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The Collection
• Collection Development Policy
English Books

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English Books

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds one of the world's largest collections of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English books.


Though never formally stated, the Folger collection development policy for this collection has been to fill in gaps by collecting editions that are not currently in the collection, particularly first editions. Yet this collecting scope that was once defined as "English civilization in all its aspects from the beginning of printing to the early eighteenth century" is broad.


We need to continue to grow the early English collection and fill in gaps, but we need to do so in a selective manner. The highest priority should be placed on rare and unique titles, particularly those that are not available in facsimile, and books that exhibit copy-specific information. These books will have the most immediate research value to our readers.


Priorities ranked in order:


1. Rare or unique titles

  • Those not available in facsimile are higher priority than those that are

2. Books that exhibit copy-specific information, including:

  • Manuscript annotations and other evidence of early use
  • Contemporary sammelbands or "bound with" volumes
  • Association copies when meaningful
  • Books that have physical features providing evidence regarding the early book trade

3. Core texts of drama, history, literature, religion, philosophy, science, etc., and expanded editions of the same ("core" texts are those found in standard anthologies, text books, "Companions," etc.). A desiderata list of core texts needs to be created. Current areas of growth need to be defined.

4. Desiderata list of non-core texts [offline]


5. Specific genres, to be collected comprehensively [list in development]

  • Almanacs
  • Writing tables
  • Writing manuals
  • Copy books
  • Emblem books
  • Plague bills and bills of mortality

6. First and other significant editions of STC and Wing titles


Acquiring copies of books already held in the Folger collection is encouraged if the duplicate is a printed variant or offers copy-specific information that is of research value.


Areas not being collected comprehensively

  • early Americana


  • Those available elsewhere in the DC-area are not a lower priority for English 1500 to 1714

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