Skip to Content

Lewis (Wyndham) collection

The work of this major British writer and painter is richly represented in The Poetry Collection. From the first portfolio of black and white and colored drawings published in 1913 as Timon of Athens, and the 1917 edition of The Ideal Giant, through the more controversial volumes of Paleface (1928), Men Without Art (1934), and The Hitler Cult and How It Will End (1939), to the late volumes, Self Condemned (1954) and The Human Age (1955), the collection maintains a full run of first and bibliographically important editions. Since Lewis was also an editor of considerable enthusiasm, the two issues of Blast (1914-1915)--Lewis' own copies, in fact--the two issues of The Tyro (1921-1922), the three issues of The Enemy (1927-1929), and the only Enemy Pamphlet to appear, Satire and Fiction (1930), are also present. A self-portrait hangs in the reading room, along with Lewis' portrait of Samuel P. Capen, Chancellor of the University of Buffalo, while forty drawings and sketches in pencil and ink are among the manuscripts.

The manuscripts are of great importance, not only for what they show about the creative process in Lewis' art, but also for what they are able to reveal about the meanings of the books themselves. The materials behind the The Wild Body (1927) reveal the kinds of procedures Lewis typically employed. Installments of the book first appeared in The Little Review (1917-1918) and Art and Letters (1920) and are heavily revised, with major alterations to plot and substance of the work, all in Lewis' holograph. These are followed by the corrected and revised typescripts and the corrected page proofs of the book. The first edition was limited to seventy-nine copies, plus six complimentary copies; copy number eighty-four, inscribed to Lord Carlow and signed by the author, completes the record of The Wild Body. The writing and publishing record of Lewis' Blasting and Bombardiering (1937) is similarly elaborate: about 900 pages of holograph versions of notes and fragments lead to the revised and corrected typescripts, which are followed by the corrected galley proofs, the uncorrected page proofs, and finally publication of the first edition. About 700 pages of typescript, some heavily revised and corrected, comprise the working manuscript of The Childermass (1928). Lewis' habit of composition was to tape together revisions of previously printed pages and newly retyped versions into large sheets, and then prepare another typed version of the text. For The Childermass the process of revision continued through extensively corrected and revised galley proofs, and corrected and revised page proofs of the book. The Lewis Collection also contains number 226 of the limited edition of The Childermass, inscribed to Lord Carlow and signed by the author. One thousand pages of typescript and holograph materials of various sizes and varieties make up the working manuscripts of Lewis' book, Revenge for Loire (1937). Similar manuscript records exist for The Lion and the Fox (1927), The Doom of Youth (1932), and One Way Song (1933). Tarr (1918), on the other hand, has a different kind of manuscript. Lewis used the American edition of 1918 to reconstruct the novel for the revised British edition of 1928. The holographic adjustments to the published text indicate just how painstaking Lewis was in the process of producing a new edition. For Time and Western Man (1927) about 900 pages of typescript, carbon typescript, discarded versions, and heavily revised additions are present under the title, "The Revolutionary Simpleton." The revised page proofs for the piece, after it appeared as installments in The Enemy (1927), help map the growth of the book from "'The Revolutionary Simpleton" into Time and Western Man.

Again, it was the vision of Charles Abbott which brought the bulk of the Lewis materials to Buffalo in 1953. They were used extensively in the preparation of two bibliographies of Lewis' work, Omar S. Pound and Philip Grover's Wyndham Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography (1978), and Bradford Morrow and Bernard LaFourcade's A Bibliography of the Writings of Wyndham Lewis (1978). With the bibliography of Lewis established, new editions of the texts have now begun to appear: The Complete Wild Body, edited by Bernard LaFourcade, was published in 1982 and was followed by C.J. Fox's edition of Journey into Barbary in 1983. Both the manuscript and book collections are accessible to researchers engaged in study of Lewis' work.