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J. B. Priestley Archive

J. B. Priestley

Writer, broadcaster and critic J. B. Priestley (1894-1984) may be best known for his "time plays", such as An Inspector Calls, for enduringly popular novels like The Good Companions and Angel Pavement and for his wartime broadcasts, the Postscripts. However, he also wrote essays, autobiography, social history and time theory. Priestley was active in politics, although never a member of any party, expressing his concerns (for instance about the nuclear arms race) through commentary and campaigning.

Born and brought up in Bradford, Priestley used his Yorkshire background in some of his finest works, such as Bright Day and When we are married. His connections with the city were later marked by the statue near Central Library and the naming of the J. B. Priestley Library at the University of Bradford, which was he officially opened in 1975. The University awarded him the title of honorary Doctor of Letters in 1970, and he was awarded the freedom of the City of Bradford in 1973 and the Order of Merit in 1977.

The Archive

The J. B. Priestley Archive is one of the largest and most popular of the Special Collections at Bradford. Most of the material has been kindly donated by the Priestley Estate.  The Archive includes scripts of plays, films and TV broadcasts, journal articles, lectures, press cuttings, theatre programmes and other publicity material, business and personal correspondence and a huge collection of photographs. There are even personal effects, such as Priestley's iconic pipes. Priestley was an enthusiastic painter and one of his works, a gouache of Ullswater, is on display in the Special Collections Reading Room.

For much more about the Archive: J.B. Priestley Archive Interim Catalogue April 2013 (pdf, 548 kb)

Book Collection

Special Collections also has a superb collection of published books by and about Priestley. The author himself donated a set of his works published by Heron Books in the 1960s, supplemented by many works donated by the Priestley Estate and various individuals.  The book collections includes novels, essays, plays, pamphlets and works of biography and history. We also include volumes to which Priestley contributed a preface or an article, and biographies. Many of our books are first editions, some signed; we also collect later editions, translations, paperbacks and audio-visual material.

Library catalogue

Links

  • Our 100 Objects Bradford exhibition tells the story of Priestley's life and works via key objects from the Archive.  Find out  about his Bradford boyhood, his experiences in the First World War trenches, his English Journey of 1933, his Postscript broadcasts in the Second World War, and much more.
  • Special Collections at the University of Bradford includes regular features about Priestley and his works, especially Priestley's Finest Hour, which followed his 1940 Postscript broadcasts week by week 70 years on.
  • The official Priestley web site, including biography and bibliography.
  • The J. B. Priestley Society was founded in 1997. It aims to widen the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Priestley's literary and other published works; to promote the study of his life and career, and to provide the members of the Society with opportunities to share experiences and knowledge. Society activities include events, days out, talks, annual lectures, seminars, publishing and the promotion of public performances of Priestley's plays. New members are always welcome.
  • Special Collections also holds The Archive of Jacquetta Hawkes, archaeologist and author, Priestley's third wife.
  • The Harry Ransom Center holds typescripts, correspondence, photographs, books and other Priestley materials.