New exhibition sheds light on the cutting room floor of modern literature

Write, Cut, Rewrite

29 February 2024 - 5 January 2025
Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries


The Bodleian Libraries is pleased to announce the launch of Write, Cut, Rewrite, a new exhibition which focuses on the creative importance of revision in literature. Often referred to as ‘killing your darlings’, Write, Cut, Rewrite delves into the editing, cutting and creative undoing of some of the world's most celebrated authors, revealing little-known literary treasures. 

Curated by Dirk Van Hulle, Professor of Bibliography and Modern Book History at the University of Oxford, and Mark Nixon, Professor of Modern Literature and Beckett Studies at the University of Reading, the exhibition will offer a peek behind the scenes into writers’ workshops, drawing upon The Bodleian Libraries’ unparalleled collection of modern manuscripts from the 18th century to today. Write, Cut, Rewrite showcases the contrast and impact of edits, turning simple cuts into present absences and rewriting our relationship with much-loved texts we thought we knew.

The curators, Professor Dirk Van Hulle and Professor Mark Nixon, comment:

The exhibition reveals ideas that did not make it into some of our best-known novels, poems or plays – ideas that can only be recovered in manuscripts, held in archives and special collections.

Write, Cut, Rewrite will feature abandoned works, such as Jane Austen’s The Watsons, and cases of censorship, such as Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It also touches on the revisions and rewritings of famous books, offering visitors a unique chance to look over the shoulder of literary greats at the moment of creation. Highlights include discarded ideas, fundamental changes, deletions, additions, notes and scribbles from great authors such as Mary and Percy Shelley, Jane Austen, James Joyce, Raymond Chandler, Ian Fleming, Samuel Beckett, and John le Carré.

Other insights from the cutting room floor will include the original ending to Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, George Eliot’s reading notes, Franz Kafka’s cuts in the manuscript of his novel The Castle and the description in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein extracted from Percy Shelley’s journal.

Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian, said:

The editorial process, an integral step in the creation of great works of literature, is invisible to the reader when they are enjoying a favourite novel or poem. Our exhibition attemps to bring these cuts and rewrites back from obscurity. Our Write, Cut, Rewrite exhibition, invites avid readers along on a journey with some of the greatest writers revisiting the passages that were removed, and restoring earlier versions of great literary classics.

To accompany the exhibition, on 29 February Bodleian Library Publishing will be releasing Write, Cut, Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature by Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon. 

The exhibition is part of the Season of Great Writers at the Bodleian Libraries. The season will celebrate great authors from across the Bodleian’s collections through public displays and events, including the exhibitions Chaucer Here and Now and Kafka: Making An Icon. Write, Cut, Rewrite will contribute to this rich programme, covering the breadth of literary history with its wide range of iconic voices.

For further information or to speak to the curators, please contact

Notes to editors

Bodleian Libraries Press Office
Telephone: 07718 118141

The Press Office is open Monday – Friday from 9am – 5pm. For out-of-hours queries, please leave a message and email

Related publications from Bodleian Library Publishing

Write Cut Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature, edited by Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon
Available 29 February 2024

Please contact Emma O’Bryen for more information at