The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections has exceptional strengths in literature and theater. Collections of special note include the Cornell Wordsworth Collection, the second largest of its kind in the world; the Bernard F. Burgunder Collection of George Bernard Shaw; nearly comprehensive printed holdings of the works of Dante, Petrarch, Jonathan Swift, and Alexander Pope; strong representations of the works of standard English and American authors from the seventeenth-century onwards; the papers of modernist writers such as James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, and Wynham Lewis; and the archives of authors associated with Cornell, such as E.B. White, Vladimir Nabokov, and A.R. Ammons. The collection also includes large gatherings of many popular literary genres such as gift annuals, dime novels, railroad novels, schoolboy novels, romance, and pulp fiction, as well as associated literary magazines and journals. 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, Radclyffe Hall, E.M. Forster, Ronald Firbank, Allen Ginsberg, May Sarton, Tennessee Williams, and Gertrude Stein.
Significant theater collections, in addition to materials in the Burgunder Shaw collection, include a set of all four of the Shakespeare folios; hundreds of English and French plays from the 17th century onwards; the personal library and papers of theater critic George Jean Nathan; the papers of playwrights such as James Goldman and Gene Saks; the papers of actress and singer Dorothy Sarnoff; photographs of American stage performers; and large collections of playbills, programs, and associated ephemera.