Special Collections Department
FOUR DECADES OF LIBRARY SUPPORT
Special Collections's holdings in American, British, and Irish literature constitute one of the most important collections of its kind in the world. Although they include numerous works from earlier centuries, Special Collections's literature holdings are especially strong from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries. The collection encompasses a wide range of genres and formats and includes first and variant editions, manuscript and archival collections, broadsides, visual materials, ephemera, and sound recordings.
Eighteenth and nineteenth century holdings include first or early editions of the works of virtually every important American, British, and Irish literary figure from the period. Of particular note are holdings of the work of the British romantic poets, notably Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and their circle, and nineteenth-century American fiction, including comprehensive collections for such authors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, James Fenimore Cooper, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a host of others.
The University of Delaware Library's holdings in twentieth-century literature are internationally-renowned and are consulted daily by students and scholars from throughout the world. Printed holdings include strong collections of the work of a wide range of twentieth-century authors, runs of little magazines, and the publications of small and independent literary presses. Of particular interest are the Library's holdings in twentieth-century poetry and in contemporary Irish literature. Two other collections of significance include the Frank W. Tober Collection, a central component of which is an extensive collection on literary forgery; and the library of Waldo Frank, which includes more than four hundred volumes from this important American author, including inscribed presentation copies of works by many of the most celebrated authors of the twentieth century.
Special Collections houses the manuscripts and papers of numerous authors, including David T. Bazelon, Paul Bowles, John Malcolm Brinnin, Joseph Caldwell, Brian Coffey, Emily Coleman, Cid Corman, Alice Dunbar Nelson, Edward Field, Mark Harris, Katherine Hoskins, Elizabeth Jennings, Donald Justice, Hugh MacDiarmid, George Moore, Ulick O'Connor, Ishmael Reed, Gilbert Sorrentino, W. D. Snodgrass, and Louis Untermeyer. Strong collections of manuscripts, correspondence, and papers are also present for such authors as Djuna Barnes, Kay Boyle, Alfred Chester, James T. Farrell, Charles Henri Ford, Kimon Friar, Jane Heap, Ernest Hemingway, James Leo Herlihy, Rudi Holzapfel, Charles Johnson, Seymour Lawrence, Thomas MacGreevey, Sean O'Faolain, Toby Olson, Carl Sandburg George Bernard Shaw, Julian Symons, Kurt Vonnegut, Tennessee Williams, William Carlos Williams, W. B. Yeats, and many other twentieth century literary figures. Special Collections also houses archives of little magazines, such as Chanticleer, Pagany, and Signatures, and of small and independent presses, notably Peter Owen, the Pentagram Press, the Proscenium Press, and the Raven Arts Press, all of whom have made important contributions to twentieth century literary publishing.
William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. London: Printed by Tho. Cotes, for John Smethwick, and are to be sold at his shop in Saint Dunstans Church-yard, 1632.
The four early folio editions of Shakespeare's plays, which were printed between 1622 and 1685, are perhaps the most sought-after rarities in English literature. This copy of the Second Folio was acquired as the University of Delaware Library's two millionth volume.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822.
Queen Mab. London: [London: Printed by P.B. Shelley, 1813].
Queen Mab is one of Shelley's most provocative poems, in which he attacks the monarchy, war, commerce and religion and advocates republicanism, free love, atheism and vegetarianism. Due to the political atmosphere in anti-Jacobean England, any person caught circulating printed matter which did not carry the printer's name was subject to punishment. Thomas Hookham agreed to publish Queen Mab on the condition that he or his agents could not be prosecuted and so Shelley became the nominal printer; however, since it was too dangerous for Shelley to circulate Queen Mab with his name on it, he removed the title page and cut away the imprint of every copy he gave away or sold. This copy appears as issued by Shelley with the title page and dedication leaf removed and the imprint at the foot of the last leaf cut away by him.
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, 1797-1851.
Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus. London: Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones, 1818.
Mary Shelley's Gothic tale of terror remains one of the most popular and influential works of English literature. Although Frankenstein was quite popular during Mary Shelley's lifetime, the first printing consisted of a mere five hundred copies.
James Fenimore Cooper, 1789-1851.
The Two Admirals: a Tale of the Sea. London: Richard Bentley, 1842 [London: Printed by Samuel Bentley].
Special Collections houses an extensive collection of first and early editions of the work of James Fenimore Cooper. This copy of The Two Admirals, one of Cooper's sea novels, is the true first edition of the book. It was followed, a few months later, by the first American edition.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1804-1864.
The Scarlet Letter: a Romance. Boston: Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1850.
This copy of the first edition of The Scarlet Letter, one of the great classics of American literature, forms part of the University of Delaware Library's comprehensive collection of the work of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The core of this collection was acquired with the support of the University of Delaware Library Associates.
Herman Melville, 1819-1891.
Pierre, or, The Ambiguities. New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1852.
One of Herman Melville's most ambitious efforts, Pierre is also his most autobiographical work. Like Melville's masterpiece, Moby Dick, however, Pierre was largely ignored when it was first published and it was not until twentieth century scholars directed their attention towards the novel that it became recognized as one of Melville's major works.
Walt Whitman, 1819-1892.
Leaves of Grass. Brooklyn, N.Y.: [s.n] 1855.
The first edition of Leaves of Grass is one of the best-known, and most sought after works of American literature. Whitman continued to expand and revise Leaves of Grass throughout his life and Special Collections houses a strong collection of its various published editions.
Stephen Crane, 1871-1900.
Maggie, a Girl of the Streets: a Story of New York, by Johnston Smith (pseud.). [New York: Privately printed, 1893].
Maggie, a Girl of the Streets, is Stephen Crane's first published book and was written when he was struggling as an author. Crane borrowed money to print the book and issued it pseudonymously. The novel received very little notice and it was only after the publication of Crane's masterpiece, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), that Maggie began to draw attention.
James Joyce, 1882-1941.
Finnegans Wake. London: Faber and Faber, 1939. Finnegan's Wake was James Joyce's last major piece of writing and took him seventeen years to complete. A complex and at times baffling work, Finnegan's Wake is considered one of the most important novels of the twentieth century and has become one of the most thoroughly researched texts in all of literature.
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