The book collection consists of more than 9000 volumes, periodicals and magazines from Anthony Burgess’s private library, taken from his homes in London, Bracciano and Monaco.
A surviving guide to Burgess’s library in Bracciano reveals the diversity of the collection and Burgess’s own system of arrangement. The main subject-headings in the guide are as follows:
• Reference material, including encyclopaedia and dictionaries (English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Malay, Portuguese, and Spanish)
• Literary criticism, divided into General, American, English, French, Italian, Other, Shakespeare, and Joyce
• Poetry: Epics, Anthologies, and Poets A-Z
• Drama: Greek, English, French, Italian, General, and Contemporary
• Social science: Education, Philosophy, Psychology, Religion, Sexology, Social Anthropology / Sociology
• Geography and travel
• History and politics
• Non-fiction: Autobiography / Diaries, Biography (arranged by subject), Essays, Humour, Letters, and Anthologies
• Fiction: American, British, French, German/Austrian, Greek, Italian, Jugoslav, New Zealand, Russian, Portuguese/Spanish/South American, and science fiction
• Anthologies (short stories etc)
• Art / Architecture / Sculpture / Antiques / Archaeology
• Children’s books
• Cinema / TV / Scenarios
The guide also indicates that there were dedicated sections in Burgess’s library for titles by Burgess and translations of his works; books and journals to which Burgess contributed; interviews; and critical materials.
The books in the collection were acquired by Burgess and his family at a variety of different times and for a variety of reasons. Some books date from the period of Burgess’s school and university studies in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s, such as Chamber Music (1923) by James Joyce, Brave New World (1932) by Aldous Huxley, and Collected Poems 1909-1935 (1936) by T. S. Eliot. Others (often signed) were sent to Burgess as gifts and document his wider interactions and friendships; for example, The Anti-Death League (1966) by Kingsley Amis, The Rain Forest (1977) by Olivia Manning, and The End of the Modern World (1988) by Anthony Cronin. Several texts served as key reference materials for novels and other projects, such as the biographies of Napoleon and Sigmund Freud which informed Burgess’s novel Napoleon Symphony and his Freud opera. Many of the proof copies and early editions of contemporary novels that survive within the collection were acquired through Burgess’s role as a literary critic and reviewer and, as such, relate directly to surviving reviews and articles within the journalism archive. The high number of works by James Joyce, William Shakespeare, DH Lawrence, and Vladimir Nabokov, among others, in the library reveal particularly favoured authors.
The library of Burgess’s first wife, Lynne Wilson, his second wife, Liana Burgess, and his son, Andrew Burgess-Wilson (also known as Paolo Andrea) also form part of the collection as does a former ‘ship’s library’ of just over 100 fiction and non-fiction titles, published between 1921 and 1938, purchased at some point during Burgess’s lifetime.
The Burgess Foundation continues to acquire new editions of works by Burgess and related critical materials. A collection of 137 books, largely consisting of titles by Burgess and by, or relating to the study of, James Joyce, were donated to the Burgess Foundation in c.2003 by Peter Lees. A further 47 titles which were confiscated from Burgess on his arrival in Malta in 1968 were purchased by the Burgess Foundation in 2018 and added to the library.