Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Behan, Brendan
Brendan Behan Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1943-1983 (mostly 1943-1963)
3 boxes
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-001194 to B-001196
English Irish


Consists of selected manuscript and typescript drafts, notebooks, and notes, of 20th-century Irish author Brendan Behan (1923-1964), as well as some correspondence and ephemera. The papers constitute the principal archives of the manuscripts of Behan's writings.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of selected manuscripts and notebooks of 20th-century Irish writer Brendan Behan's most important literary and autobiographical works, covering the vast majority of his writing career, including the years he was imprisoned. In addition, the collection includes a substantial proportion of the writer's slender surviving correspondence as well as some personal ephemera.

There are a significant number of literary drafts, comprising either preliminary notes and drafts or completed manuscripts, including those for The Quare Fellow, An Giall / The Hostage, Borstal Boy, and Confessions of an Irish Rebel, as well as Behan's first play, The Landlady, among others. The typescripts that are represented in the collection, including many embryonic typed fragments of works which were subsequently abandoned, are of particular interest: typing appears to have been, for Behan, a direct extension of the creative thought process. In addition to more developed drafts, unpublished notebooks and loose notes offer significant insight into Behan's writing method. These materials are complemented by manuscripts and typescripts for various articles and essays as well as for a few poems and songs.

Behan's correspondence makes up a relatively minor part of the collection, reflecting the author's professed distaste for letter-writing. Many of the letters in the collection are represented in E.H. Mikhail's The Letters of Brendan Behan (London, 1992).

Much of the description of materials in the collection comes from information provided by the auction house at which the collection was purchased.


As no original order was discernible, materials were arranged by type/genre.

Collection Creator Biography:


Brendan Behan (1923-1964) was an acclaimed 20th-century Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright, who wrote in both English and Irish.

A good portion of Behan's later adolescence and early adulthood was spent in English or Irish institutions, initially borstals and then prisons, due to his involvement in the Irish Republican Army. It was during this time that he took it upon himself to study and become fluent in the Irish language. Behan gained international notoriety by the late 1950's, with the production of two plays, The Quare Fellow (1954) and An Giall / The Hostage (1958), and with the publication of his autobiographical novel, Borstal Boy (1958), which became a worldwide best-seller. Behan continued to write until his death in 1964.

Collection History


Purchase, 2017 (AM 2018-80).

Custodial History

According to the auction house at which the collection was purchased, the papers are comprised of everything that passed into the possession of Brendan Behan's widow, Beatrice Behan, upon his death.


No materials were removed from the collection during 2018 processing beyond routine appraisal practices.

Processing Information

Some manuscript items were repaired by Conservation staff during 2018 processing.

This collection was processed by Faith Charlton with assistance from Julia English '19 in 2018. Finding aid written by Faith Charlton with assistance from Julia English '19 in 2018.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Brendan Behan Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
(609) 258-3184
Storage Note:
  • Firestone Library (scamss): Boxes B-001194 to B-001196