The Collections: Guide to the Collections: British Literature
Early printed British literature is highlighted in the Lilly Library by copies of the two Caxton printings of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (Westminster, ca. 1477 and 1484), John Gower's Confessio Amantis (Westminster, 1483), William Langland's The Vision of Piers Plowman (London, 1550), several 16th century editions of the Mirrour for Magistrates and first editions of key books by Francis Bacon, John Donne, Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, John Lyly, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare. Up to the age of John Milton the Library's collection in British literature is primarily one of great books, but from the middle of the 17th century to the present, efforts have been made to collect many authors in depth. Most notable among these are John Milton, Daniel Defoe, Laurence Sterne, William Wordsworth, George Gissing, Andrew Lang, A. E. Housman, W. B. Yeats, and Joseph Conrad.
Noteworthy manuscripts include three of Robert Burns's best-known poems, "Auld Lang Syne," "O, My Love's like a red, red rose," and "Bruce at Bannochburn;" J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan; Arnold Bennett's The Old Wives Tale; J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World; Harold Pinter's The Caretaker; the page proofs with autograph corrections of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway; and the heavily revised typescripts of eleven of Ian Fleming's James Bond books. Other British authors represented in the Library's manuscript collections include the Earl of Chesterfield, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Frederick Tennyson, Charles Lever, George Gissing, John Galsworthy, Joseph Conrad, D. H. Lawrence, Dylan Thomas, Stephen Spender, and Brigid Brophy, as well as diaries and correspondence of Vita Sackville-West and letters to her from her husband, Harold Nicolson, and the principal archives of Richard Hughes (author of High Wind in Jamaica), Patrick O'Brian, Malcomb Bradbury, Alan Sillitoe, and contemporary novelist and playwright Fay Weldon.
Related exhibition catalogues include:
- A. E. Housman
- VII. An Exhibit of Seventeenth-Century Editions of Writings by John Milton [ online version available ]
- IX. The Indiana Wordsworth Collection [ online version available ]
- XXI. Science Fiction and Fantasy [ online version available ]
- XLV. Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the British Novel 1740-1989 [ online version available ]
- LII. J. K. Lilly, Jr., Bibliophile [ online version available ]
- LIII. George Gissing: The Pforzheimer Collection [ online version available ]
Top: Robert Louis Stevenson. Treasure Island. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth (Charles Scribners' Sons, 1911).