William Shakespeare and early drama.
The library’s rich holdings of early English drama include the majority of editions of William Shakespeare published before 1660, mainly through the Halliwell-Phillipps Collection. Halliwell-Phillipps (1820-1889) was a prolific and controversial literary scholar, who built up vast collections on Shakespeare and English literature.
Halliwell-Phillipps established a relationship with the Library through David Laing, who had arranged for Halliwell to have access to our rare copy of 'Titus Andronicus' (London, 1600). Over a number of years starting in 1872, Halliwell-Phillipps donated some 1,000 printed volumes on Shakespeare. The University was able to secure another collection, consisting mainly of Jacobean, Restoration and early 18th-century plays, which Halliwell-Phillipps had gifted to Penzance Library in 1866, by purchase at auction in 1964. The impetus for that purchase came from the recently-formed Friends of Edinburgh University Library. This second collection includes 600 volumes of 17th and 18th century English drama.
The books all appear in the pre-1985 typescript catalogue and there are online records for many of them. Other files are available in the Centre for Research Collections which would allow the collection to be virtually reconstructed. Many have shelfmarks starting in the range “Hb. - Hd.”, although the more important items have been transferred into the “JA” sequence.
The overall collection includes 16th-century works by Italian, French and Spanish authors. Its strength lies in English books, especially English drama of the 17th and 18th centuries. There are over plays including works by Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, George Chapman, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, John Dryden, Philip Massinger, and William Wycherley. Several are playhouse copies with contemporary stage directions added in manuscript.
Halliwell-Phillipps also bequeathed a further 100 volumes of notebooks and diaries, as well as 300 volumes of literary correspondence. The latter contain about 15,000 letters of authors. For the manuscripts, see Handlist H12 and the manual indexes to the Letters of Authors.
Shakespeare Collection Images
Some of our finest Shakespeare volumes have been photographed and are available to browse online, as well as some of Halliwell-Phillips' scrapbooks.