Fonds AdamsDN - Papers of Douglas Noël Adams

Identity area

Reference code


Unique identifier

GB 275 AdamsDN


Papers of Douglas Noël Adams


  • 1952-2002 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

67 boxes; oversize items; paper; photographs; artefacts

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Douglas Noël Adams was born in Cambridge on 11 March 1952, first child of another Johnian, Christopher Douglas Adams (BA 1951), and Janet Dora Sydney (née Donovan).

He was awarded an exhibition to read English at St John's College, Cambridge, obtaining his BA in 1974. While at Cambridge, Adams occupied himself chiefly in writing, performing in, and producing comedy sketches and revues, establishing connections that were to be integral to his future work.

His career took off with 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', a six-part comic science-fiction radio series commissioned by the BBC in 1977 and broadcast in 1978. Novelisation and a second series were followed by further books in what became billed as 'the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy'. The 'Hitchhiker's Guide' series has taken many forms, including audio recordings; stage adaptations; a television series; a computer game; publication of the original radio scripts; radio adaptations of the remaining novels, and a film.

Adams's other creative work included writing and script-editing for BBC Television's 'Doctor Who', novels featuring the private detective Dirk Gently, and collaboration with John Lloyd on a humorous dictionary, 'The Meaning of Liff'. A collaboration of a very different sort saw him embark upon a series of expeditions with zoologist Mark Carwardine in search of endangered species. The resulting radio documentary series, 'Last Chance to See', was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 1989.

An enthusiastic technophile, Adams became a popular speaker on the subject. He was a co-founder in 1994 of the digital media and communications company The Digital Village (TDV), which produced the CD-ROM adventure game 'Starship Titanic' and created the website h2g2.

Adams married Jane Elizabeth Belson, a barrister, in November 1991; their daughter, Polly Jane Rocket Adams, was born in June 1994. Douglas Adams died suddenly on 11 May 2001 in Santa Barbara, California.

Further reading:

'Don't Panic: Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', by Neil Gaiman (3rd rev. edn., London: Titan, 2002); 'Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams', by MJ Simpson (1st edn., London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2003); 'Wish You Were Here: The Official Biography of Douglas Adams', by Nick Webb (1st edn., London: Headline, 2003), who also wrote the entry for Adams in the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography'; and 'The Frood: The Authorised and Very Official History of Douglas Adams & The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy', by Jem Roberts (London: Preface, 2014).

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The papers were deposited on loan by Douglas Adams's executors in late 2012.

Researchers should note that some of the material has been reorganised and used for private and literary purposes since Adams's death.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The collection contains literary papers, including notebooks, manuscript and typescript drafts of sketches, novels and scripts; personal papers, including school and university work, notebooks, and ephemera; audio-visual material; and personal effects and artefacts, spanning from Douglas Adams's childhood to his death in 2001. In addition there is a quantity of press cuttings postdating his death. Media other than paper include sound recordings (chiefly reel-to-reel studio tapes; some cassettes); photographs, 35 mm transparencies and plastic negatives (a large quantity of photographic material is from 'Last Chance to See'); and digital backup tapes.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The collection is arranged approximately chronologically within series. Series currently include those for personal and family papers; projects ('Hitchhiker's Guide', 'Last Chance to See', etc.); and types (Notebooks, Artefacts, Press and Publicity, etc.).

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Handwritten or typed notes may be taken of the material. Photography is not permitted. Photocopies, where the condition and format permit, may be supplied by staff under fair dealing terms for private research purposes.

A small quantity of material is closed to researchers under the terms of the Data Protection Act (1998).

Additionally, material in magnetic or electronic form is currently inaccessible due to obsolete formats and/or the viability of the storage media.

35 mm transparencies and plastic negatives may be viewed using the Special Collections light-box.

Conditions governing reproduction

Multiple rights-holders (both copyright and other Intellectual Property Rights) are represented in this collection.

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Notes area


Preferred citation: St John's College Library, Papers of Douglas Noël Adams

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

17 Nov 2017




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