The collection comprises, primarily, the successive drafts of Ballard's novels, in manuscript and in typescript, excepting The Wind from Nowhere (1962) and The Unlimited Dream Company (1979). It includes, for some novels, related notes and synoptic material, and also includes notes Ballard made towards the end of his life for writing projects that were not completed (for the later notes, see Add MS 88938/27). For four text collages completed in the late 1950s (usually referred to as 'Project for a New Novel'), see Add MS 88938/3/3.
Ballard did not retain the texts of his short stories (including the chapters of The Atrocity Exhibition). There are two exceptions to the absence of short story material in the collection: a cutting (1951) of the Varsity competition-winning story 'The Violent Noon' (Add MS 88938/3/1), and a draft text of an unpublished (and undated) story set in Vermilion Sands (Add MS 88938/3/2).
There is a limited range of personal items (certificates of birth, baptism, and marriage, two passports, some school reports, and a selection of photographs). Almost all the correspondence in the collection derives from the last two decades of Ballard's life; however, there are two letters (1964) from Ballard's wife, Mary, to his sister, Margaret (see Add MS 88938/1/6), which make reference to publication matters and to Ballard's writing. The collection includes the texts of a number of interviews conducted by fax (1997-2007), and some exhibition-related material (including posthumous events).
Various documents in Ballard's papers concerning Lunghua Camp derive from the papers of William Braidwood, Chairman of the British Residents' Association (Shanghai). They include Minutes of Residents' Association meetings, and documentation of the physical conditions endured by Camp internees. Ballard received the material from Margaret Braidwood in 1996, some considerable time after the publication of Empire of the Sun. For these papers, see Add MS 88938/2/1/7. For a selection of letters to Ballard from Lunghua Camp internees, sent to the author following the publication of Empire of the Sun, see Add MS 88938/2/1/6.
Secondary material includes adaptations of Ballard's work by David Leland (Running Wild) and by Simon David Eden (Vermilion Sands), as well as bibliographical material by James Goddard (1970) and by David Pringle (1994), and includes copies of some occasional commentaries on the author's work.