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Nancy Cunard collection

Call Number: GEN MSS 438

Scope and Contents

This finding aid encompasses accessions of single manuscripts and small groups of manuscripts and other papers, by or pertaining to Nancy Cunard, acquired by the library from a variety of sources. Materials incorporated into the collection prior to May 1999 have been organized into two series. Series I, Miriam J. Benkovitz Collection (1930-1965), contains letters from Cunard to Miriam Benkovitz, biographer and bibliographer of Ronald Firbank, Jinadasa Vijayatunga, and others, one letter from John Robert Scott to Cunard, holograph and typescript poems, articles and translations by Cunard, and a typescript memoir by Iris Tree inscribed to Cunard. Series II, Materials from Other Sources (1919-1948), contains holograph and typescript writings by Cunard.


  • 1930 - 1965


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Portfolio (folders 36-41): Restricted fragile material. Reference surrogates have been substituted in the main files. For further information consult the appropriate curator.

Conditions Governing Use

The Nancy Cunard Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Ongoing collection of documents acquired by gift and purchase from various sources. Source information is recorded on the folders. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


0.4 Linear Feet ((1 box) + 1 portfolio)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Collection contains correspondence, writings and other materials by or related to Nancy Cunard. Correspondence includes letters from Cunard to Miriam J. Benkovitz (biographer and bibliographer of Ronald Firbank), Jinadasa Vijayatunga, and others, as well as letters to Cunard from John Robertson Scott. Writings include typescript and holograph poems and articles by Cunard, and translations of poems by "Geraldine" and Neftalí Beltrán. Also included is a typescript memoir about Cunard by Iris Tree entitled "We Shall Not Forget."

NANCY CUNARD (1896-1965)

Nancy Cunard was born on 10 March 1896 in Nevill Holt, Leicestershire, England, daughter of Sir Bache Cunard and Lady Maud Alice Burke Cunard. She spent her childhood as part of the British upper class on the family estate, surrounded by her parents' literary and artistic friends. When Cunard was fourteen, she moved with her mother to London, and subsequently attended schools in London, Paris and Germany.

Cunard began writing and publishing poetry in the 1910's, and after World War I she settled in Paris, where she became involved in the Dada, Surrealist and Modernist movements. Her first volume of poetry, Outlaws, was published in 1921, followed in 1923 by Sublunary and Parallax in 1925.

In 1927 Cunard founded the Hours Press in an old farmhouse in La Chapelle-Réanville, Normandy. The Press specialized in publishing writers whose works had difficulty finding a home elsewhere, including Ezra Pound and Samuel Beckett. The Hours Press closed after four years, after which Cunard became intensely involved in the black civil rights movement in the United States. Driven by her interest in the struggle, she spent several years collecting writings by and about African-Americans, which were published in 1934 in the anthology Negro.

For most of 1936-1939 Cunard lived in Madrid with the poet Pablo Neruda, working as a freelance writer during the Spanish Civil War. She spent most of World War II in London, where she published the anthology Poems for France (1944). After the war, Cunard returned to France to find that the Germans had destroyed or stolen most of her possessions.

Cunard's later publications included Grand Man: Memories of Norman Douglas (1954), GM: Memories of George Moore (1956) and These Were the Hours (1965), a posthumously published memoir. She died in Paris in 1965.

Processing Information

This finding aid is updated periodically to account for new materials that have been added to the collection. The date of the most recent update is noted on the title page. For information on material that may have been acquired for the collection since the last update, please consult the Public Service Desk.

Guide to the Nancy Cunard Collection
Under Revision
by Kathryn Rawdon
May 1999
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.