In 1997, while working in TU’s Special Collections, Oxford scholar Kathryn Laing made a remarkable discovery—a previously unknown manuscript for the first novel by writer Rebecca West. The Sentinel: An Incomplete Early Novel by Rebecca West was published by the University of Oxford Press in 2001.
“[The manuscript] had been misidentified because West did not use her own name,” said Lori Curtis, then head of Special Collections and archives. “It was like the birth of a child.” In the 1980s, TU bought the West materials—all 296 boxes which included letters from thousands of correspondents such as Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence and Anaïs Nin.
Laing edited the 260-page handwritten manuscript and wrote a forward about her transcription. “It is important that scholars have access to these kinds of collections so someone can make similarly amazing discoveries,” said Curtis, who worked closely with Laing to decipher West’s handwriting.
West’s 1956 novel, The Fountain Overflows, is considered one of the best by a British woman of her era. Her travelogue, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, is based on her visits to the Balkans in the 1930s.