WESTERN HISTORICAL MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION
Lester Dent's original manuscripts are at the Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Columbia in Missouri. Norma Dent donated the materials to the university in 1985.
Here is the link to the collection's description:
Most of the material is on microfilm. These are available through inter-library loans. This means you don't have to go to Missouri!
You can order a microfilm reel and view it at the local library as long as they have a microfilm reader.
It is very interesting to view the originals. Some of them are marked up with what is undoubtedly Lester Dent's handwriting.
Here are a couple of pointers.
Read the stories that are on the tape ahead of time, preferably the week before you get the tape. That way, they are still fresh in your mind.
In examining the microfilm copy, you simply do a page-by-page comparison between the printed version and that on the film.
This is tedious.
Having a good feel for the story in your mind makes this process go much faster. At least it does for me.
I ordered my reel from the state library here in Baton Rouge. When I picked it up I used their microfilm reader to examine the reel. The machine also allows you to print off the page you are examining if you want a hard copy. However, it gets pricey. It cost twenty-five cents per page.
On the way home I checked out my local library. They had several microfilm readers along with two viewer/printers. Plus it was only ten cents per page to print! One reason they have so many microfilm readers is because of the interest in genealogical research.
I also had to pay a nominal fee ($7.50 at the time) to the Missouri Historical Society whenever I returned the reel to the state library. I think this is for postage and handling. Certainly it's not a prohibitive cost.
So far I have view three different reels. The earlier ones have an outline preceding the actual story. Several of the reels had multiple copies of the same story. Sometimes these versions are different and then sometimes it is simply the same thing you read before.
The reels contain two or three stories. Some of the ghosted stories are present but only in outline form. The complete manuscripts for those stories are not on these reels.
The reels do not stop and start on complete stories. Stories simply stop at the end of the reel and are continued on the next one.
Bring a notebook and several pencils. Take lots of notes on the interesting things you find. Sometimes there is only a slight difference between the manuscript and the printed version and it's easier just to jot it down rather than print out the page, especially if you have to go to a different machine to print.
The first two times I viewed reels was on a regular reader while noting the page numbers of those pages I wanted to print out. If the printer was available I printed those pages. If not, I simply checked the printer when I returned the next day. If it was available I printed my copies. The local library has a thirty-minute usage limit on the printer if other people are waiting to use it. Most nights I had the thing to myself. However, Saturday and Sunday seemed to be popular days for genealogy researchers. The library staff should be able to tell you when the slack times are if there are a lot of people using the machines.