When the New York Public Library announced in October 1968 that its Berg Collection had acquired the original manuscript of The Waste Land, one of the most puzzling mysteries of twentieth-century literature was solved. The manuscript was not lost, as had been believed, but had remained among the papers of John Quinn, Eliot’s friend and adviser, to whom the poet had sent it in 1922.
If the discovery of the manuscript was startling, its content was even more so, because the published version of The Waste Land was considerably shorter than the original. How it was reduced and edited is clearly revealed on the manuscript through the handwritten notes of Ezra Pound, of Eliot’s first wife, Vivien, and of Eliot himself.
In order that this material might be widely available for study, the poet’s widow Mrs Valerie Eliot prepared the present edition, in 1971, in which each page of the original manuscript was reproduced in facsimile, with a clear transcript facing pages. Mrs Eliot also included an illuminating introduction, explanatory notes and cross-references, together with the text of the first published version of The Waste Land, thus completing the evolution of the most influential poem in modern literature.
To mark the centenary of the original poem, and celebrate fifty years of the facsimile, Eliot’s original pages are published here in the startling vivacity of full colour for the first time. The present edition reissues, with corrections, of the text of the 1980 reprint, and includes an appendix of original materials not previously made available.