Guide to the Cuaderno Avon, Borges Notebook, 1950-1951 LATINAMER.2018.01

ULS Area Studies

Summary Information

ULS Area Studies
Cuaderno Avon, Borges Notebook
Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986
Collection Number
2.0 items
The “Cuaderno Avon” is 6.75 inches in width by 8.5 inches in length. The spiral notebook consists of 26 pages, with the front and back covers intact. The front cover of the notebook displays the “Cuaderno Avon” brand and logo, under which Borges has written “Jorge Luis Borges, Adrogué, 1950.” Printed on the bottom part of the front cover is “Industria argentina, encuadernación metálica, N. 8-50 cmm.” The notebook is intended for student use, evidenced by the six-hour class schedule on the back of the front cover and identifying information such as student name (alumno), year (año), division (división), and period (turno). Three loose pages of the same dimensions also form part of the collection.
In both Spanish and English
Cuaderno Avon is a spiral notebook containing 26 pages with the “Avon” brand on the cover, which contains original autograph manuscripts by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. A working manuscript of the narrative La espera later included in  El Aleph (1952), a book of short stories from the author, is included in this collection. The contents also include notes and early versions of the essay  El escritor argentino y la tradición, notes for a series of lectures on police fiction, a fragmented poem, a brief fragment about Montalvo and the Quixote of Avellaneda, and some final notes inside the back cover of the notebook.

Preferred Citation

Cuaderno Avon, Borges Notebook, 1950-1951, LATINAMER.2018.01. Archives & Special Collections, University of Pittsburgh Library System

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Jorge Luis Borges, (Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo) was born on August 24, 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and died on June 14, 1986 in Geneva, Switzerland. He was a short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and is considered one of the foremost literary figures of the 20th century. His family included British ancestry and was notable in Argentine history. He learned English before Spanish and the first books that he read—from the library of his father, a man of wide-ranging intellect that seemed to inspire and stimulate the young Borges—included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the novels of H.G. Wells,  The Thousand and One Nights, and  Don Quixote, all in English. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he learned French and German and received his B.A. from the Collège de Genève.

Upon his return to Argentina in 1921, he began publishing in literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and was appointed director of the Argentina National Public Library as well as professor of English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. At the age of 55, he became blind, a hereditary affliction that had also attacked his father and had progressively diminished his own eyesight from the 1920s onward. Borges’s tales and poems were increasingly acclaimed as classics of 20th-century world literature and he came to international attention in 1961 when he received the first Formentor prize (Prix International), which he shared with Samuel Beckett. His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and  El Aleph (The Aleph), published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, philosophy, and religion. Literary critics have described Borges as Latin America's monumental writer.

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Scope and Content Notes

Pages 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 11 contain the full text of the story that Borges eventually titled La espera. The first page, which has been cut, is not numbered. He has called the farmacia “Rubiner” and in the left margin, he has listed four alternatives: Breslauer, Garfinkel, Tarnowski and Babinski, from which he ultimately selected the first. The third page, also cut, is labeled with the number 2. The fifth page is labeled with the number 4. The seventh page is labeled with the number 5 and Borges has written, “Buenos Aires, 9 de marzo de 1950” at the end. The ninth page, also cut, is labeled with the number 3 and the eleventh page is labeled with the number 4.

The thirteenth page of the notebook consists of a half-page of penned notes dealing with literary topics.

The fifteenth, seventeeth, and eighteenth pages contain text of what would eventually be El escritor argentino y la tradición, given first as a lecture in 1951. The text was later published in the Biblioteca Nacional’s Cursos y Conferencias in Jan-Feb of 1953, and then reprinted in  Sur in Jan-Feb of 1955. The fifteenth page is unnumbered, the seventeeth page is labeled with the number 2, and the nineteenth page is labeled with the number 3. On the fifteenth page, Borges mentions  Don Segundo Sombra, the novels of Eduardo Gutiérrez and other gaucheseque writers, and Branch’s  La urna,  Kim and  Huckleberry Finn. The seventeeth page begins with a reworking of the second paragraph of the fifteenth page. The rest of this page contains a list of various topics that Borges evidently intended to deal with in the piece.

The twenty-first page (not in the handwriting of Borges) is a penned list, in English, titled A Course of Six Lectures, of subjects for a series of talks on detective fiction. At the foot of this page is a drawn caricature of Borges’ smiling face. It is believed that the contents of this page were the work of Margarita Guerrero, due to her interest in astrology and the last of the six topics being: “The future of the detective novel. Some minor prophesies (based on astrology).”

The twenty-third and twenty-fourth pages of the notebook are blank. The twenty-fifth page contains five pinned lines in Borges’ hand that read as follows: “Alguna vez hubo en esta casa ejemplares del Quijote de Avellaneda y de los Capítulos que se le olvidaron a Cervantes, de Juan Montalvo; de esos libros, que verosímilmente leí, apenas se queda otra cosa que una imagen visual. Del último creo recordar que tenía menos de novela que museo de palabras; no sé si en ellos, o quizá en el mismo Quijote, estará una aventura cuya omisión he descubierto ayer y que la forma general de la obra parece…” The sentence ends here. On the twenty-sixth page, there are four more penned lines in Borges' hand.

On the inside of the back cover of the notebook, Doña Leonor has written: El escritor y la tradición. Here Borges has also written some dozen lines that he has mostly crossed out. On the back cover, Borges has written sown in small print three arithmetic calculations.

The collection also contains three loose pages, one of which is labeled with the number 2 and another that is labeled with the number 3. It is assumed that these pages originally belonged to the notebook, as the style and dimensions of them match the other pages identically.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

ULS Area Studies, May 2018

University of Pittsburgh Library System
7500 Thomas Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA, 15260

Access Restrictions

No restrictions.


The University of Pittsburgh holds the property rights to the material in this collection, but the copyright may still be held by the original creator/author. Researchers are therefore advised to follow the regulations set forth in the U.S. Copyright Code when publishing, quoting, or reproducing material from this collection without the consent of the creator/author or that go beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Custodial History

The Cuaderno Avon was originally owned by Donald A. Yates, professor of romance languages at Michigan State University, who was first introduced to the writing of Jorge Luis Borges in 1953, when he was granted permission to translate and later coedit some of the noted author’s works.

Acquisition Information

The Cuaderno Avon was acquired on March 12, 2018.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Christian Modrak.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Borges, Jorge Luis, 1899-1986


  • Argentina -- Intellectual life -- 20th century
  • Argentine fiction
  • Authors, Argentine -- 20th century
  • Cuaderno Avon
  • El Aleph (La espera)
  • El escritor argentino y la tradición
  • Short stories, Argentine

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Collection Inventory

Cuaderno Avon 1950-1951    26.0 pages 11

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Loose Pages    3.0 pages 12

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