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; and the manuscript of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

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

The Story of the Glittering Plain

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 I took a look at one of the …

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

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 may encounter while exploring Dr. Rosenbach’s library. David …

Burns Night at the Rosenbach

On January 25, 1759, the poet Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. The anniversary of his birth is celebrated all over the world with scotch, songs, and poems by the prolific writer. Robert Burns holds a special place in the Rosenbach: our collection houses some remarkable early editions (including a stunning Kilmarnock edition that …

Celebrating History’s Unsung Creative Couples

On February 7, we opened a new exhibition celebrating the art and achievements of romantic couples, from the powerful royalty of the 16th century to cinema stars of Old Hollywood to local artists creating together today. Of Two Minds: Creative Couples in Art and History not only challenges the notion that creativity and authorship are solo endeavors, …

Happy Birthday, James Joyce … and Ulysses!

This post was originally published at the Free Library of Philadelphia blog. Nearly 100 years ago today, on February 2, 1922, bookstore-maven-cum-publisher Sylvia Beach stood anxiously waiting on the platform at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris for the arrival of some very precious cargo on its way from Dijon: two copies of …

Ducks and Doubles in Wonderland

  Friends of Lewis Carroll faced unceasing peril of being turned into animals and absorbed into Wonderland—as the fate of Carroll’s friend Robinson Duckworth will attest. Duckworth was a fellow at Oxford’s Trinity College while Lewis Carroll’s real world avatar, Charles Dodgson, was mathematics lecturer at Christ Church nearby. On the afternoon that Carroll invented …

Romance at the Rosenbach

Love is in the library: over the holidays, two visitors got engaged while on a tour of the historic house. Admittedly, some of us were in on the plan. One of our artistic staff members created a library display case with a copy of the bride-to-be’s favorite book, Jane Eyre, opened to the page with the famous line “Reader, I …

Winter reflections on the Year Without a Summer

Greetings from Frozen Philadelphia! After a snowy weekend and a lot of single-digit temperatures, we’re bundled up and back in the office. And as we shiver on our way to and from the museum, we’re thinking about some of our favorite authors, who shivered during an unseasonably cold summer 202 years ago. During the summer of …

Frankenstein200 at the Rosenbach

On January 1, 1818, the London publishing house Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones published a book titled Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The publication did not name its author, but the book had an preface written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and a dedication to writer and philosopher William Godwin, so some readers assumed that the …

The Destruction of Nosferatu

On January 31, 2018, the Rosenbach will host a screening of the classic horror film Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, with Frederick R. Haas accompanying the movie on the organ at Macy’s. Conceived as a companion program to our Frankenstein and Dracula: Gothic Monsters, Modern Science, this spooky cinematic event will give us a chance …