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The Collection
• Collection Development Policy

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Sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

The Folger has its share of priceless manuscript treasures, including the Macro Plays, the Trevelyon Miscellany, John Donne’s letters, and James I's warrant releasing Walter Raleigh from the Tower, but we also have many quieter strengths in the Tudor-Stuart period. The Folger is one of the few libraries in the world that can support book-length projects in these areas of strength. It is important to pursue as many manuscripts from this period as we can, particularly Elizabethan and early Stuart manuscripts in the following categories:

  • Autograph and scribal copies of literary, political, and religious writings
  • Dramatic and theatre-related manuscripts
  • Family correspondence and papers
  • Letterbooks and individual letters
  • Copybooks and writing manuals
  • Commonplace books
  • Poetical miscellanies and other poetry
  • Cookery and medical receipt books
  • Armorials and other heraldic manuscripts
  • Inventories and account books
  • Diaries
  • Sermons
  • Writing tables

Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries


The manuscript collection's strengths in this period lie in Shakespearean promptbooks, theatrical manuscripts (particularly the records of Drury Lane and Covent Garden), the papers of David Garrick, and literary and scholarly manuscripts relating to the editing and performance of Shakespeare. We will consider non-Shakespeare promptbooks and manuscripts when they relate to Drury Lane or Covent Garden productions, or to individuals for whom we collect as widely as possible. These individuals include:

  • Booth family
  • John Payne Collier
  • Augustin Daly and his circle
  • David and Eva Garrick and their circle
  • James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps
  • Elizabeth Inchbald
  • William Henry Ireland
  • Sir Henry Irving
  • Kean family
  • Kemble family
  • William Charles Macready
  • William Winter

Additional strengths and emerging strengths include manuscripts by or relating to Frances Abington, Viola Allen, Colley Cibber, George Colman (younger and elder), Charles Macklin, Richard Mansfield, Samuel Phelps, Ada Rehan, Richard Brinsley Sheridan (as theatre owner/playwright), Sarah Siddons, and Ellen Terry; Shakespeare critics / editors / commentators (including doubters) Delia Salter Bacon, Mary Cowden Clarke, Frederick Fleay, Clement Mansfield Ingleby, Sir Sidney Lee, Edmund Malone, John Bowyer Nichols, John Gough Nichols, Algernon Swinburne, and George Steevens; and Stratford luminaries Mary Rose and the Flower family.


We have an enviable collection of letters by the bluestockings Hannah More and Elizabeth (Robinson) Montague, and in the future should be alert to letters by them relating to Shakespeare or Garrick.


Our collection of correspondence involving members of the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft is also robust, but rarely used, and is not a top priority.

Twentieth century and beyond


Twentieth century holdings include Shakespeare-related unpublished screenplays and scripts and an eclectic assortment of literary, theatrical, and authorship manuscripts relating to Shakespeare, as well as archives relating to the Folger Theatre, which are being added to the Folger's institutional archives.


We are beginning to identify and target the archives of living (or recently deceased) Shakespearean actors and directors, and of Shakespeare theaters (see Shakespeare section). We should continue to grow in these areas.


As a general policy, we do not collect scholarly papers.

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