University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


From the Modern Literature Collection
From the Modern Literature Collection


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.

The Workes of Beniamin Jonson Ben Jonson, 1573?-1637.
The Workes of Beniamin Jonson. [London]: Imprinted at London by Will Stansby, 1616.

This copy of the first edition of Ben Jonson's collected works is from the library of the great English actor and theatrical producer David Garrick. The book is inscribed on the flyleaf, "This copy was presented to me by my esteemed friend Palmer. D[avid] Garrick."

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.

Comedies and Tragedies Francis Beaumont, 1584-1616. John Fletcher, 1579-1625.
Comedies and Tragedies. London: Printed for Humphrey Robinson, at the three Pidgeons, and for Humphrey Moseley at the Princes Armes in St. Pauls church-yard, 1647.

Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher began their dramatic collaboration in the first decade of the seventeenth century. This first edition of the earliest collection of their plays is one of the most important books printed in England during the seventeenth century.

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.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain, 1835-1910.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: (Tom Sawyer's Comrade).... London: Chatto & Windus, 1884.

Perhaps the best-known work of American literature, Huckleberry Finn has also been a source of great controversy over the years. The first edition of Twain's novel remains one of the great high spots of American book collecting.

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.

in our time Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961.
in our time. Paris: Printed at the Three Mountains Press and for sale at Shakespeare and Co. ..., 1924.

This small collection of stories was Ernest Hemingway's second book. It was published in Paris by the American journalist, William Bird, as part of a series of chapbooks edited by Ezra Pound and helped secure Hemingway's position as a rising young author. This copy was originally part of the collection of Hemingway's first bibliographer, Louis Henry Cohn, whose papers and Hemingway library are housed in the University of Delaware Library.

To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941.
To the Lighthouse. London: L. & V. Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 1927.

Virginia Woolf has been acclaimed as one of the great innovative novelists of the twentieth century and To the Lighthouse is one of the novels which helped establish her reputation. The book was published by the Hogarth Press, which was founded in 1917 by Virginia Woolf and her husband, the author Leonard Woolf. The Hogarth Press became one of the most important literary publishers of the twentieth century and the University of Delaware Library houses one of the largest collections of its publications.

The Tower W. B. (William Butler) Yeats, 1865-1939.
The Tower. London: Macmillan, 1928.

The University of Delaware Library houses an internationally-known collection of the work of the Irish author William Butler Yeats. The Tower is one of Yeats's most important collections as well as one of his most strikingly-designed books. This copy has been signed by the author.

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.

Eleven Poems Seamus Heaney, 1939-
Eleven Poems. Belfast: Queen's University of Belfast [1965].

This small collection of poems, which is the Nobel-prize winning Irish poet's first published book, was issued in three separate editions. Displayed is a copy of the scarce first issue which contains a presentation inscription from Heaney to his teacher at Queen's, Laurence Lerner. Lerner's autograph textual annotations are present throughout the text.

The Free-lance Pallbearers Ishmael Reed, 1938-
The Free-lance Pallbearers. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967.

Since the publication of his first novel, The Free-lance Pallbearers, Ishmael Reed has become one of the most accomplished authors of his time. Ishmael Reed's papers are housed in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library.

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