Peter Dickinson Collection

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Archive created by Peter Dickinson during the course of his career as a children's writer, from the 1960s to 2006. The collection contains typescripts, draft material and related correspondence for 37 of his published works for children, in addition to a few unpublished works including two children's operas and some short stories. The collection also includes material relating to the commissioning and script development of the television series 'Mandog', written by Dickinson and later adapted into a full-length novel. The material in the collection constitutes a complete record of Dickinson's work as a children's writer, and provides information on all aspects of writing, editing and publishing books for children during the period covered. The material documents in some detail the working relationship between author and editor in developing a story from first draft to final publication, in particular Dickinson's close relationship with his first American editor, Emilie W. McLeod. As the majority of Dickinson's children's titles were published in both America and Britain, the collection provides a great deal of information on the publication of children's books in both countries and illustrates some of the differences in attitude and approach between British and American editors and publishers. The collection also documents the relationship between the author, illustrator and publisher/editor in the production of illustrated titles, and the complications which can arise in such collaborations. In addition to recording the creative process, the material documents the administrative and financial aspects of drawing up contracts, negotiating royalties and controlling rights in published works. None of the material in the collection relates to Dickinson's adult titles.

The collection is arranged into four series - Books, Short stories, Scripts and Operas. Further information on the contents of each series can be found at series level in the catalogue.

Administrative / Biographical History

Created by Peter Dickinson during the course of his career as a writer, from the 1960s to 2004.

The following explanatory notes were supplied by Peter Dickinson to provide further information and explanation on the context of creation:

'1.) Editors. The documents in the catalogue tend to distort my relationship with my various editors, partly because before the coming of e-mail it was always simpler to telephone London than it was Boston or New York, and until the late 1980s I actually did most of my writing in London, and even in the 1990s we kept a London flat. Indeed for a few years it was only a few doors away from where my Macmillan editor, Marion Lloyd, lived. So, for instance, in my early years as a writer Joanna Goldsworthy at Gollancz was fully as important to me as Emilie Macleod at Atlantic, but I spoke to or saw Joanna fairly frequently, whereas I think I met Emilie only four or five times in the time we worked together, so the only way to maintain the personal relationship with her was in writing. Inevitably the documents will make it seem more intense than the workmanlike friendship with Joanna. Until the coming of e-mail the same applies to most of my other pairs of editors.

I have always encouraged my editors in the two countries to work together with me and arrive at an agreed text (apart from the standard Americanisations of vocabulary and spelling, and the occasional clarification of something peculiarly English.) The most notable example of this was the concentrated three-way involvement of Wendy Lamb and Judy Donnelly and myself in the editing of The Kin. In the end I came to feel that they knew the book better than I did. Little of this is reflected in the documents. And since the coming of e-mail I and my two editors have always copied everything to the other two.

2.) Manuscripts. The catalogue refers to some MSS as having amendments sellotaped into them. These are what I regarded at the time as final drafts, in the days when I still wrote on a typewriter. My handwriting was never very legible and has got worse over the years. Almost all my books in those days were written straight through as a single draft. If I had changed my mind about something, unless it required very substantial alteration, I would leaf back and make a note at the relevant passage and then carry on as though the change had been already made. I then rewrote the book from beginning to end and sent it via my agents for the editors to look at, hoping to get it back with no more than a few tinkerings to deal with. If these involved only a few lines I would type the new version and tape it in. Anything longer I'd type on a separate sheet and mark the MS 'Take in A' etc.

Since adopting a PC half way through the rewrite of The Kin (the first drafts of Po's Story and Mana's Story were done on a typewriter), I have done a lot of rewriting as I went along, until I had produced a draft I felt I could show to my editors for comment. I would then expect to do a fair amount of rewriting, using the existing file as a basis. I would add an asterisk to the folio number so that I could tell one sheet of hard-copy MS from another and mark any major changes in the file with an asterisk at start and finish, sometimes two asterisks where further revision took place.'

Conditions Governing Access

Accessible to all researchers, by appointment only.

Custodial History

Donated to Seven Stories by the creator in 2004. A second, smaller accession of material was donated in 2006.

Personal Names