From William Ready, University Librarian



From William Ready, University Librarian


Long, C.


Bertrand Russell


Mar. 13, 1968




Bertrand Russell Archives, RA3 no. 1343




McMaster University


Bertrand Russell Archives




McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Mills Memorial Library
Office of the Librarian

March 13, 1968

Mr. Anton Felton,
Continuum 1 Limited,
25 Newman Street,
London, W.1, England

Dear Anton:

I am enclosing a memorandum regarding the deposit and the use of the Russell Papers in the McMaster University Archives. The Russell Papers will form an important part of our rapidly growing research collection. They will supply primary material so essential to all real scholarship and will be available to all comers provided they are reputable scholars, no matter who or what they are, and the only restrictions put upon them in the use of the Papers will be those agreed upon by Lord Russell himself and by the usual practice governing all scholarly archival procedure. Some material, naturally, will be closed to all comers until time has elapsed. Some, indeed, may be withheld for the foreseeable future. This is general practice and were it not for this proviso many valuable papers would be destroyed fearing the indiscretion of irresponsible curators, mischievous and malevolent peep-holers. But, above all, the Archives must be free for scholarly investigation, reflection and conclusion to scholars from all over the world, and this is sine qua non of university archival practice. I received this as a first principal in my archival training and education, and in more than thirty years of librarianship have always held it to be inviolable: indeed, I have never had any papers withheld from me for my research once I have satisfied the archivist or the archival committee of my bona fide.

McMaster is already a reputable university with some distinction in the Sciences and a more than Canadian reputation in the Arts, especially in the field of Classics, Mathematics, Physics and English. We are rapidly approaching a good doctoral level in the Social Sciences and our School of Biomedicine and Health Centre promises to be significant also: it is in the process of being built. Such publishing as will emanate from the Archives and from McMaster and its sister institutions will be scholarly in nature and will reflect the many-faceted genius of Lord Russell, associate his efforts with the causes that he has espoused and worked for fearlessly all his life along with those monuments of scholarship that has created in association with other men and learning. How can, for instance, genuine

/continued ...

scholarly work be done upon Women's Rights without recourse to the Russell Papers? How can Education be focused and give some semblance of sense and order without constant reference to the life of Lord Russell? The Russell Family Papers give a superb window into the life of a landed English family during the age when new gods were exchanged for old. All the publishing that will emanate from this kind of research will bear the imprint of McMaster University, and any doctoral candidates who are allowed to handle the Papers will do so under the proper direction of their tutors or of myself.

I hold, already, an annual archival conference here, and the Russell Papers will allow this to develop into an annual occasion of real scholarly and fascinating significance. We already possess the manuscripts of some good to great writers, the papers of such formative associations as the Canadian Wheat Board, and a large number of modern poetry manuscripts showing the gradual development from the scrawled image to the final proof in print.

In all cases, this has no commercial significance, but the cause of truth can only be served through the publication divorced from commercial considerations. Wherever there is a commercial possibility that might arise from scholarly publication or other decent academic reasons, thus such profits shall very properly be plowed back, on or part, into the archives to enrich and extend them, and, on the other part, to increase the financial security of the Russell Estate.

Academic freedom is an Americanism; it needed that peculiar climate during such terrors as the time of McCarthy and Palmer to call it into being. There has never been such a phrase in British or Canadian academic parlance nor will there ever be unless we are submerged.

I believe that the only hindrance to our understanding one another quite clearly comes out of these fearful times of propaganda and repression: the lack will not exist between us if we can only realize, on both sides, what we are and where our roots lie. Should there be any profit, and I anticipate little, save in those areas I have already willed to the Russell Estate, that should be divided between us; and as for the scholarly use and academic freedom relating to the Papers that is in us and should not require any legal document to prove it, as if, indeed, any legal document could.

Lord Russell is a nonpareil. We shall not look upon his kind again. He is a saint of his times, although his halo is in his own collection, not in any heavenly abstraction. I consider myself a fortunate man that I have within my ability and power the opportunity of serving these Papers as they deserve, better than they would be served in the cause of truth, freedom and scholarship anywhere else in the world.


William Ready,
University Librarian
Professor of Bibliography.

Original Format

Typed letter