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Rare Books and Special Collections At Northern Illinois University: James Hanley Collection

A brief guide to Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University

James Hanley Collection at NIU


Northern Illinois University holds a collection of manuscripts (some unpublished) and most editions of the books by James Hanley (1901-1985). To see which particular published titles we own, please search our online catalog. The finding aid for the manuscript portion of this collection is available as a .pdf file. We continue to add to this collection whenever possible.

Born in Dublin in 1901, James Hanley grew up in Liverpool. Often described as a working class novelist, he experienced life working on the seas first hand beginning at a young age. Wanting to participate in World War I, he joined the Black Watch Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force at age 13 and worked aboard ships for nine years. Many of his novels are fictionalized accounts of life on the seas. His 1931 novel Boy, with its frank and graphic descriptions of Boy's encounters with prostitutes, the sexual abuse he received from his fellow sailors, and his contraction of syphilis resulted in the prosecution of the publisher for obscenity and probably damaged Hanley's notoriety as a novelist. Compared with today's novels, however, the sexual content in Boy might be not be considered as controversial as then. NIU has a special copy of Boy published privately in 1931 in London by Boriswood in a limited edition of 145 copies numbered and signed.


Ross, Alan. 1997. "Introduction." In James Hanley The Last Voyage and Other Stories. London: Harvill Press.

Slater, Howard. Working Class Novelists 1930-1950, A Working Press Research Pamphlet [online]. Working Press. [cited 17 May 2002]. No longer available from:

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