Aitken Collection


Aitken Collection


This collection of the works of Hugh MacDiarmid was formed by WR (William Russell) Aitken (1913-1998), former Reader in Librarianship at Strathclyde University, and a lifelong friend of the poet. MacDiarmid (1892-1978), whose real name was Christopher Murray Grieve, fought to revive Scots as a vigorous literary language and in doing so became the foremost Scottish poet of the 20th century. His major works such as 'A drunk man looks at the thistle' have international importance in modern literature. Aitken was MacDiarmid's editor and literary agent; he produced a comprehensive bibliography of the works of MacDiarmid, and edited, with MacDiarmid's son Michael Grieve, the 'Complete Poems', published in 1978. The collection contains some 125 items, particularly editions of MacDiarmid's poetry, many of them in their original dustjackets and inscribed by the poet to his friend. Most of the books have been annotated by Aitken; he corrects mistakes and provides notes relating to the publication history of individual poems. There is also a collection of photographs of the poet taken by Aitken, and a quantity of rare MacDiarmid ephemera, including posters, political manifestos and cards. The Aitken collection represents one of the fullest and most interesting sources for the study of MacDiarmid.


The books have been catalogued individually and have the shelfmark 'Aitken.'.


The collection was bequeathed to the Library by WR Aitken and received by the Library in 1999.

Related collections

Aitken's manuscript collection, bequeathed at the same time, is held at Acc.11748. Aitken also donated other manuscripts to the Library in 1979 and 1985.


'C.M. Grieve/Hugh MacDiarmid', WR Aitken, The Bibliotheck, vol. 1, no 4 (Autumn 1958), 3-23.

'Complete poems 1920-1976', H MacDiarmid, edited by M Grieve and WR Aitken, London, 1978 (later editions in 1985 and 1993-94)




Scottish history and literature

McDiarmid, Hugh