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Rare and Manuscript Collections

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Anglo-American Literature of the 17th-20th Centuries

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections has considerable holdings in Anglo-American literature from the 17th century onward, with notable strengths in the 18th century, Romanticism, and the Victorian and modern periods. Among the seventeenth-century holdings is a complete set of the Shakespeare folios, and works by John Milton and his contemporaries. Eighteenth-century highlights include near comprehensive printed collections of Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope, and substantial holdings on John Dryden, Samuel Johnson, Joseph Addison, Sir Richard Steele, William Cowper, Fanny Burney, and others. Related materials include complete runs of periodicals, such as the Spectator and the Tatler.

The Division’s book holdings are also especially rich in the literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Cornell Wordsworth Collection, the second largest Wordsworth collection in the world, documents the Romantic movement in detail. All the major “standard” authors of the Victorian and modern periods, such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, et al., are well represented. In addition, the library’s holdings in Victorian fiction include scarce works by many popular women authors of the time, such as Elizabeth Gaskell, Maria Edgeworth, Marie Corelli, Ouida, and Helen Mathers. The collection also includes many popular literary genres such as gift annuals, dime novels, railroad novels, and yellowbacks, as well as the small literary magazine of the 1920s and 1930s. The modern collection features strong collections of manuscripts and books by George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, and James Joyce.

In support of RMC’s Human Sexuality Collection, the rare book collections feature especially strong representations of literary works by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writers, such as Oscar Wilde, Christopher Isherwood, Vita Sackville-West, Radclyffe Hall, E.M. Forster, W.H. Auden, Ronald Firbank, Edith Sitwell, Elizabeth Bowen, Jan Morris, and others. The collection’s strengths in more recent British literature include the works of Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, and Doris Lessing, to name just a few.


The Division holds major collections of the papers and literary manuscripts of E.B. White, Laura (Riding) Jackson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Theodore Dreiser, American theater critic George Jean Nathan, and New Yorker magazine authors Frank Sullivan and A.J. Liebling. Smaller manuscript collections for James Thurber and Theodore Roosevelt add to the riches of the library’s holdings. Each of these collections is complemented by a collection of the author’s published books.

The Division’s book collection shows considerable depth in the literature of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of the major authors of the period, such as Walt Whitman, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Faulkner, Eliot, Pound, Dos Passos, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald, are well represented. Besides these writers, the collection is notable for its strength in the works of H.D., Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Stephen Vincent Benét. Harlem Renaissance authors, such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Countee Cullen, are also well represented.

The book collection also shows notable strength in the literature of the 1950s to 1970s, including comprehensive collections of the published work of Gary Snyder and Paul Goodman, and lesser strengths in Beat writers such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. The political writings in the Goodman collection in particular are supplemented by the Division’s social protest (1960s) holdings, which include the papers and published writings of Daniel and Philip Berrigan, as well as extensive archival holdings about student protest at Cornell in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The rare book collections feature especially strong representations of literary works by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender writers such as Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Paul Goodman, Djuna Barnes, May Sarton, Gore Vidal, John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, Gertrude Stein, Willa Cather, Rita Mae Brown, James Merrill, and Audre Lorde. Related material in the Human Sexuality Collection includes extensive collections of gay and lesbian pulp novels, and the records of the lesbian/feminist publisher Firebrand Books.

The Division also holds collections of the books, manuscripts, and personal papers of notable Cornell authors such as Alison Lurie, A.R. Ammons, and Diane Ackerman. This brief description highlights only a few of the many strengths of the Division’s vast holdings, whose continued growth is ensured through judicious purchases and the generosity of donors.

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