English Literature

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British literature and history from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, with an emphasis on poetry, fiction, and drama.

We usually have a selection of literary works from the STC and Wing period (i.e. before 1701), and a broad range of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction and poetry, particularly the Romantics. We also have a selection of historical manuscripts, prints and broadsides, and works in translation.

Among important works which have passed through our hands are the editor's presentation copy of Milton's Lycidas, Swift's Modest Proposal, the autograph draft of Byron's She walks in beauty, the autograph manuscript of Jane Austen's only play Sir Charles Grandison, Dickens’s copy of Vanity Fair, Trollope's classical library, and, over the years, some fifty Shakespeare First Folios.

  1. SCRIBE, Augustin-Eugène.

    Autograph letter, signed, to an unnamed recipient.

    Paris, 21 January, [1840, 1845, or 1851].

    The dramatist Augustin-Eugène Scribe (1791–1861) thanks the unnamed recipient for his invitation but politely regrets that he is unable to attend. He explains that he had fully intended to come and had already arranged with ‘Monsieur Pichot’ to go together with him. However, Scribe’s wife had...


  2. SENECA, Lucius Anneus. 

    Tragoediae pristinae integritati restitutae, per exactissimi judicii viros post Avantium & Philologum … 

    Paris, Badius Ascensius, 1514. 

    First edition edited by Erasmus and Badius Ascensius, a landmark in the history of Seneca’s textual tradition.  This key work, the product of a collaboration between two wholly committed humanists, cannot have been accomplished without some friction: Erasmus had allowed Badius to make use of...


  3. [SHAKESPEARE]; ‘HAMILTON, N.E.S.A.’ [i.e. COLLIER, John Payne].

    An inquiry into the genuineness of the manuscript corrections...

    London, Richard Bentley, 1860.

    First edition, the result of research by the Keeper and Assistant Keeper of manuscripts at the British Library, Frederic Madden and Nicholas Hamilton.


  4. SHAKESPEARE, [William]. 

    The Works of Shakespeare, the text of the First Folio with Quarto variants and a selection of modern...

    [Cambridge, University Press for] The Nonesuch Press, and New York, Random House, 1929 [– 1933]. 

    First Nonesuch edition, number 220 of 1600 copies, not only handsomely printed and bound but also an important scholarly edition, collating the texts of the First Folio against variants in preceding quarto editions. 


  5. SHAKESPEARE, William, and Boris Leonidovich PASTERNAK, translator.

    Otello, venetsianskii mavr. Perevod s angliiskogo...

    Moscow, Ogiz, 1945.

    First edition of Pasternak’s translation. ‘Pasternak was attached to Shakespeare for all his creative life. In his best early verse collection My Sister Life (pub. 1922), the poem “English Lessons” featured Desdemona and Ophelia “letting their passions slip from their shoulders...


  6. SHAKESPEARE, William; Mihály VÖRÖSMARTY, translator.

    Lear Király …

    Pest, Landerer & Heckenastn, 1856.

    First edition of the first translation of King Lear into Hungarian.


  7. SHARPHAM, Edward. 

    Cupids whirligig.  As it hath bene Sundrie times acted, by the Children of his Majesties Revels. 

    London, Tho: Creede, and Ber: Alsop, and are to be solde by Arthur Johnson, 1616. 

    Third edition of an early Jacobean comedy based upon a tale in Boccaccio’s Decameron, with a contemporary London setting.


  8. SHAW, Eyre Massey, Capt.

    Report … to the Right Hon. the Secretary of State of the Home Department concerning the Fire which occurred...

    London: Printed for Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, by Eyre and Spottiswoode … 1888.

    First edition of Shaw’s account of the disastrous fire at the Theatre Royal, Exeter, in 1887.


  9. [SHEFFIELD, John, Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards Duke of Buckingham.]

    An Essay on Poetry.

    London, Printed for Joseph Hindmarsh … 1682.

    First edition, a verse satire in imitation of Horace’s Ars Poetica. There are indirect attacks on Rochester (‘Bawdry barefac’d, that poor pretence to Wit’), and Cowley, who has poetic fury but ‘ill expression’, while Sheffield reserves praise for Dryden, who took the blame for...


  10. [SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley].

    The School for Scandal. A Comedy. As it is acted at the Theatre, Smoke-Alley, Dublin. [Dublin], Printed...

    [Dublin], Printed for the Booksellers. 1793

    First separate illustrated edition. The plates, newly engraved, are based on plates in A Volume of Plays [by Sheridan and others] performed at the Theatre, Smoke-Alley, Dublin, 1785 and following. They illustrate Act IV, Scene 1 (the Surface family portraits) and Act IV, Scene 2 (the screen scene). The...


  11. SHERIDAN, Richard Brinsley. 

    The School for Scandal, a Comedy [– The Critic …; – The Rivals …; – A Trip to Scarborough...

    Dublin, William Porter for William Jones, 1792 [– 1793]. 

    The first attempt to publish a collected edition of Sheridan’s dramatic works, forming the fifth volume of The British Theatre, an assembly of pirated plays by the Dublin bookseller William Jones. 


  12. SOPHOCLES. POUND, Ezra, translator.

    Women of Trachis. A Version by Ezra Pound.

    London, Neville Spearman, [1956].

    First edition, inscribed by the editor Denis Goacher ‘For Geoffrey [Bridson]: Nov. ’56 / This milestone / Just missed witnessing / The total collapse of / D. G.’ – Bridson had co-produced the play for BBC radio in April 1954.


  13. [TALFOURD, Thomas Noon].

    Ion; a Tragedy, in five Acts. To which are added a few Sonnets. Second Edition.

    London: Printed by A. J. Valpy ... for private Circulation. Not published. [1835]

    Second private edition of Talfourd’s blank verse tragedy, adding a small group of eight sonnets not in the first edition (also privately printed, 1835), and with a new preface: ‘Having exhausted the small impression which was originally printed of Ion, and finding that there are yet friends in whose...


  14. TENNYSON, Alfred, Lord.

    The Cup and the Falcon.

    London: Macmillan and Co. 1884.

    First published edition, preceded by a ‘trial’ edition of 1882 recorded by Wise as surviving in one known copy – in his own collection. The Cup was first performed in 1881 with Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. Wise, Tennyson 146; Tinker 2096.


  15. TENNYSON, Alfred, Lord.

    Locksley Hall Sixty Years after etc.

    London: Macmillan and Co. … 1886.

    First edition. Wise, Tennyson 156; Tinker 2098.


  16. THOMAS, Dylan, and Sir Peter Blake, illustrator.

    Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices.

    London: Apple Litho (Bristol) Ltd. for Enitharmon Editions and Queen Anne Press, 2013.

    De Luxe edition, number 61 of 100 copies with a signed print by Blake. This finely-produced edition was published to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth and celebrates the culmination of over twenty-five years of work by Peter Blake, one of the founding fathers of British Pop Art. The...


  17. TOMPSON, John, editor.

    English Miscellanies consisting of various Pieces of Divinity, Morals, Politicks, Philosophy and History;...

    Gottingen by Abram. Vandenhoeck, Printer and Bookseller to the University 1746.

    Second edition, revised, of John Tompson’s important English Miscellanies, expanded to almost twice the size of the first edition, including up-to-date content published since 1737.


  18. WHITEHEAD, William.

    Plays and Poems … in two Volumes …

    London, Printed for J. Dodsley … 1774.

    First and only edition of the collected works of William Whitehead, a protégé of Alexander Pope and poet laureate from 1757-85.


  19. YRVEN, Marcelle. 

    La comédienne et le féminisme. 

    Paris, L. Pichon, 1914. 

    First edition of this feminist work on the necessity of a thorough literary and cultural education for women in theatre, by the celebrated actress Marcelle Yrven, presented to the editor-in-chief of Le Figaro’s literary supplement.