J.G. Ballard Manuscripts at British Library

A landmark event in the history of Ballard scholarship

Original manuscripts by late British writer J. G. Ballard have been acquired for the British Library. Works include a hand-edited typewritten manuscript of Crash, Super Cannes and Empire of the Sun:
Manuscripts, letters, notebooks and even the school reports of one of the most spectacularly imaginative literary minds of the 20th century, JG Ballard, have been saved for the British public.

Ballard's literary archive has been acquired for the nation through the acceptance in lieu (AIL) scheme and allocated to the British Library. The 100-year-old scheme allows families to give exceptional works or objects to the nation in return for settling death duties, in this case £350,000 in tax.

Jamie Andrews, the library's head of modern literary manuscripts, said the archive's arrival was "hugely exciting" and "an incredibly important and precious addition" to its collection. The archive, which occupies approximately 12 metres in shelf space in the British Library, is expected to be fully accessible by summer 2011.


Ballard was a man of routine and, in the first instance, wrote all his work by hand, once saying he could always tell if a novel had been written on a typewriter (and later computer). One of the highlights of the archive is the far from neatly handwritten first 840-page draft of Empire of the Sun, which is a collage of crossings out, revisions, corrections and additions.

After the first draft Ballard would then type it up and ruthlessly go through it again. The second draft of Crash is in the archive and it is even more crazily corrected. Andrews said: "I think some of those individual pages are works of art. There's a determination and in some cases a violence." Also in the archive are notepads with headings such as "topics that interest me", full of his thoughts and ideas for stories and novels, as well as items relating to the Lunghua internment camp of his childhood. [Read the article]

The British Library discuss the collection

Jamie Andrews, Head of Modern Literary Manuscripts at the British Library, discusses the significance of J. G. Ballard's work, and shares several manuscripts from the collection.

The Manuscripts

The Guardian has published photographs of Ballard's manuscripts, which you can view at their website:

Also at A Piece of Monologue: