Guide to the Papers of Thomas Shapcott

MS 5577

National Library of Australia

Date Completed: November 1988
Last updated: November 2008

This finding aid was revised and published with the assistance of the Ray Mathew and Eva Kollsman Trust.


Creator: Shapcott, Thomas W. (Thomas William), 1935-
Title: Papers of Thomas Shapcott
Date range: 1949-1997
Reference number: MS 5577
Extent: 1.05 metres (7 boxes)
Repository: National Library of Australia Canberra


Scope and Content

The earlier papers are largely comprised of draft and typescript manuscripts of Time on Fire, A Taste of Salt Water, Shabbytown Calendar, Begin with Walking and many uncollected poems, together with correspondence with Charles Blackman and writers such as R.A. Simpson, Craig Powell, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Peter Skrzynecki, Douglas Stewart, James McAuley, Richard Tipping, John Tranter and Robert Adamson. Also included is a group of correspondence with Gwen Harwood and Rodney Hall, which incorporates drafts of the latter's The Law of Karma, Heaven in a Way and Romulus and Remus, a progression of poems. The 1998 addition relates principally to Shapcott's directorship of the National Book Council and includes correspondence and notes documenting his role in the Council's activities. Also represented is Shapcott's participation as a judge in many Australian poetry and literary competitions and delegate at overseas festivals, as well as a number of photographs of the poet and his family.


Boxes 1-2, 4-7 require permission to research; Box 3 available for research.


The collection was received in five instalments in 1970, 1973 (two consignments), 1977 and 1998.

Related Material

Letters by Shapcott are also contained in a number of other literary collections held in the Manuscript Section. Recordings of a 1959 reading by the poet and an 1974 interview are held in the Oral History Collection at ORAL DeB 240 and ORAL DeB 754 respectively. Portrait photographs taken in 1983 and 1990 are housed in the Pictorial Collection.

Separated Material

In addition to items deposited in the National Library, other collections of Shapcott's papers are located in the Australian Special Research Collection of the Australian Defence Force Academy and the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland.

Preferred Citation


Access Terms

Personal Names
Blackman, Charles, 1928-; Simpson, R.A. (Ronald Albert), 1929-; Powell, Craig, 1940-; Wallace-Crabbe, Chris, 1934-; Skrzynecki, Peter, 1945-; Stewart, Douglas, 1913-1985; McAuley, James, 1917-1976; Tipping, Richard, 1949-; Tranter, John, 1943-; Adamson, Robert, 1943-; Harwood, Gwen, 1920-1995; Hall, Rodney, 1935-;

Corporate Names
National Book Council (Australia); National Word Festival;

Biographical Note

For much of his career a practising accountant and part-time writer, Tom Shapcott has published more than 36 titles including collections of poems, essays, short stories, novels and books for young readers. In 1992 he was appointed Executive Director of the National Book Council, a position which he held until 1997 when he accepted up the post of inaugural Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.

Date Event
1935 Born Ipswich, Queensland, 21 March
1940-1948 Educated West Ipswich State School and Blair State School
1949-1950 Attended Ipswich Grammar School
1951-1961 Employee of H.S. Shapcott, Public Accountant
1960 Married Margaret Hodge
1961 Publication of Time on Fire for which he is awarded the Grace Leven Prize for Poetry
1963-1968 Part-time Bachelor of Arts degree student, University of Queensland
1967 A Taste of Salt Water, which was awarded the Sir Thomas White Memorial Prize and the Myer Charity Trust Award
1972 Begin with Walking
1972-1978 Sole practice, Shapcott & Shapcott, later specialising in taxation for writers, creative artists and academics
1974-1976 Deputy Chairman, Literature Board of the Australia Council
1975 Shabbytown Calendar
1978-1983 Receives the Canada-Australia Literary Award
1978-1980 Full-time writer, including Senior Writing Literature Board Fellowship
1980 Divorced Margaret Hodge
1980-1983 Treasurer, Australian Society of Authors
1982 Married Judith Rodriguez
1983 Travel in Europe and Canada on literary research
1983-1990 Director, Literature Board of the Australia Council and member of a number of its specialist committees
1989 Awarded Order of Australia, Honorary Doctor of Letters, Macquarie University, Golden Wreath of Struga International Poetry Festival, Yugoslavia
1990-1992 Full-time writer, Category A Literature Board Fellowship and Treasurer, Australian Society of Authors
1991-1997 Executive Director, National Book Council
1992- Director, Copyright Agency Ltd
1995 Received Christopher Brennan Award, Fellowship of Australian Writers
1997- Professor of Creative Writing, University of Adelaide

Container List

Early consignments, 1970-1977

Folder 1 Correspondence with Gwen Harwood, 1964-1970
Folder 2 Correspondence with Ron Simpson, 1962-1976
Folder 3-4 Correspondence with Charles Blackman, together with typescript interview and part of a manuscript on Charles Blackman 1966-1975
Folder 5 Correspondence with Bruce Beaver, Douglas Stewart, James McAuley, Geoffrey Dutton, Beatrice Davis and typescript interview with Beaver
Folder 6 Correspondence with and manuscript about Rodney Hall, 1965-1968
Folder 7-8 Correspondence with Craig Powell, 1970-1977
Folder 9 Correspondence with V. Viidikas, R. Adamson, R. Tipping, G. Hutchinson, 1971-1974
Folder 10 Correspondence with Peter Skrzynecki, 1968-1974
Folder 11 Correspondence with Chris Wallace-Crabbe, 1962-1976
Folder 12-14 General correspondence, 1964-1975
Folder 15-16 Juvenilia, 1949-1957
Folder 17 Manuscript ofTime on Fire
Folder 18 Manuscript ofA Taste of Salt Water
Folder 19-20 Manuscript ofBegin with Walking
Folder 21-23 Manuscript ofShabbytown Calendar
Folder 24 Uncollected poems
Folder 25 Dummy manuscript for Experimental Songs
Folder 26-27 Uncollected poems

Addition, 10 July 1998

Folder 28-29 Diary of visit to Canada and Europe, 1980
Folder 30 University of Sydney Theatre Workshop-Department of Indonesian and Malayan Studies production of 'Dhuang Hyang Kapulungan', 1981-1983
Folder 31 Fourth draft of 'Dhuang Hyang Kapulungan'
Folder 32 Transcripts of interviews with Shapcott and associated correspondence, 1986-1997
Folder 33 Libretti for 'Quasimodo' and related papers, 1991
Folder 34 Manuscript article 'America and the poetry circuit', 1972; papers relating to compilation of proposed 'Of Poetry and Place' anthology for the National Library of Australia, c. 1990?
Folder 35 Typescript manuscript of 'A Beach at Alberese', 1997
Folder 36 Appointment as Executive Director, National Book Council, 1992
Folder 37-38 National Book Council correspondence and papers, 1992-1997
Folder 39 National Book Council correspondence and papers, including annual reports 1992-1995
Folder 40 National Book Council correspondence and papers, 1993-1997
Folder 41 National Book Council correspondence and papers, 1993-1995
Folder 42 Papers relating to Rosemary Sorensen and controversy over October 1994 issue of the Australian Book Review
Folder 43 Drafts and correspondence concerning the Writer's Guide to Tax, 1992-1995
Folder 44 Taxation seminars, 1994-1995
Folder 45 Notes and correspondence relating to booklet How to Host a Successful Author Tour, 1994-1995
Folder 46 Classification Review Board hearing on classification of Rabelais, 1996
Folder 47 Judging of literary competitions and awards, 1990-1996
Folder 48 Kuala Lumpur World Poetry Reading, 1990
Folder 49 Correspondence with Alison Crook, State Library of New South Wales, 1992-93; Asia-Pacific Library Conference, 1995
Folder 50 National Word Festival, 1993, 1995
Folder 51 Creating Culture : the New Growth Industry, 11-12 August, 1994
Folder 52 2nd National Book Summit, 1995
Folder 53 Australia-Korea Foundation Cultural Delegation to the Republic of Korea, 9-15 October, 1995
Folder 54 Gwen Harwood tribute, Adelaide Festival, 1995
Folder 55 Photographs and copies of photographs of Shapcott, 1946-199?
Folder 56 Small photograph album of Shapcott and family, 1958-1996

Box List

Folder Box
1-6 1
7-16 2
17-27 3
28-32 4
33-40 5
41-48 6
49-56 7