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Shakespeare & Beyond

The Folger Manuscript Book of Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea

Anne Finch
Anne Finch
Anne Finch manuscript book

This manuscript book of poems by Anne Finch is part of the Folger Shakespeare Library collection. N.b.3. (Photo: Brittany Diliberto, Bee Two Sweet)

The Folger’s outstanding collection is usually associated with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, but scholars who focus on women writers of Restoration and eighteenth-century literature know that the Folger holds the most important manuscript book of the works of poet and playwright Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (1661–1720). Admired by writers as different as Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and, in the Romantic era, William Wordsworth, Finch’s work has increasingly attracted readers in our era.

This volume, known to Finch scholars as simply “The Folger Manuscript,” is an imposing folio, completed by 1701 or 1702, titled “Miscellany Poems With Two Plays By Ardelia” (her pen name). Its impressive size and deluxe binding reveal the significance she and others accorded the book. Its covers hold the largest and most diverse collection of her works, intended to be read by her family and an extended network of friends.


This is fascinating! Thank you so much for posting it.

Robert Pevere — January 10, 2020