Skip to main content

William S. Burroughs collection

Call Number: MS 63


William Burroughs (1914-1997) was a prominent writer and countercultural figure associated with the "Beats." This collection includes correspondence, copies of the My Own Mag magazine and materials related to its production, and other related materials.


  • Creation: 1957 - 1967


Language of Materials

English; French; Spanish

Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of William Burroughs (1914-1997)

William S. Burroughs was an influential writer, artist, and countercultural figure. Burroughs was born in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Harvard.

While living in New York in the mid-1940s, he befriended a younger group of aspiring writers, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, who would come to be known as the Beats. Burroughs's fiction includes Junkie (as William Lee, 1953), Naked Lunch (1959), The Soft Machine (1961), The Ticket that Exploded (1962), Nova Express (1964), The Wild Boys (1971), and Cities of the Red Night (1981).

Burroughs' writing is recognized for its technical experimentation (including the use of the cut-up method) and its explicit treatment of themes related to drugs, sexuality, and counterculture. After having spent time in Mexico City, Paris, Tangiers, London, and New York City, Burroughs moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1981, where he resided until his death on August 2, 1997.


.75 Linear Feet (2 document cases)

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of materials by and pertaining to William S. Burroughs. It is comprised of five smaller sets of materials: Burroughs-Nuttall (MS 63A), Burroughs-Pelieu (MS 63B), Burroughs-Hardiment (MS 63C), Burroughs-My Own Mag collection (MS 63D), and Burroughs-Wiedemann (MS 63E).

The Burroughs-Nuttall portion of the collection consists of letters, typescripts, and clippings sent by William S. Burroughs to Jeff Nuttall, mainly in connection with Burroughs’ periodicals The Burrough and The Moving Times, which were published as part of Nuttall’s My Own Mag (see MS 63D) from 1964 through 1966.

The Burroughs-Pelieu portion of the collection consists of letters, manuscripts, and photographs collected by Claude Pelieu and includes materials by Pelieu, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Allen Ginsberg in addition to Burroughs. Pelieu was a writer who occasionally collaborated with Burroughs. He was also a friend of the bookseller and publisher Mary Beach.

The Burroughs-Hardiment portion of the collection consists of manuscripts and typescripts, letters, photographs, an interview typescript, sketches (artist unknown), and notes collected by Melville Hardiment, a British writer, editor, and teacher. The letters are primarily to, from, or concerning Burroughs.

The Burroughs-My Own Mag portion of the collection consists of issues 4-9, 11-17, and one unnumberable issue of Jeff Nuttall’s My Own Mag, to which Burroughs contributed. Due to the bibliographically complex nature of the issues and the presence of cut-ups, burns, and other effects, each copy may be unique. The issues present span from 1963[?] – 1966. (See MS 63A for correspondence concerning these publications and some of Burroughs’ contributions to them).

Lastly, the Burroughs-Wiedemann portion of the collection consists of correspondence between Burroughs and Erik Wiedemann regarding Wiedemann's translation of Nova Express into Danish as Nova-ekspres, which was published by Stig Vendelkaers Forlag in 1967.


This collection has been organized into five series. The Burroughs-Nuttall series (MS 63A) includes items sent from Burroughs to Jeff Nuttall in connection with Nuttall's publication My Own Mag. The Burroughs-Pelieu series (MS 63B) includes items collected by Claude Pelieu concerning Burroughs. The Burroughs-Hardiment series (MS 63C) includes materials collected by Melville Hardiment concerning and/or written to and from Burroughs. The My Own Mag series (MS 63D) includes issues 4-9, 11-14, and 15-17 of the magazine edited by Jeff Nuttall. The Burroughs-Wiedemann series (MS 63E) includes correspondence between Erik Wiedemann and Burroughs.

Physical Location

MS 63

Immediate Source of Acquisition

MS 63A: Purchase, Argosy Book Store, 1966[?]. MS 63B: Purchase, Mary Beach, 1968. MS 63Be:1: Purchase, Claude Pelieu, 1966. MS 63C: Purchase, L.A. Wallrich, 1968. MS 63D: Purchase, Argosy Book Store, 1966 [?]. MS 63E: Purchase, Lars Rasmussen, The Booktrader, Copenhagen, 2000.

Related Materials

James Grauerholz Collection of William S. Burroughs; undated, 1993, 1996-2000; call number MS 319

Separated Materials

The Burroughs-Hardiment collection originally contained five audio tapes. These have been transferred to the custody of the University Archives and are housed at University Archives call numbers:

UA Tape 56: Burroughs, William S. A day in the life of a Junkie, 1961.

UA Tape 57: Burroughs, William S. The words of the all powerful Hassan Sabha.

UA Tape 58: Burroughs, William S. Under hallucinants.

UA Tape 59: Burroughs, William S. The silent writings of Hassan Sabha. Brion Gysin: “Minutes,” Arab music, “Women.”

UA Tape 60: Gysin, Brion. On Sylvia Beach. Miscellaneous. “B. & Gysin at end of tape”

Guide to the Literary Ephemera Manuscripts Collection
William S. Burroughs collection
Finding aid prepared by sda, 2013. Finding aid encoded by sda, 2013. Finding aid revised by mhr, mab, 2015.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
William S. Burroughs collection, Department of Special Collections, MS 63, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States