The G. K. Chesterton Collection includes over 3000 volumes connected with the life and work of the English journalist, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). It embraces virtually all the works of Chesterton (many in the first edition): novels, pamphlets, works to which he contributed a chapter or forward, works for which he did the illustrations, and a complete set of the serial G.K.'s Weekly. Also included are numerous works about Chesterton, both biographical and critical. The basis of the collection was a donation in 1973 from the Reverend Kevin Scannell. The collection is supplemented by the broad holdings of the Rare Book Collection in the works of several of Chesterton's colleagues including Hilaire Belloc and Maurice Baring.
The collection includes one of Chesterton's sketchbooks from his time at the Slade School of Art. There are also over a dozen individual sheets of original Chesterton sketches, some from his early childhood. The sketches were originally in the collection of the Reverend Kevin Scannell, having been given to him by Chesterton's secretary and literary executor, Dorothy Collins. Several books in the collection include original Chesterton "doodles".
Chesterton Papers on Microfiche
Chesterton's papers were held in trust for many years by his secretary, Dorothy Collins, near his home in Beaconsfield, England. At her death the papers were acquired by the British Museum; this is the largest collection of Chesterton manuscripts in the world. The Kelly Library owns microfiche copies of the entire collection (over 1500 fiche): manuscripts of many published works, illustrations from Chesterton's time at the Slade School of Art and later, correspondence with family and friends, and albums of press clippings. There are also microfiche copies of the papers of Chesterton's wife Frances, including her plays and poems.
Presentation and association copies
The collection includes a number of items signed by Chesterton. Among the most important of these presentation and association copies are the following:
- a presentation copy of The Secret of Father Brown to Monsignor John O'Connor, with a sixteen line hand-written poem "Folk-Song"
- a copy of The Flying Inn with the bookplate of Chesterton's father and the signature of his mother
- a copy of Greybeards at Play: Literature and Art for Old Gentlemen given by Chesterton's uncle Arthur to Dorothy Charlotte Corbin
Papers of Monsignor John O’Connor
John O'Connor (1870 - 1952) was the Catholic priest who became the model for Chesterton's character "Father Brown". In February 1903 O'Connor wrote to Chesterton, and the following year the two men met for the first time. They formed an immediate bond of friendship which was to last more than thirty years. In 1921 O'Connor was present at Chesterton's reception into the Catholic Church. The papers of Monsignor O'Connor are various. They include a number of manuscripts of his poems and essays, Christmas greetings from the Chesterton's, and a number of personal letters (including one from Cardinal Hinsley about Chesterton).