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University of Delaware Library

Robert A. Wilson Ezra Pound Collection, Special Collections

Collection Profile

In June of 2004, the University of Delaware Library acquired through a combination of gift and purchase a major collection of works by and about the American poet Ezra Pound. The collection, which was acquired with the support of the Unidel Foundation, was assembled over several decades by the bookseller, collector, author, and bibliographer Robert A. Wilson. It comprises hundreds of books, including several of Pound's very rare first publications, manuscript material and correspondence, pamphlets, and other material related to Pound.

Born in 1885 in Hailey, Idaho, Ezra Pound became one of the leading proponents of Modernism. Equally a poet, translator, and critic, Pound was also a mentor and collaborator to many other writers, including Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Robert Frost, H. D., Marianne Moore, William Butler Yeats, Wyndham Lewis, Ford Madox Ford, James Joyce, E. E. Cummings, William Carlos Williams, and perhaps most famously T. S. Eliot. Eliot acknowledged Pound's contribution and editing of The Waste Land by dedicating the poem to him as il miglior fabbro, the "better craftsman." In Italy, Pound became involved in fascist politics and did not return to the United States until 1945, when he was arrested on charges of treason for broadcasting fascist propaganda by radio to the United States during the Second World War. In 1946 he was acquitted but declared mentally ill and committed to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC. During his confinement, the jury of the Bollingen-Library of Congress Award (which included a number of the most eminent writers of the time) decided to overlook Pound's political activities in the interest of recognizing his poetic achievements and awarded him the prize for The Pisan Cantos in 1948. After continuous appeals from writers won his release from the hospital in 1958, Pound returned to Italy and settled in Venice where he died in 1972.

Robert A. Wilson was born in Baltimore in 1922. Following service in the US Army and the diplomatic corps, he eventually became the fifth owner of the Phoenix Book Shop in Greenwich Village and ran the shop from 1962 to its closure in 1988. He is the bibliographer of Gertrude Stein, Gregory Corso, and Denise Levertov, and the author of a number of monographs, including Modern Book Collecting (1980) and the autobiographical Seeing Shelley Plain (2001). He is also one of the most important modern literature collectors of the twentieth century.

The Robert A. Wilson collection of Ezra Pound comprises first editions of nearly all of Pound's published poetry, essays, and criticism, many in both the first British and American editions. The collection also includes manuscript material, including some correspondence with publisher Elkin Mathews, the original contract signed by Pound for the publication of Provença in 1910, and various other materials. The collection affirms and fixes Pound's place in twentieth-century literature and complements the Library's current collections. The collection also joins more than one thousand other books and manuscripts that the University of Delaware has acquired from Robert A. Wilson's collection and are now part of Special Collections.

Collection Profile and Overview: Timothy Murray
Illustrations: University of Delaware Library, Newark, Delaware

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