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Cabeza de Vaca’s La Relacidn, one of only 20 copies in the world. 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 18, 2008 ..24:raoci.00kt:0430410 : ..404o#*34tt. 440x=s70. ..*:*.ii.t.0=00 …. . .. “Collecting archives is an optimistic profession. It presupposes that there will be people in a hundred years who will want to read this stuff. Who knows if we made the right choices?” in Santa Monica!’ Wittliff, originally from Blanco just down the road from Dripping Springs, called Schenck. ‘You don’t know me,” Wittliff recalls saying. ‘My name’s Billy Wittliff, and originally I’m from Blanco. In 1957, we whipped your ass in football:” Wittliff recalls that Schenck replied, “Well, you didn’t whip my ass because they wouldn’t let me play” Wittliff said he was trying to build a world-class photo collection on the cheap. “He said, ‘How cheap?’ I told him, and he said, ‘Whoa!”‘ Tom Staley directs UT’s world-class Ransom Humanities Research Center, which also collects manuscripts and papers. He knows whereof Wittliff speaks. “Writing is an art and a craft, and it’s not sudden inspiration. When you learn to study the false starts, when you learn to study the changes, the corrections, you begin to see the writer’s struggle. It’s the trajectory of the artist’s imagination:’ he says. “The book is the end of it. The manuscripts are the live, living process of it!’ Though Staley and Wittliff are both in the archives game, they play on different fields. The Ransom collection spans the globe, while the Texas State collection concentrates on regional artists. UT buys its archives with cash drawn from oil coffers and one of the nation’s largest alumni bases. Most of Texas State’s liter ary holdings have been donated. Its photographic archives have been compiled at discount prices. “We don’t really collect Texas writers as such:’ Staley says. “We’re just in a different area:’ One Texas-linked writer the Ransom Center had been interested in was Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy, but in January 2008, McCarthy decided to entrust his manuscripts, correspondence, and unpublished screenplays with Wittliff at Texas State. If the competition bruised any egos, there’s no sign of it. “We know each other;’ Staley says of the archivist community at large. “Book dealers and manuscript people have to understand that. We do talk with each other. In most cases, we’re friends. I’m glad we have McCarthy’s archive here in Texas. And so close!’ While the Texas State collection’s archives have long held regional interest, the McCarthy papers will bring a new level of international attention. The deal was made possible by a two decade friendship between Wittliff and McCarthy, and by Wittliff’s eye for spotting talent early. Wittliff first came across McCarthy in the 1980s while serving on the executive board of trustees for Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute. “Somebody sent in a script that Cormac had written,” Wittliff recounts. The screenplay was Cities of the Plain. It started as a film script before becoming a book. I read it and was absolutely blown away by the language. I had never heard of him at that point. I tracked him down and essentially wrote him what was a fan letter. I just said how much I admired his writing and so on. We exchanged a few letters and then later met. It was kind of casual.” When the deal was finalized earlier this year, Todd flew to Santa Fe along with several collection employees. They rented two U-Haul vans and drove to McCarthy’s home in the hills. After coffee with the author, they loaded his archives into the vans and drove straight back to Texas. McCarthy’s archives were neatly arranged in plastic bins, Todd says. Writers Collection archivist Katie Salzmann is now preparing the material for public viewing. “We’re doing a lot of housing, making sure that everything will be physically secure:’ Salzmann says. “Also, intellectually, we want to make a real detailed inventory of everything. We’re even checking the page numbers and making sure that all the papers are complete. We’re coming up with a full description of each item within the collection:’ Salzmann rolls out a dolly loaded with boxes, opens one, and lays out a typescript marked with comments. Some are in green or red ink, others in pencil, the handwriting small and meticulous. “This is the typescript for Cormac’s