BGSU home to Ray Bradbury collectionWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Science-fiction writer extraordinaire Ray Bradbury may have died June 5, but he left behind volumes of work — including at the Bowling Green State University’s Jerome Library.
Bradbury, author of “Fahrenheit 451” and “The Martian Chronicles,” died at 91 in Los Angeles. He is largely credited with bringing respect to the science-fiction genre and for weaving eerily precient tales about the future.
A fellow science-fiction writer and friend, William Nolan spent years collecting Bradbury’s work, dating back to 1936 when the author was a high school student. In 1981, Nolan’s collection found a home at BGSU. The collection includes many of Bradbury’s works, letters, photos, manuscripts and more. More than 120 manuscripts are available in 160 drafts.
The highlight of the collection is the original manuscript of “Fahrenheit 451,” complete with Bradbury’s handwritten corrections, said Lee McLaird, the curator of rare books at the library’s Center for Archival Collections. The collection also features copies of “Fahrenheit 451” from all over the world, including the Danish “233 Celsius.”
Other Bradbury collections are at the University of Indiana and UCLA. Such extensive Bradbury collections exist because of the author’s willingness to share, McLaird said.
“He was a very generous person. Often if someone admired something of his, he was likely to hand them a copy,” she said.
Bradbury in person
Author of “Gotham City 14 Miles” and Toledo Free Press Star columnist Jim Beard experienced Bradbury’s persona in person — twice. The first time was at the unveiling of the Ray Bradbury Collection at BGSU.
“My dad saw [the donation] was going to happen and he knew how big a fan I was so we drove down to BG,” Beard said. He remembered when Bradbury finished his talk and stepped off stage, everyone gathered around him in a crowded hush, giving him books to sign.
“Finally he stops and says, ‘Will somebody ask me a question?’” Beard said. “Everyone was in such awe of him.”
It was the teenage Beard who asked the first question, about whether a house described in “The Strawberry Window” was inspired by houses in nearby states (Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Ill.).
“He described a house that I swear was like the house I grew up in here on Parkwood in Toledo,” Beard said. “He said something like, ‘It was the house we all grew up in.’”
Beard’s second meeting with the author was in the ’90s when Bradbury came to an event at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
“My wife and I went to see him together and that was a more formal thing,” Beard said. “Today, I’m feeling very, very lucky that I got to meet him twice.”
Both McLaird and Beard anticipate a spike in Bradbury’s popularity. “I’m sad we won’t have any more stories from him but he left us a wonderful body of work and again, I think he bears rereading,” McLaird said. “When we lose someone like this, it brings to our attention that life is fleeting and we want to be reminded of people who gave us great pleasure in our reading growing up.”
Beard said he discovered Bradbury around age 13 when he read “The Martian Chronicles.”
“I had never really read anything like that. You’ll always remember your first Bradbury book because he’s such a unique writer,” he said.
Beard and McLaird also noted that science fiction isn’t the only genre Bradbury did. The writer wrote for pulp magazines and even penned slice-of-life tales.
“Ray was always more concerned with the human quotient than the nuts and bolts in a rocket ship to Mars,” Beard said.
Although the items in the Ray Bradbury Collection “are the ones you come to when you want to do heavy duty research,” librarians can bring the items out of archives for patrons to view, McLaird said. Exhibits outside of the archival collections on the fifth floor and on the first floor are being planned, she said.
The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library offers 124 different versions of Ray Bradbury’s work in its system, said Rhonda Sewell, media relations coordinator for the library. No memorial has been planned, but a future exhibit is possible.
The University of Toledo Library system has 45 Bradbury titles.
Beard particularly enjoyed one piece of advice Bradbury gave to writers. “He always said he wrote every day no matter what and as a writer myself, that’s really inspiring. I would always say to do that, do what Uncle Ray said. No matter how you feel, get up, write a poem or a song or something,” he said.
The Center for Archival Collections at the BGSU Jerome Library is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To learn more, visit http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/library/cac/ms/page44699.html.