Owen Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains some autograph manuscripts of Wilfred Owen and the papers of Harold Owen, primarily concerning his brother, including much correspondence and a large collection of press cuttings. There are also mementos and family photographs. The collection is arranged in two sections, OEF and Owen, as follows:

  • (OEF 1-348, 400-571) Wilfred Owen's autograph manuscripts, and other papers of special interest:
    • (OEF 1-348) verse, mostly juvenilia and rough drafts
    • (OEF 400-4) the 'Hewland Collection'. Photographs of manuscripts given to Vera Hewland, and now lost
    • (OEF 405-45) mostly Wilfred Owen's prose notes, early 20th century
    • (OEF 446-51) army orders, 1916-18
    • (OEF 452-71) manuscript verse and letters by Sassoon, Graves, Scott Moncrieff, Tailhade and Drinkwater, 1915-18
    • (OEF 472-526) the 'Gunston Collection' of Wilfred Owen manuscripts, mainly postcards and letters to Vera and Leslie Gunston, photographs, etc., 1907-20.
    • (OEF 527-31) miscellaneous items, mostly printed, 1918-19
    • (OEF 532-71) letters to Susan Owen, from Sitwell, Nichols, Scott Moncrieff, Berthaud, Sassoon; and to Harold Owen from Sassoon, Graves and Sackville, n.d., 1919-59.
  • (Owen 1-23, 25-47) mostly material collected by Harold Owen. The section is arranged as follows:
    • (Owen 1-13) mainly Harold Owen's incoming correspondence, 1947-71. Much of the correspondence is related to Collected Letters, and includes several letters from Edmund Blunden
    • (Owen 14-22) press cuttings, 1919-71
    • (Owen 23, 25-7) manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, etc. relating to Aftermath and Journey from Obscurity, 20th century
    • (Owen 28) Wilfred Owen's schoolbooks, 1904-10, a scrapbook with material, apparently collected by Tom Owen, of the actions Wilfred Owen took part in, 1918-19, etc.
    • (Owen 29) miscellaneous 'late additions' deposited by Phyllis Owen or Jon Stallworthy, 1918-93
    • (Owen 30) letters to Susan Owen, including several letters from Edith Sitwell, 1919-21, and from Edmund Blunden, 1930-8, and 19 others from various correspondents, 1930-8; material from the Gunston collection, including press cuttings, [1950-5], and transcripts of Wilfred Owen's poems by his cousin Lesley Gunston, n.d.; and notes on Wilfred Owen's manuscripts by Harold Owen and others, 1966-84, n.d.
    • (Owen 31) Harold Owen's artwork, 20th century
    • (Owen 32-3) 'Owen objects', 18th-20th century
    • (Owen 34-6) photographs, late 19th century-1918
    • (Owen 37-8) an almost complete set of The Hydra, Apr.-Sept. 1917, Nov. 1917-July 1918, the magazine of Craiglockhart War Hospital. Wilfred Owen was editor of the magazine between July and October 1917
    • (Owen 39-41) press cuttings and exhibition catalogues, late 20th century
    • (Owen 42-3) notes by editors of Wilfred Owen, and negatives and duplicates of photographs in Owen 34-5
    • (Owen 44) score of War Requiem by Benjamin Britten, 1962, and play script by Stephen MacDonald ' Not about Heroes: the friendship of Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen', 1986
    • (Owen 45) recordings of interviews, documentaries and readings etc., late 20th century
    • (Owen 46-7) Gunston papers and photographs, late 19th-20th century.

Administrative / Biographical History

Wilfred Owen (1893-1918) was one of the best known poets of the First World War. See the Dictionary of National Biography, the Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive ( http://www.hcu.ox.ac.uk/jtap), and Jon Stallworthy's Wilfred Owen (London, 1974) and The Complete Poems and Fragments (London, 1983) for details of Owen's life and work. Wilfred's younger brother (William) Harold Owen (1897-1971) wrote about his brother, himself and the family in two (auto)biographical accounts: Journey from Obscurity (London, 1963-5) and Aftermath (London, 1970). He also co-edited, Wilfred's letters, with John Bell, published as Wilfred Owen: Collected Letters (London, 1967). Dominic Hibberd has also written extensively on Owen, most recently in Wilfred Owen: a New Biography (London, 2002).

Access Information

Entry to read in the Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/specialcollections).

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the collection was presented to the English Faculty by the widow of Harold Owen in 1975. The Gunston collection was donated in 1978. Some small additions were made later.

The collection has been transferred to the Bodleian Library.


The original OEF numbers, 1-348, are those given in The Complete Poems and Fragments ed. Jon Stallworthy (London, 1983); the additional numbers, 400-571 were given in the Library in 1991-2 (the numbers 349-99 were not used). The arrangement of poems in OEF 1-348 follows The Complete Poems and Fragments which arranges poems in assumed order of final drafts; Stallworthy refers to the Gunston Collection (OEF 472-526) as 'LG', and the Hewland Collection (OEF 472-526) as 'Hewland'.

Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library.

Other Finding Aids

There is an unpublished handlist to the collection available in the Library.

Alternative Form Available

Duplicates of photographs (Owen 34-5) are at Owen 42-3, and should be used in place of the originals where possible. The Wilfred Owen Multimedia Digital Archive provides online access to manuscripts, letters and The Hydra.

Related Material

The Library also holds Owen's own library, of some 450 volumes, with his annotations.