||The records of the London-based writers' organizations English PEN and PEN International,
founded by Catharine Amy Dawson Scott in 1921, contain extensive correspondence with
writer-members and other PEN centres around the world. Their records document campaigns,
international congresses and other meetings, committees, finances, lectures and other
programs, literary prizes awarded, membership, publications, and social events over
decades. Spanning 1912 to 2008 (bulk 1926-1997), the PEN Records reflect the major
historical events in the aftermath of World War I, the interwar period, World War
the Cold War in Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Topics of central importance
include PEN's work to promote the power of literature to bring people together across
cultures, languages, and countries around the globe; fight for freedom of expression;
writers imprisoned and/or persecuted for their ideas and work; support writers in
encourage broader transmission of literature through translation. The collection also
highlights PEN's relationships with allied international organizations sharing similar
concerns, UNESCO and Amnesty International among them.
||The records are arranged into three series: I. English PEN and PEN International Records,
1915-1986 (bulk 1926-1951; boxes 1-122); II. PEN International Records, 1921-1981
1951-1973; boxes 123-204); and III. English PEN Records, 1912-2008 (bulk 1976-1997;
205-362). The records are primarily written in English with sizeable amounts in French,
German, and Spanish, and lesser amounts in numerous other languages. Non-English items
sometimes accompanied by translations. The records in Series I. arrived in three accessions
between 1968 and 1978 and were previously accessible via an onsite card catalog. Materials
in Series II. (acquired 1990) and Series III. (three accessions, 2003-2015) were listed,
not organized or cataloged. This finding aid replicates and replaces information previously
available in the card catalog and now incorporates descriptions for the previously
||The bulk of the PEN Records revolve around the work of three long-serving PEN officers
based in London: Hermon Ould (International General Secretary, 1926-1951), David Carver
(International General Secretary, 1951-1974), and Josephine Pullein-Thompson (English
General Secretary, 1976-1993, and English PEN President, 1994-1997). Storm Jameson,
English PEN President during the difficult war years from 1939 through 1944 is also
represented. Their correspondence joins that of many other prominent English PEN centre
officers and members, including Lettice Cooper, E. M. Forster, Antonia Fraser, John
Galsworthy, William Golding, Graham Greene, Ronald Harwood, Michael Holroyd, Francis
John Lehmann, Rosamond Lehmann, Iris Murdoch, Kathleen Nott, Harold Pinter, J. B.
V. S. Pritchett, George Bernard Shaw, Stephen Spender, Tom Stoppard, Noel Streatfeild,
Wedgwood, H. G. Wells, and Rebecca West. Because PEN's membership diversified greatly
its initial poets, playwrights, essayists, and novelists, their correspondence represents
numerous biographers, critics, editors, historians, journalists, literary agents,
producers, publishers, and translators, as well as genre writers who produced children's,
detective, fantasy, mystery, romance, and science fiction works. PEN also frequently
corresponded outside its membership with heads of state, cultural ambassadors, politicians,
state officials, lawyers, activists, businesses and organizations, publishers, editors,
the general public.
||Other PEN centres around the world also corresponded with General Secretaries Hermon
and David Carter as they carried out PEN International's activities, and their
correspondence is often rich and informative. Many distinguished authors were
correspondents, including Heinrich Böll, Nadine Gordimer, Seamus Heaney, Yasunari
Kawabata, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Elmer Rice, Salman Rushdie, and Wole Soyinka
only a few. Among the correspondents are 43 Nobel laurates in Literature as well as
winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.The most extensive PEN centre files represent America,
France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Scotland, and the Writers in Exile centre in London.
Among the most frequent centre correspondents were Jean de Beer, Heinrich Böll,
Richard Friedenthal, Yves Gandon, Robert Goffin, László Kéry,
Robert Neumann, Jan Parandowski, Carlos de Radzitzky, Paul Tabori, Victor E. van Vriesland,
and Sophia Wadia.
||The annual PEN Congress files are also of great substance, especially for the 1st
41st Congresses held between 1923 and 1976. Files for the 28th (1956) and 46th (1976)
Congresses are particularly extensive because those congresses took place in London.
notable congresses are the historic 11th Congress held in Dubrovnik in 1933 shortly
the Nazi book burnings and the 17th Congress which met in London in 1941, the only
held during World War II. In addition to correspondence related to planning, arrangements,
and themes for these international meetings, the records include key information such
texts of proceedings and resolutions, reports of the International General Secretary,
PEN International Executive Committee meeting agendas and minutes.
||PEN's frequent campaigns to financially assist refugee writers are evidenced through
correspondence, financial documents, and files for funds administered such as the
Writers' Fund, the Fund for Exiled Writers and its successor, the Fund for Intellectual
Freedom. The records also reflect the pivotal advocacy role PEN played in many high-profile
cases of literary and political significance: helping free journalist Arthur Koestler
death sentence in 1937; supporting Salman Rushdie in exile during the fatwa affair;
campaigning on behalf of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Wole Soyinka, two writers imprisoned for
work in Nigeria.
||The International Executive Committee minutes located in the PEN Congress files are
complemented by 12 English PEN Executive Committee minute books spanning 1931 through
Additional administrative files also document a number of other PEN committees, among
the Books for Prisoners Committee, the Censorship Committee, the Women Writers Committee,
and most extensively, the Writers in Prison Committee formed in 1960.
||Throughout the PEN Records are draft writings by both well-known and more obscure authors. These include speeches given at congresses, conferences, lecture series, and dinners, as well as original fiction, poetry, and essays submitted to various literary contests or anthologies compiled or co-published by PEN. Files for two such anthologies contain full drafts of unpublished manuscripts: Fundamental Values (1943-1944) and London Calling (1942), the latter edited by Storm Jameson. Some production materials for the English PEN monthly newsletter, PEN News (1927-1964) are present, although most published centre newsletters have been transferred to the Ransom Center Library and are now cataloged in the online University of Texas Library Catalog.
||The Series Descriptions provide much more detailed descriptions of the contents of
the three series of the PEN Records. This finding aid also includes an Index of
Correspondents (11,825 names); an Index of Writings; and supplemental information
in Appendix I: PEN Officers; Appendix II: PEN Congresses; and Appendix III: PEN Centres.
Special Note on PEN Names
||To simplify searching, the name "PEN" has generally been
used rather than the earlier form "P.E.N." The only uses of
"P.E.N." in this finding aid are found in the Index of
Correspondents when names from letterheads were cited.
||Because most PEN centre names have changed over the years, files for the PEN centres
been alphabetized according to this form: "PEN Centre: country
(city)" in order to keep centre materials together logically and easier to navigate
- PEN Centre: Canada (Montreal), rather than PEN Québec (per current centre
- PEN Centre: Canada (Toronto), rather than PEN Canada (per current centre
||Appendix III. in this finding aid provides a listing of all PEN centres arranged by
geographic region, gives their founding year (if available), the current centre name
centre website), and the current standard name form used by libraries (if available).
Physical Processing Note
||All of the PEN Records have been rehoused into archival-quality boxes, folders, and
sleeves. While most of the materials in Series I. had already been placed in protective
mylar sleeves during earlier processing, none of the materials in Series II. and Series
had been rehoused. During physical rehousing of the latter two series, potentially
metal fasteners were removed and papers that had been clipped together were placed
paper sleeves to maintain their previous groupings. Many brittle papers, such as newspaper
clippings, were also been placed into protective paper or mylar sleeves.
||Some original PEN file folders for materials in Series I. were previously retained
now located in boxes 116-122. For Series II. and III., original folder titles and
additional notes written on the original folders were removed and kept with the contents
that folder during physical processing. Member files in Series III. were originally
nearly 2,000 individual folders. These were replaced with individual white paper sleeves
placed in alphabetical groups in archival-quality file folders unless the individual
file was extensive enough to warrant its own archival folder or folders. For each
the segments of their original member folder with labeling and other handwritten notes,
usually regarding membership status, were also retained.