There are many places voracious readers can go to find books the publishing industry has deemed worthy of sale. Less common are places to find those it has not. One such place is the Brautigan Library.
The library’s inspiration, and name, came from the 1971 novel The Abortion: An Historical Romance 1966 by Richard Brautigan, in which the protagonist works at a library of unpublished manuscripts. In the novel, no one is allowed to visit the library and read the unpublished works. But in the library it inspired, that’s the whole point.
More than 300 physical manuscripts, all unpublished, are currently housed in the Brautigan Library at the Clark County Historical Museum in Vancouver, Washington. The library originally opened in Burlington, Vermont, in 1990, with founder Todd Lockwood taking submissions from whoever wanted to be part of it. In 2010, it was moved to Vancouver, about two hours from Tacoma, where Brautigan was born.
Librarian and Brautigan scholar John Barber is now expanding the collection digitally: Anyone can submit their unpublished work to the library, as long as it is in English. Books are classified by way of the Mayonnaise System, named in tribute to Brautigan’s love of the word “mayonnaise.”
Readers are not allowed to take the manuscripts out of the library, but may stay and read them until closing. The library hosts National Unpublished Writers’ Day annually on the last Sunday in January, around the time of Brautigan’s birthday.