English Literature

The largest portion of the literary collections is English literature of the British Isles, including Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. Among the most significant holdings are two 15th-century manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; an important group of 16th-and 17th-century poetical commonplace books; more than 450 books and pamphlets by Daniel Defoe, including the rare first edition of Robinson Crusoe; the largest extant collection of Robert Burns’s letters, manuscripts, and early editions; one of the world’s most important Lewis Carroll collections, including more than 600 of his letters, his early drawings, his own copy of the very rare first edition of Alice in Wonderland, and his rarest photographs; Bram Stoker’s autograph notes and outlines for Dracula; the manuscripts of two-thirds of Joseph Conrad’s literary works, including Lord Jim, and 60 letters in his hand. Collections guides: works of James Joyce, Irish authors, C.L. Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, Robert Burns, and Bram Stoker.

Collection Highlights

Books by Mary Shelley

We're delighted to announce that the Rosenbach has acquired a rare first edition (1818) of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, as well as first editions of Shelley's novels Valperga (1823), The Last Man (1826), The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck (1830), and Falkner (1837). These terrific additions to our…

O’thello: part of the Great Unpaid

The earliest surviving Dickens literary manuscript comes from a parody of Shakespeare’s Othello. Dickens wrote the adaptation in 1832 or 1833, around the time he first secured work as a journalist. The role of the Great Unpaid went to his father, John Dickens. The Dickens family apparently performed Charles’s parody…

The Vampyre

The Vampyre, written by Lord Byron's personal physician John Polidori, is the first English vampire story and established many conventions of vampire literature, including the linkage of sexuality and violence. The vampiric Lord Ruthven was modeled on Byron and the tale was often falsely attributed to Byron, as on this…

The Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley

The works of Mr. Abraham Cowley: in two volumes: consisting of those which were formerly printed; and those which he design'd for the press, published out of the author's original copies. With the Cutter of Coleman-street. — The eleventh edition. — London: Printed for J. Tonson; sold by D. Browne.…

Ulysses: autograph manuscript, “Circe” episode

Joyce began work on "Circe" when he got to Paris in July of 1920. His work was slowed by a missing trunk of books and notes  that Stanislaus had sent from Trieste. By the time he finished this draft in December, he claimed to have written in out at least…

Related Posts

Rosemary for Shakespeare

April 23 marks the day that we traditionally celebrate William Shakespeare’s birth and deathday, though neither of those occasions are confirmed to have actually been on the 23rd. Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564, so historians estimate his actual birth was a few days before that. The same holds true for his deathday, which …

George Cruikshank, & Folk Horror at The Rosenbach

This blog post was written by Andrew White  Folk horror! I think of old chestnuts like The Wicker Man, or new Ari Aster movies like Midsommar and Hereditary. But before folk horror was a genre of cinema it was a literary genre: folk horror thrives on Rosenbach library shelves in early Shakespeare printings of Macbeth and …

Edward Burne-Jones (Sort Of) Illustrates The Kelmscott Chaucer

This blog post was written by Andrew White  Leaving aside his other manifold accomplishments, let’s look at William Morris at the moment that the Renaissance man and Victorian gadfly became a printer. This was 1891, when Morris was fifty-five. Between 1891 and 1896, Morris’s press, the Kelmscott—named for his home in Oxfordshire—printed sixty-six books. The …

Two Years Without a Summer

The summer of 2020 was undoubtedly unlike any other. While we still saw warm temperatures and fair weather, many of us spent the season indoors and away from others due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these peculiar circumstances, many found the opportunity to challenge themselves creatively while stuck inside. The end of the summer also …

Sundays with Dracula: week 1

The Rosenbach is the home of Bram Stoker’s Notes for Dracula, over 100 pages of outlines, early plot ideas, and research notes, compiled by the author over the seven years he developed and wrote the book. Content of these Notes will be featured in our conversations every week. These Notes provide an extraordinary look at …

Seeing Shakespeare on his Birthday

This blog post was written by Andrew White  Because we don’t know when Shakespeare was born, only that he was christened on April 26, 1564, we agree to assume he was born a few days before that on April 23rd. We have a better idea of what Shakespeare looked like. Both the engraving in the First …

Oscar in Sunshine and in Shadow

This blog post was written by Andrew White  With letters, photographs, first editions, and manuscripts of Oscar Wilde in our collections, many facets of Wilde and his life can be glimpsed at The Rosenbach. So much so, I sometimes struggle with what exactly to foreground: his spectacular gift for words, his careening success, or his …

Celebrate the Holidays at The Rosenbach

The recent first snowfall of the season on Delancey Place has us thinking warm thoughts about the upcoming holidays. This year, we hope you’ll share in our end-of-year celebrations, with a variety of programs that highlight the festive spirit, no matter how you celebrate. It’s hard to think of the holidays without thinking of Charles …

The Story of the Glittering Plain

This blog post was written by Andrew White  With a beautiful Vale Press book (Wilde’s House of Pomegranates) on display in the Rosenbach’s current Of Two Minds exhibit, William Morris has been on my mind; Morris’s renowned Kelmscott Press was a significant influence on Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon when they created Vale Press. This week …

From One Shakespeare Collector to Another: David Garrick and Dr. Rosenbach

This blog post was written by Andrew White  18th-century acting superstar David Garrick has a birthday on February 19; he would have been 401. Though he may no longer be a household name, Garrick is partly responsible for contemporary culture’s reverence of Shakespeare, as well as for the genesis of the Rosenbach’s Shakespeare collection—which visitors …