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Opening the Boxes in CSUF's Special Collections

    In 1972, Dr. Willis McNelly, a Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton, met Philip K. Dick in Northern California. The meeting quickly led to PKD, after a breakdown in Vancouver, moving to Fullerton. Soon after that, PKD deposited his papers in the Special Collections of the CSUF library on a "permanent loan" basis (receiving a small stipend to organize them). More recently, after numerous earlier attempts, the estate of PKD removed those manuscripts from the collection. (Many other manuscripts and first editions remain that arrived from other sources as the collection grew.) The plan was to redeposit the PKD bequest at the Special Collections Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, but a perhaps mistaken re-valuation led to a precipitous rise in requested compensation and a breakdown of that plan. Instead, the papers are currently out of circulation, stored somewhere by the estate, and can no longer be accessed by scholars. A great loss.
    The files in the archives or "file cabinet" page linked to this page document what is now missing. First, a 1992 essay by Willis McNelly in a small booklet Very Special Collections, published by the Friends of the Library, outlines the original science fiction collection (which includes manuscripts by Ray Bradbury and Frank Herbert, among others) that McNelly founded. In this essay, Dr. McNelly tells the story of his meeting with PKD and the original depositing of the manuscripts. Second, a modern inventory of the holdings now is linked from the CSUF library today. Third, an inventory published by Dr. McNelly in the academic journal Science Fiction Studies lists the complete holdings as they were in 1975. Finally, an audit by our project of the two inventories reveals what manuscripts have been removed from the collection by the estate.
    See the subpage "file cabinet" below to examine the documents for yourself.
    Further, included is a video and a longer transcript done at the time of an interview with Sharon Perry who runs Special Collections in the library at CSUF. (We cloud not be sure our interview would record del enough, and had a transcription as a back up; the transcription is longer but is not, as you can see comparing video and transcript, word-for-word.) Excerpts from the transcript are included on this page. Sharon Perry has been associated with the library for as long as the PKD collection has existed and outlines the story of how the PKD materials appeared in the collection and describes how the original "permanent loan" by PKD has been removed from the holdings here. She informs us about what she knows about the fate of those materials now.


YouTube Video



Below are excerpts from the transcript of the 2014 interview with
Sharon Perry: Special Collections Librarian

(The transcript is not word for word!)

[Here is the story of the removal of PKD papers by the estate:]

Do you remember 2008, when the stock market crashed? There was no money to buy the collection then. No one was going to give us 2 million to buy it. So, the family went into negotiations with the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley, who was establishing a center for California authors, they wanted PKD as a California author.  In the beginning, the family was asking between $100,000 and $300,000. The question in the beginning was do we own it or don’t we? We kept the records and correspondence in the file. Then the family brought in an independent auditor to access the value. He believed it to be worth $2 million [an error in his calculation of its worth]. We didn’t have the money. 

[Do we own it, or don't we own it?]

We had been keeping the historic records, had written down everything in 70's, the administration paid a modest stipend to PKD to organize his papers into the special collection. Was it a gift or a loan what he brought to us? He didn’t take anything back. The collection was on loan to us permanently, almost for 40 years; the family had a strong case and we didn’t have the resources to fight a lawsuit. So, we packed it up and shipped it to the Bancroft, we did this under controlled conditions. Which they didn’t unpack because of problem with the new price.

[Here is a discussion of other PKD materials in CSUF's Special Collections:]

Our collection received an anonymous gift of a first edition worth $10,000, a gift by a wealthy donor from Silicon Valley… The collection was not obligated to give back outright gifts donated to Dick Collection to the Dick family from other donors. Could not be reclaimed by family.

One nice gentleman worked for the government while stationed in Russian, bought pirated copies of Russian PKD editions. If it came from another donor we did not have to give back. The family could take back from Mr. Dick’s donation was manuscripts, they took about half of the collection…

[Here's how a possible mis-valuation of the removed materials occurred:]

Sent to the Bancroft in February 2009, this outside auditor said I think it would be beneficial to audit all the books that we own. The family was asking the Bancroft between $100,000 and $300,000. [The change in price] from $300,000 to $2 million caused the Bancroft to back out. The deal fell through once the family wanted $2 million. They declined any offer and gave back the donation to the family. They didn’t want to hold on to it. Things happen like earthquakes, fires, [so] they gave it back to the family.

Family took possession; the collection is sitting in a vault somewhere in an attorney’s office. We have had no contact with family since then, no place of record as to where the collection is now. I don’t have any record…

A few manuscripts 7 or 8 [...were from] private donors though. We have “A Scanner Darkly” in leather that’s the $10,000 donation…

The evaluator didn’t know the permutations of that, best guess is he used the catalog, completed the evaluation this is why the evaluation was robust. The auditor included all the first editions, which changed the number to $2 million. The auditor didn’t know the first editions belonged to us…


[Here is PKD's role in organizing the manuscripts:]

I wasn’t involved in special collection at the time he was here. I never met him or saw him. My understanding was he was struggling financially, between wives, took an apartment across the street. Apartment was torn down at the first place he lived here to redevelop the area. He was invited to talk to Dr. McNelly's class and [the administration] paid him a small stipend. Allowed him to take what he might want back. He organized them when we protected them in acid free storage.


[Here's what was in the boxes:]

Everything, his typing, hand corrections, inserts were he changed things, galley proofs for final editing, notes and ideas. We never had “Exegesis” in our collection; I was rather relieved not to have it, space issues on the shelf. Must be in family’s collection. We do buy new editions to to the collection, actually that is “Friends of the Library” they do…

[Is special collections still buying lots of the new editions are they being added to the collections?]

We don’t buy them. I have no materials budget. About every two years we can buy acid free boxes and acid free folders for proper storage containers. We have no budget, we beg and borrow - but we don’t steal! We get lucky - we get gifts.

Mr. Dick started us off by giving us his manuscripts; over the years the library would buy a few things in sci fi. The library budget would buy a few things in sci fi with Dick; they filled in the manuscript holding, which includes books about his literary works and his life. We get donations from private donors. They donate wonderful things; they would come just like the cargo ships to the islands. They just came, extensive 1st edition collections and books about PKD.

I have to be upfront with you, I read everyday. I have to have a book in my hand. But I don't read science fiction, but I do look at them as I put them in acid free folders and work servicing the collection and working with students, I get some feel for it…

The collection came to us because of Willis McNelly, he wanted sci fi as a serious realm of study, wasn’t a respectable field of study at the time 60’s and 70’s [sci fi] considered like comic books, which is a field of study now, and we have a collection of them as well. He built the courses with some colleagues and Dr. Jane Hippilito.

Through reading correspondence with Mr. Herbert and his wife, McNelly made friends with the American and British writers and planted the seed of the idea of the building the sci-fi special collection where authors could deposit their manuscripts with us. So, scholars who want to study could come to CSUF and view our collection.

[The collection still contains Frank Herbert's manuscripts, and Avram Davidson's, and has the original of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, among many other things. Below is the subpage which explores the PKD holdings, and the fuller transcript of the  interview.]

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Catherine Bruno,
May 6, 2014, 12:46 PM
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