Exploring Leonard and Virginia Woolf's personal library: Mirrors of the soul?

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This paper will present findings from archival research in the personal library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, now housed at Washington State University, Pullman USA. Focusing on a set of specific examples, the paper discusses how much we can learn about the Woolfs' interests from the contents of the collection and what we learn about their reading methods from the marks of use and even abuse they left on the volumes they owned. Acknowledging that it is not possible to draw firm conclusions simply by examining the collection itself, the paper tests findings against further evidence from their published writings and Virginia Woolf's reading notebooks. The paper asks whether the collection bears out Virginia Woolf's ironic comment in her novel 'Between the Acts' that books are 'the mirror of the soul'. The paper makes an unashamed case for the importance of the printed book as artefact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-50
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of the Book
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Leonard and Virginia Woolf
  • Library
  • Reading


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