 is from the Beinecke library at Yale.  The Notebooks themselves are mainly in Woolf’s handwriting, and can be difficult to read, making a summary of the contents extremely useful.  Silver’s guide was originally published in 1983, by Princeton University Press; it was digitised in 2017 and published by the University Press of New England.  WoolfNotes presents high quality images of all these Woolf Notebooks in conjunction with Silver’s detailed account of their contents.
WoolfNotes includes other materials….

The Background

Four articles giving in-depth background to this project about Woolf’s Reading and Research Notebooks

Brenda Silver

Original Introduction to Brenda Silver’s 1983 publication “Virginia Woolf’s READING NOTEBOOKS”. Plus link to the whole book online.

Michèle Barrett

Paper on WoolfNotes in Feldman: Historicizing Modernists (2022).
This describes the project and emphasises its importance.

Brenda Silver

Text of 2023 talk about how Brenda Silver came to author the original publication.

Michèle Barrett

Paper Virginia Woolf’s Research for Empire and Commerce in Africa (Leonard Woolf, 1920). Woolf Studies Annual vol 19, 2013.

Indexes to the Notebooks

Silver Index

Index of RN1 to RN67, the original notebooks featured in Silver’s authoritative account.

Additions Index

Index to RN 68 and WN 100 – WN 102, extra Notebooks. Including the Agamemnon Notebook.

Date Index

Index to all notebooks included in this project, in order of known date of start.

Visual Index

Gallery of all notebooks covers, including those labelled and re-covered by hand by Woolf.

Empire & Commerce Cards

Research Notes on Cards

Woolfnotes has been extended to include the index cards on which the research for a publication by Leonard Woolf (Empire and Commerce in Africa, 1920) was recorded. Leonard Woolf did some of the research himself, and he had an assistant, Alix Sargant-Florence; but much of the research was done by Virginia Woolf, during the 1917-18 period.  Her elegant handwriting is easily recognizable on the written cards, and her very inaccurate typing can be seen on some of the typed ones.

Card Index

Click here to view all the Empire and Commerce card sets.

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