The Brautigan Library: a collection of unpublished manuscripts

Over 300 manuscripts submitted by everyday writers are stored inside the Clark County Historical Museum

The front of a red brick building with a flight of cement steps leading to a paned glass entry door under an archway.

The Clark County Historical Museum is open Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

Photo by Liza Schade, collections manager at Clark County Historical Museum

The late author Richard Brautigan once envisioned a library “to gather pleasantly together the unwanted, the lyrical, and haunted volumes of American writing.” Imagine the peace such a place could bring to the creators of unpublished literary works — to know that their visions + voices were at least preserved.

In Vancouver, there is a place for those pieces.

Brautigan’s idea inspired a man named Todd Lockwood to open The Brautigan Library in 1990. Though the library’s namesake wouldn’t live to see it, the space provided a home for those “unwanted” writings he once mused about — but Lockwood took it a step further, opening the library to visitors.

Originally established in Vermont, The Brautigan Library was relocated to the Clark County Historical Museum in 2010. Its mission is to archive and curate unpublished analog and digital books by unknown, but aspiring, writers.

Today, the library stores more than 300 physical copies of unpublished manuscripts submitted by authors from 1990-1996, while its digital collection continues to grow with works submitted since 2013. There’s also a special collection containing donated books written by Brautigan (who grew up in Eugene and was published by The Oregonian), records from the original Brautigan Library + artist books based on descriptions from Brautigan’s novel that inspired the library, “The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966.”

Two sets of shelves containing binders of unpublished literary works inside the reference library at the Clark County Historical Museum.

Physical copies of unpublished manuscripts are stored on these shelves in the Clark County Historical Museum’s reference library.

Photo by Liza Schade, collections manager at Clark County Historical Museum

“Rather than a literary junkyard, The Brautigan Library is a positive, and yes, winsome, endeavor as it collects, preserves, and curates unpublished manuscripts and other literary artifacts, believing each has its own, unique story to share,” said Dr. John Barber, a friend of Brautigan’s, WSU Vancouver faculty member, and librarian/curator at The Brautigan Library. “We invite you to explore.”

You can visit The Brautigan Library for yourself, read the analog manuscripts catalogued using the unique “Mayonnaise System” (though you can’t check any out to take home), browse the digital collection online, or submit your own work.

More from PDXtoday