Collections & Archives
Olive Schreiner’s original handwritten letters are located in archives located around the world and also in collections held in private hands. The Olive Schreiner Letters Project is extremely grateful to all the archives we have worked in and to the private collections which have granted us access, and the Project fully acknowledges their ownership of these original letters and their careful stewardship of them. A full list of Acknowledgements can be accessed below.
The transcriptions we publish are precisely that, our transcriptions, and as such they are both imperfect and also transmutations of Schreiner's original manuscript letters. Consequently readers and users are strongly encouraged to find out about the archives in question and also where possible to consult the original letters. All archives have their own ways of organizing and making collections available, the collections are organised in sometimes very different ways (on their own, as part of a non-Schreiner collection...) and this impacts on how letters are presented to users and the meanings that will be given to their contents, as does knowledge of the contexts in which the texts of Schreiner's letters are located.
The majority of Schreiner’s letters are in South Africa, and accessing them there is a very different from doing so in Sheffield, Texas or Amsterdam. In some archives, Schreiner’s letters are in one collection named after her, while in others her letters are a small part of a much larger collection, like a family collection over five generations, or the papers of a famous politician who was one of her correspondents, with these holding many thousands of letters and other items not connected with Schreiner at all. Also reading just one letter is a very different experience from coming across it in a group of over a hundred to the same person.
In addition, transcriptions are not the letters themselves - they are a kind of translation and transmutation from an original manuscript, and they look very different from these originals. Jpeg images of letters are of course not 'the letters' either, but another two-dimensional representation. However, the Project has been concerned with making full accurate transcriptions available, to support Schreiner scholarship in realisation of how important Schreiner's letters are, and so it has prioritised 'workable transcriptions' of contents above providing images of the material object. Schreiner's letters are important, fascinating and often quite amazing, and we anticipate being able to read their contents overall will change the face of interpretations of her work and her activities more generally.
The transcripts published by the Schreiner Letters Project start with a set of information - meta-data - which among other things informs readers which archive and particular collection a letter is located in, and how to reference the letters and acknowledge the archives and collections they are part of. From here, readers can access a list of archives with the particular sets of Schreiner letters they hold listed under collection names. Clicking on an archive name will take readers to further information about the archive in question and its Schreiner or Schreiner-related collections.