Library Gazette

A Gift of Literature: Jan Hensley’s North Carolina Authors Collection

Monday, January 14, 2013 1:03 pm

Jan Hensley and Lynn Sutton

ZSR’s Special Collections department received an exciting addition to its Southern American literature collections in 2012 with the gift of Jan Hensley’s personal collection of materials by and about North Carolina authors. Mr. Hensley, who attended WFU in the 1960s, is a photographer, author and collector who has been active in the North Carolina literary world for nearly 50 years. He is best known for his candid photographs of authors, which have been exhibited at Wake Forest and at many other venues throughout the state.

The Hensley Collection includes not only these photographs, but also a wide array of print, audio, graphic and archival materials. Many of the authors are household names – Thomas Wolfe, Reynolds Price, Clyde Edgerton, Lee Smith. Others are less well known. Most are North Carolina authors, but a few are from other regions in the South. The collection includes many books, most of them first editions and many of them autographed or inscribed by their authors. However, the more ephemeral materials in this collection may prove most valuable to researchers in the end.

Jan Hensley collected items such as small chapbooks, broadsides, journal and serial publications of poems and stories, and posters and flyers advertising author appearances or other events. Mr. Hensley also kept personal notes on his interactions with authors and made audiotapes of readings and Q-and-A sessions. These materials can document the early career of an author who went on to later renown, or the changes in literary publishing over several decades, or the interactions between authors and the reading public. Taken as a whole, the Hensley Collection provides not only a wealth of information on individual authors, but also a snapshot of the literary culture of North Carolina over the past half century.

Jan Hensley will transfer materials from his extensive personal collection to ZSR Special Collections over the next three years. The first shipment, which arrived in December 2012, includes Reynolds Price, Burke Davis and Robert Watson collections. After processing, the collection will be open to the public. Eventually, selected photographs and items may become available in digital format. For more information about the Hensley Collection, please contact Megan Mulder at x5091.

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