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Due to refurbishment works in the Sydney Jones Library, Special Collections and Archives is closed to users from Monday 3 June until Monday 16 September (inclusive). We're still available for your enquiries via email.

Special Collections & Archives: Olaf Stapledon Collectionaccredited archive service logo

SC&A includes manuscripts and archives, medieval to modern; early and finely printed books, and science fiction collections.

Olaf Stapledon Collection

Photograph of Olaf StapledonAn extensive collection consisting of manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence, miscellaneous items and books relating to the personal life and career of William Olaf Stapledon.

William Olaf Stapledon (1886-1950) is one of the great figures in the history of British science fiction. The philosophical depth and imaginative breadth of his novels signified an important stage in the development of the genre, inspiring and influencing many subsequent writers.

As a lecturer for the Workers' Educational Association and The University of Liverpool, Stapledon began publishing academic essays in 1908 and took a doctorate in Philosophy in 1925. He was a relative late-comer to fiction but eventually found in this expansive form a means of exploring his complex ideas of 'community' and 'spirit'.

Last and First Men coverIn 1930 he published his first novel, Last and First Men, followed by Odd John (1935), Star Maker (1937) and Sirius (1944). Although Stapledon wrote other works of fiction, these are the novels that made the greatest impact during his lifetime and which continue to receive widespread critical acclaim.


Detail of a chart from Last and First MenThe Olaf Stapledon Archive is an extensive collection of material, deposited with The University of Liverpool in 1983. The Archive consists of corrected holograph manuscripts and typescripts of Stapledon's published works, including his most famous novels as well as some unpublished works. In addition, there are publishers' proofs, notes for lectures and teaching courses and Stapledon's diaries and appointment books spanning 50 years.


Detail of cover of Odd John manuscript There is also a large section of correspondence relating to Stapledon's writing, political activities and teaching, as well as letters to and from friends and other important writers of the day, including H. G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Virginia Woolf and J.B. Priestley.

Finding and using

The archive is fully listed and an online Stapledon Finding Aid including further biographical information is available for browsing or searching.


All material in the Archive is available to scholars for consultation in the University Library's Special Collections and Archives Reading Room by prior arrangement. Please refer to visiting and using SC&A.

Related material

Search the Library Search for Stapledon's published works and related critical material. A large number of other books by and about Stapledon are separately contained in the University Library's Special Collections Catalogue. Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 9, No. 28 (Nov. 1982) is a special issue devoted to the work of Olaf Stapledon. We also have some copies of articles about Olaf Stapledon and his work in our Offprints Collection. Stapledon's correspondence with the society of authors 1943-50 is held at British Library, Manuscripts Collection. A bibliography of Stapledon's fiction can be found on the Fantastic Fiction site.