Priceless family treasures belonging to William Butler Yeats will be handed over to the National Library of Ireland tomorrow for its first major exhibition on the Nobel prize-winning poet.
The hoard includes poems, portraits and a precious Japanese sword given to Yeats during a lecture tour of the US in 1920.
The material will be given to the Library on temporary loan by Yeats’ son, Michael for the forthcoming exhibition, ’Yeats: the life and works of William Butler Yeats’ due to open later this year.
“This will be the first major exhibition developed by the National Library on the great poet and we are indebted to the Yeats family for their support,” said National Library director, Aongus O hAonghusa.
“It will draw on a wide range of Yeatsian scholarship and will attempt to engage with all the major aspects of Yeats’ life and works to give a comprehensive view of him.”
The family material will also feature an illuminated copy of the Lake Isle of Innisfree, printed by Yeats’ sister Elizabeth and portraits of Yeats’ wife, George by artists Edmund Dulac and John Butler Yeats.
The Japanese sword being donated was described in Yeats’ poem Meditations in Time of Civil War.
The artefacts will augment the National Library’s permanent collection of Yeats manuscripts and books donated by the family over many years including manuscripts or early printed versions of most of Yeats’ best-known poems like Lake Isle of Innisfree to Circus Animals’ Desertion, and Under Ben Bulben.
The material being assembled for the exhibition will also include previously unseen pictures of Yeats and Maud Gonne on loan from Mrs Anna White, grand-daughter of Maud Gonne and daughter of Sean McBride.
The Yeats manuscript collection is one of the largest literary collections in the National Library, and the largest collection of Yeats manuscripts in a single institution anywhere in the world.
The Yeats Library comprises 3,000 volumes owned and used by Yeats in his lifetime, and an additional 350 titles by and about him, published after his death.
The exhibition will make full use of digital media including electronic ‘turning the page’ technology and multimedia to convey the interest and excitement of Yeats’ life and of his creative process.
Born in 1865, Yeats was a leading figure in the Irish Literary Revival and a founder of the Abbey Theatre.
He published almost 400 poems and 26 plays as well as volumes of memoirs, essays, ideas, introductions and reviews.
He was appointed to the Irish Senate in the early years of the Irish Free State.
He was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1923 and later died in France in 1939.