When I first saw the press release about the new Mildred Wirt Benson archive, I had one reaction. “The Secret of the Old Clock.” The first Nancy Drew novel. Man, I must have read that book twenty times when I was a kid.
Mildred Wirt Benson wrote the first Nancy Drew novel in 1930 under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, and wrote nearly two dozen of the series. Benson donated her personal papers to the University of Iowa Women’s archives, starting in 1992 until her death in 2002. These papers, plus other materials, make up the new Mildred Wirt Benson collection available at http://digital.lib.uiowa.edu/mwb .
From the front page you can browse all the items in the collection or view a timeline, but I recommend looking at the sample categories at the bottom of the page, including biographical information, photographs, and short stories. (Read the autobiographical sketch if you get a chance. I have great respect for people who can write fiction to start with — but to write so much of it so quickly! — you’d think she was Georges Simenon.
If you read any of the Nancy Drew books as a kid, the cover gallery will take you back, as it contains sixty covers from not only the Drew series but a variety of other youth series as well. Included here are covers from the “Dan Carter” “Dot and Dash” and “Honey Bunch” series. The second and third pages of covers have more Nancy Drew covers. A lot of these look familiar! When you click on the cover you’ll also get the opportunity to look at the other parts of the book — table of contents, endpapers, flyleaf, title page — everything but the actual content.
Fascinating to get a glimpse into one of the first writers behind Nancy Drew. Very interesting stuff!
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