Jeff Towns Honorary DLitt, 25 July 2017
Jeff Towns is a world-leading expert on the poet Dylan Thomas.
An antiquarian book-dealer by trade, based in Dylan Thomas’ home-town of Swansea, Jeff Towns has spent some 40 years seeking out and securing treasures left behind by the poet, a preoccupation that has seen him acquire a wealth of Dylan Thomas knowledge, extensive contacts and many manuscripts, notes, letters, pictures and books.
Jeff Towns’ Dylan Thomas collections sit in museums and institutions around the world from Japan to Texas. His Dylan Thomas exhibitions have hung in Barcelona and at the Royal National Theatre in London and are a permanent fixture in The Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea.
He has sold rare Dylan Thomas books and manuscripts to world-famous figures including Mick Jagger, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Prince Charles and Allen Ginsberg.
Jeff Towns is also a published author, public speaker, documentary maker, regular media commentator, and more recently an artistic consultant specialising in Dylan Thomas.
On receiving his honorary award, Mr Towns said: “When my wife Elizabeth and I opened our shop in 1970, my first serious customer was Professor Cecil Price, then Head of English at Swansea University. He became a patron and good friend. Over the years this became a pattern with many other University staff. I also went on to employ many Swansea students and alumni who all served me – and my customers, well.
When the University took on the Dylan Thomas Prize, I began to engage with Professor John Spurr and Dr Elaine Canning in the College of Arts and Humanities. This connection led to the most exciting moment in my bookselling life when, in 2014, I heard the auctioneer’s gavel fall at Sotheby’s, and my successful commission bid meant that a recently discovered Dylan Thomas manuscript poetry notebook was coming back to Swansea University – saved for Swansea and Wales! And now this great honour; which makes me so incredibly proud, and I look forward to yet more rich and exciting interactions and collaborations with this great institution.”