Many of the archives held in the Special Collections relate to creative practice, especially literature, drama and film.

Correspondence by authors, editors and translators may be found in the Archive of British Publishing and Printing. Files within each publishing archive are often arranged or indexed by author. The Rare Books collection contains strong literary sections, most notably the literary collection of the composer Gerald Finzi.

As well as the archive of Nobel Prize winning author Samuel Beckett, we hold papers relating to W.B. Yeats, the poet Bernard Spencer, and the novelist and scriptwriter Elinor Glyn. Non-fiction writers represented include theatre critic J.C. Trewin and several film critics and journalists.

The principal stand-alone film-maker’s archive is that of Stephen Dwoskin (limited access while cataloguing is undertaken), a key figure in British experimental cinema.

The MERL collections include significant holdings of documentary film.


From its origins towards the end of the nineteenth century, the University set about acquiring library collections to support its research, and the bequest of the Overstone Library in the 1920s began our systematic collecting of rare books.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s the collecting effort moved to archives, with the establishment of collections that formed the basis for Beckett studies, now undertaken by the Beckett Research Centre, and book and publishing history.

The Centre for Film Aesthetics and Cultures investigates the aesthetic politics of film and explores film’s cultural impacts, while the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project aims to present, in facsimile and transcription, all of Beckett’s manuscripts held in collections around the world in an electronic environment.



The collection held by Special Collections of resources relating to the Nobel Prize winning author, Samuel Beckett, is the largest in the world and officially Designated by Arts Council England as an outstanding collection.


Stephen Dwoskin was an acclaimed experimental filmmaker, director and cinematographer. The Dwoskin Archive is housed at the University of Reading and contains a wealth of material relating to Dwoskin’s life and work, including working materials, correspondence, unpublished writing and photographs. The collection is currently being catalogued.


The Finzi Book Room Collection consists of the literature collection of the English composer Gerald Finzi (1901-1956). English poetry, especially that written during the collector’s lifetime, is a particular strength of the collection. Book collecting was a lifelong activity for Finzi, secondary to but parallel with his composition, in which choral works and settings of poetry are significant.