Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection

The Science Fiction Collection

  • In Boldly Going to Houghton, the Gazette features the newly acquired writer's guide for the science fiction TV show Star Trek, which offers aspiring scriptwriters everything they would need to know before crafting a script for the '60s cult classic.

Overview and History

Comprising over 3,000 volumes, the Science Fiction Collection consists largely of twentieth-century trade paperbacks, magazines, fanzines, and prozines. Begun as a separate collection within Houghton in 1957, it complements the Rev. Francis G. Peabody Utopian Literature collection, as well as the Library’s individual author collections of such writers as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Edward Bellamy.

Following the death of his son, junior Richard “Dick” W. Clarkson (Harvard Class of 1955), Paul S. Clarkson donated Dick’s collection of science fiction books to the Harvard University library. It was curated by Lauriston Ward (H 1903), curator of Asiatic Archaeology at the Peabody Museum, and a keen science-fiction fan.  He was assisted by G. William Cottrell Jr., (H 1926), research associate in ornithology at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, and founding editor of the Harvard Library Bulletin. Ward and Cottrell arranged a space for the collection within Houghton Library, and actively solicited gifts to enlarge the collection, adding many volumes from their own libraries. Following Ward’s death and Cottrell’s departure from the HLB, both in 1960, acquisitions declined, and ceased altogether by 1972. In 2009, funding from the Ruth Miller Memorial Philanthropic Fund enabled the Library to catalog the collection, making it available to readers for the first time.  New material is added by gift.

The collection includes many works in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror by both well-known and lesser-known authors, including Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, John Brunner,  Murray Leinster, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Sheckley, Roy Sheldon, Robert Silverberg, Clifford D. Simak, E.E. Smith, George O. Smith, Jerry Sohl, Vargo Statten, Theodore Sturgeon, John Taine, J.R.R. Tolkien, E.C. Tubb, Wilson Tucker, A.E. Van Vogt, Jean-Gaston Vandel, Jules Verne, Stanley Grauman Weinbaum, H.G. Wells, Dennis Wheatley, Jack Williamson, S. Fowler Wright, John Wyndham, and many more.  Material in the collection dates from the 1880s to the present and also includes numerous anthologies and runs of nearly 200 science fiction periodicals.

Manuscript collections of science fiction authors include the papers of Sterling Lanier (*2008M-108), page proofs of George O. Smith’s The fourth “R” (MS Am 1663), the Dick Clarkson collection of correspondence on science fiction clubs (*2009M-8r), typescripts of short stories submitted to various publications by over thirty authors (MS Am 2671), records of the Pittsburgh Science Fiction Association (*2009M-7r), Lauriston Ward’s notebooks on “imaginative” science fiction (MS Am 2741), compositions by John Wood Campbell (*2009M-1r), and a collection of materials relating to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsinger (*2008M-6).

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Locating Materials

Material in the collection can be located in HOLLIS Classic by searching for “SF” as “Other call number”. This will provide a list of all the material specifically in the Science Fiction Collection, but not all material by some science fiction authors in author collections. For this reason, it is often preferable to search by author or title.

The collection also contains collections of fanzines and prozine: the general collection, SF 3133, covering ca. 1939-1971; and that formed by William Wilson Goodson Jr., 1970-2008.

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Many items in the collection were printed on low-quality woodpulp paper, and are brittle.  These are so identified in HOLLIS.  Readers are asked to consult other copies at Harvard; permission to use restricted material must be obtained from the Modern Books and Manuscripts department.  Additionally, some manuscript material is uncataloged and requires permission from the department of Modern Books and Manuscripts before access is possible.

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