Although the British Library is principally the national library of the UK, its collections are also home to a vast collection of works by celebrated American authors. Many of these writers travelled, worked, and published extensively in Europe. One of the most striking currents in transatlantic cultural history during the twentieth century was the migration of several generations of American writers and artists to Europe, their creative odysseys mirroring the parallel deployment of multilateral armies during two world wars. While their nineteenth-century predecessors like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, and Henry James, retreated to the “Old World” to search for the European roots of the “New”, a second wave of creative talent left the United States to join the vanguard of international Modernism. It was this dynamic group of Americans who became known as the “Lost Generation”, many of whose careers were launched in the inspiring turmoil of inter-war Paris.
The following pages trace the careers of some of these influential “transatlantic” authors through the Library’s rich and fascinating holdings of unique literary treasures. From handwritten manuscripts of celebrated works in their early stages, through letters sent across the Atlantic between author and publisher, to rare editions of the final printed books, these pages point towards an ongoing process of transatlantic cultural exchange and controversy. The documents discussed represent only the tip of iceberg: further exploration of the Library's printed books, manuscripts, and Sound Archive, will continue to reveal the rich results of this intercultural exchange as it continues through the second half of the twentieth century to the present day.