Odds and quads

This Tippa model typewriter, silver fountain pen inscribed with the letter J, carved wooden box with record-player needles, brass knuckleduster and pipes made by Allen & Wright were all found in the desk of the English novelist John Fowles (1926-2005), most famous for his 1969 novel The French Lieutenant's Woman.

May 26, 2011

Although the bulk of his manuscripts, books, half a century's worth of diaries and personal effects were acquired by the Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research facility at the University of Texas at Austin in 1991, the desk and its contents formed part of additional material supplied by his widow in 2008.

On 31 March this year, which would have been Fowles' 85th birthday, the items were put on display in the centre's Reading and Viewing Room, where they will remain for at least two years.

Also to be seen there are the desks once owned by Edgar Allan Poe and Compton MacKenzie.

A poignant evocation of Fowles' life and travels, his desk's drawers also contain two rubber bands, an optometrist's prescription card, Greek and Swedish coins, a leather dice shaker, a bag of pebbles and an ancient Tic Tac mint.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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