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British Library acquires a collection of Beatles’ only authorised biographer

The British Library has acquired author, broadcaster and journalist Hunter Davies’ archive of notebooks, drafts, photographs and ephemera related to the writing of The Beatles: The Authorised Biography (1968). To date, it is still the only official biography of The Beatles, charting a unique first-hand account of the band’s rise to fame.

Davies spent 18 months with the Fab Four and had unprecedented access to John Lennon, Sir Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Sir Ringo Starr as he wrote his 1968 book.

He was present at important moments in the band’s near decade together, including their performance of All You Need Is Love during Our World in June 1967, the first live global TV link.

The collection includes Davies’ notebook containing previously unseen sketches of Harrison and Lennon by Sir Paul, his typed drafts of The Beatles: The Authorised Biography with handwritten comments by Lennon’s Aunt Mimi, and Super 8 video footage of his family on holiday in Portugal with Sir Paul and Linda McCartney.

The archive offers previously unseen insights into Davies’ relationship with The Beatles; it also offers a glimpse into the care, collaboration and consideration that goes into writing a book like The Beatles: The Authorised Biography (1968). Highlights include:

Davies’ notes on the celebrated Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album cover

The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein’s typed notes from 1962 on how the band should present themselves, including what they should wear, while making public appearances

Hunter Davies says, “The further we get from The Beatles, the bigger they become. I never thought all these years later my scruffy notebooks would be of such interest – and I’m pleased that they’ll be made available to a wider audience of Beatles fans and researchers through the British Library.”

To celebrate the acquisition, Davies will offer a behind the scenes look at the writing of the biography, sharing exclusive insights into his archive, at an event in person at the British Library, and online on 11 November 2022.

This acquisition builds significantly on the collection of The Beatles lyrics and papers that the Library already holds, some of which was donated by Davies in 2013, and can be seen in the free, permanent Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library.

Davies is a prolific author, journalist and broadcaster who has written for Punch, New Statesman, Guardian and Sunday Times. He is the author of more than 100 books, including the only authorised biography of The Beatles and biographies of Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and Alfred Wainwright and celebrations of The Lake District and Hampstead Heath.