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Tambimuttu Archive

 Collection
Identifier: MS 120
The Tambimuttu Archive at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections is particularly strong in covering Tambimuttu’s later years.  There is much regarding the Lyrebird Press, Poetry London/Apple Magazine, and the Indian Arts Council.  There is also extensive documentation of the preparation for the festschrift for Tambimuttu (Tambimuttu: Bridge Between Two Worlds, London: Peter Owen, 1989) edited by his colleague Jane Williams after his death.  Types of materials held include correspondence, manuscript submissions, proofs and galleys, a large number of photographs, and Tambimuttu’s personal library of books and journals (mostly cataloged separately under Tambi and searchable in the Northwestern University Library online catalog).  Among the correspondents represented are Lawrence Durrell, David Gascoyne, Conrad Aiken, Francis Scarfe, Nicholas Moore, Iris Murdoch, Kathleen Raine, Feliks Topolski, and George Barker.

Materials found in the Poetry London Era series include correspondence, invoices, and various submissions, along with some of Tambi’s writings.  This series, though not large, contains some of the earliest correspondence found in the archive.

The Ceylon / India Era is the smallest series, as this section includes only a few folders.  Tambi left England in 1949 after being sacked by Poetry London, and headed to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and India.  All that is contained in this archive relating to these few years is some sparse correspondence and a few letters of introduction, probably written by friends and family members for Tambi to bring with him to the United States.  It seems his intentions to head to New York were clear for some time before he actually traveled, based on the dates of the letters of introduction.

Tambi’s New York Era began when he arrived in New York in 1952, and this is where he spent the majority of his time in America.  Found here are contracts, correspondence, poem submissions for PLNY, and some of Tambi’s writings, including the autobiographical “Return Journey to Ceylon: A Radio Travelogue in Verse.”  Notable correspondents include Conrad Aiken, Henry Miller, Anthony Dickins, Lawrence Durrell, and Anne Ridler.  There is also a large file of letters of recommendation written by friends and colleagues in support of Tambi’s attempt to win a lecturing position at Harvard in 1968, which includes a letter from Allen Ginsberg.

It could be surmised that Tambi became disenchanted with his situation after not winning the job at Harvard, and longed to return to London.  Whatever the reason, this archive’s largest holdings relate to his attempts to regain the magic he’d experienced in London nearly 20 years earlier, and the 16 years he spent there culminating in his death in 1983.  Notable correspondents in the Return to London: Correspondence section include Conrad Aiken, Lawrence and Gerald Durrell, Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary, Henri Michaux, Nicholas Moore, Henry Miller, Pritish Nandy, Paul Potts, Elizabeth Smart, Stephen Spender, Ralph Steadman, Feliks Topolski, John Updike, Andy Warhol, and Robin Waterfield.  There are also several letters here from members of his family, including Safia, Shakuntula, and Paulinus Tambimuttu.

The Return to London: Alphabetical Files show that Tambi’s alphabetical files during this time period are primarily mundane in nature, and consist of address books, calendars, bank receipts, and some personal items such as hospital and banking documents.  There is also some biographical information here, along with a folder containing information on his experiences at Millbrook with Timothy Leary.  Finally, there is a variety of different types of stationery used by Tambi for his various publishing ventures.

The Lyrebird Press was one of the more successful ventures had by Tambi after his return to London.  Materials found here in the Return to London: Lyrebird Press materials include typical administrative correspondence relating the business of publishing, but there are also compilations of book orders, contracts, sales figures, and financial materials that illuminate Tambi’s business acumen.  Of some note in this series is correspondence with David and Judy Gascoyne regarding a collection of poems, letters on Henri Michaux’s “Plume,” materials on and orders for “India Love Poems,” and a folder of unused illustrations for Elizabeth Smart’s “By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.”  Also here are materials for Tambi’s commemorative volume entitled “Keepsake for Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer,” which he offered up to the royal family for publication in 1981 (though they turned it down, not wishing to foot the bill).  Mailing lists, guest books, and other materials relating to the launching of the Lyrebird press are also here, as are replies to Tambi’s advertisement for reinvestment in Lyrebird which he advertised in several newspapers.

Poetry London/Apple Magazine was Tambi’s attempt to revive Poetry London upon his return.  Only two issues were produced, and much of their documentation can be found here in the  Return to London: Poetry London / Apple Magazine series.  This series includes submissions, galleys, typescripts, working copies, and other materials relating to PL/AM.  In many cases there is correspondence mixed in with poem submissions, which are organized chronologically and by each issue.  Also found in this series is a single folder of material relating to Apple Magazine, the precursor to PL/AM.

The Return to London: Assorted Manuscript Submissions contains various unsolicited manuscript submissions received by Tambi.  Submitters include Ronald Duncan, Beatriz Francia, Telo Reifel, and several others.  In many cases these submissions appear to have been given a cursory glance and set aside, many with stamped return envelopes still attached.

In the last year of his life, Tambi traveled to India in search of new material to publish, primarily in PL/AM.  Included here in the Return to London: India Trip series are business cards, catalogs, travel receipts, and newsclippings pertaining to his visit.  Also found here are numerous poetry submissions collected by Tambi while in India (as well as submissions amassed and held for him at home), as well as correspondence.  Tambi’s other main goal in traveling to India pertained to his activities with the Indian Arts Council, though what little exists on Tambi’s relation to the IAC is found in the Indian Arts Council series.  The IAC series primarily contains materials from Jane Williams, who took over Tambi’s role with the IAC after his death in 1983.

Tambi compiled a selection of his own papers with the intention of writing his memoirs, which can be found in the Return to London: Memoirs series.  Of note here is correspondence dating back to the 1940s, along with copies of essays and poems.  The correspondence here has remained separate from what is contained in the earlier series, as this was done intentionally by Tambi and may give some insight into his thoughts while compiling his memoirs.  It mostly consists of letters from publishers, with the 1940s being the best represented decade (though still comprising only one folder).  Box 39, folder 15 contains photocopied versions of two handwritten works, “Poems Written in Ceylon and India,” and “The Land of Kim,” the latter of which is the musical written by Tambi for Safia’s family and performed by her Tyabjee family at Kihim.  Also found in this series are copies of “Fitzrovia,” an autobiographical essay written by Tambi (a version of which also appears in the festschrift).

Newsclippings range from 1939-1989 and are mostly clippings made by Tambi or his staff in order to document his work.  This series is arranged chronologically.

The Photographs series is arranged topically by names and locations, ranging from the 1940s through the 1980s.  Few are dated and many do not contain any identifying information.  Both prints and negatives are included here.

The Audio materials series contains mostly reel-to-reel audiotapes with minimal information.  While some seem to contain conversations or recitations, others appear to be reproductions of commercial recordings. 

The two penultimate series, Jane Williams: Indian Arts Council and Jane Williams: Tambi Festschrift, range from 1980-1989, and primarily contain materials created by Jane Williams, who carried on Tambi’s work with the Indian Arts Council after his death in 1983.  This series contains documentation on the IAC’s accounts, and includes minutes, correspondence, and membership lists, as well as founding documents.  Jane Williams was also the driving force behind Tambimuttu: Bridge Between Two Worlds.  Williams compiled prose and poetry submissions, which are included in this series.  Also found here is information regarding the disposition of Lyrebird Press, publicity, and the management of a memorial concert for Tambi.

The final series, Prints, Drawings and Watercolors, contains mostly oversize materials, including watercolors, drawings, prints, and other items.  Also here are drawings and galleys for “A Keepsake for Prince Charles…” which are oversized.  Of note is a hand colored print by Jankel Adler (interior still life), color copies of Graham Sutherland illustrations, and drawings by Feliks Topolski for Poems From Bangladesh.  Also found here is a scrapbook from Tambi’s trip to Paris in 1945, along with a large scrapbook containing book jackets, journal covers and illustrations from Tambi publications.

Dates

  • 1936-1989
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/01/1993

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on use of the materials in the department for research; all patrons must comply with federal copyright regulations.

Extent

71.00 Boxes

Abstract

The Tambimuttu Archive at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections is particularly strong in covering Tambimuttu’s later years. There is much regarding the Lyrebird Press, Poetry London/Apple Magazine, and the Indian Arts Council. There is also extensive documentation of the preparation for the festschrift for Tambimuttu (Tambimuttu: Bridge Between Two Worlds, London: Peter Owen, 1989) edited by his colleague Jane Williams after his death. Types of materials held include correspondence, manuscript submissions, proofs and galleys, a large number of photographs, and Tambimuttu’s personal library of books and journals (mostly cataloged separately under Tambi and searchable in the Northwestern University Library online catalog). Among the correspondents represented are Lawrence Durrell, David Gascoyne, Conrad Aiken, Francis Scarfe, Nicholas Moore, Iris Murdoch, Kathleen Raine, Feliks Topolski, and George Barker.

Source of Acquisition

Gift.
Method of Acquisition Received from Katherine Falley Bennett in 1993.

Separated Materials

A number of monographs and journals have been removed from the manuscript collection and cataloged in Special Collections with a “Tambi” call number.

Processing Information

Benn Joseph, 2012.
Title
Guide to the Tambimuttu Archive
Author
Benn Joseph
Date
11/30/2011
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Deering Library, Level 3
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