Guide to the Research Collections

- Section -- II: -- THE HUMANITIES
- 20 -- GENERAL LITERATURE -- (Including the Berg Collection and the Arents Collection of Books in Parts)


Certain important gifts are listed alphabetically below. All of these are literary in nature, some exclusively and others predominantly.

DeCoursey Fales Collection of Literary Manuscripts

Consisting of 9 boxes and 9 volumes of holograph letters, manuscripts, and other materials of English and American literary personages of the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, the collection was donated during the period 1951 to 1963. Among the authors represented are Thomas Burke, Robert W. Chambers, Bret Harte, Emile Zola, Julia Ward Howe, Charlotte Yonge, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Douglas Jerrold, and Wilkie Collins.

Harkness Collection

The 700-volume bequest in 1950 from the library of the late Edward S. Harkness, a trustee of the library from 1919 to 1929, was a valuable addition to the library's literature collections.11 The group comprises miscellaneous literature, art reference books, extra-illustrated sets, important first editions, association books, and original drawings, in addition to manuscripts. Among them is a famous modern rarity--a fine copy of T.E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom privately printed for the author in 1926. One of the choicest volumes is a copy of the first edition of Shakespeare's Poems (1640). There are some 95 original pencil or watercolor drawings, including some by Hablôt K. Browne ("Phiz"). The 21 volumes from George Washington's library are perhaps the most significant in the group; all but 2 have Washington's bold signature.

There are 6 literary manuscripts, holographs of Thackeray, Whittier, Thoreau, and Mark Twain. Among the Revolutionary manuscripts are 2 letters from George Washington. Harkness gave other manuscript items over the course of the years, among the most important of which are the fifteenth-century "Livre du Petit Artus" and

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a valuable collection relating to sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century printers, mainly Peruvian.

Mary Stillman Harkness Collection

In 1951, Mary Stillman Harkness, widow of Edward Harkness, bequeathed her collection to the library.12 Like her husband's gift, it contains general literature, first editions, manuscripts, and original drawings. The outstanding feature is a set of the 4 folio editions of Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, published in 1623, 1632, 1664, and 1685. Several nineteenth- and twentieth-century English authors are represented, particularly Dickens, Thackeray, and Conrad: the 40 Conrad first editions supplement 15 in Harkness's bequest. Mrs. Harkness's collection contains a large number of important nineteenth- and twentieth-century illustrated books. Among these books are 36 volumes illustrated by Arthur Rackham and 23 original watercolor drawings by Rackham, now housed in the Spencer Collection. The manuscripts include a superb group of 13 letters and documents, either in the hand of Benjamin Franklin or bearing his signature. The literary manuscripts in the Americana portion are dominated by a series of holograph essays by Edgar Allan Poe. There are manuscripts by Ruskin, Dickens, and Walter Crane.

Literary Typescripts

The Manuscripts and Archives Division houses a large collection of typescripts, amounting to approximately 450 items and representing a great number of subjects ranging from belles-lettres to sociology. Dating for the most part from the late 1930s and 1940s, they represent the effort made at that time to accumulate typescripts, principally those of contemporary American authors. The Emma Mills memorial collection represents contributions of typescripts in memory of the late literary agent, starting from 1956. More recently acquired items include works by Marchette Chute, Beatrice J. Chute, and William Inge.

Macmillan Archives

In 1965 the Macmillan Company turned over its archives to the New York Public Library. These archives, housed in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, consist of 119 copy-books for editorial correspondence over the period from 1889 to 1907. In addition are approximately 16,000 letters from Macmillan authors during the first half of the twentieth century. Notable among the 710 included are: Gertrude Atherton (405 letters), Liberty Hyde Bailey (992 letters), the American author Winston Churchill (459 letters), Jack London (279 letters), John Masefield (443 letters), Edgar Lee Masters (159 letters), Marianne Moore (51 letters), H.G. Wells (235 letters), and Owen Wister (412 letters). Two best-selling novels are documented by extensive files, Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind and Kathleen Winsor's Forever Amber.13

John Quinn Memorial Collection

The John Quinn memorial collection in the Manuscripts and Archives Division, consisting of some 10,000 letters and 30 correspondence copybooks, was given to the library by Quinn's niece and goddaughter, Mrs. Thomas F. Conroy, beginning in 1962.14 The collection comprises the correspondence to and from Quinn dating from about 1900 to his death in 1924. It reflects his years of friendship with members of the Irish Literary Renaissance and the Irish Home Rule Movement, with English and American literary figures, and with art dealers and artists of France, England, and the United States. It also gives insight into the social and professional life of a successful lawyer of that period. In 1936 the estate of John Quinn presented to the library a typewritten transcript, in 13 volumes, of an edited selection of the correspondence. The originals of these letters, included in the memorial collection, represent only a small part of the whole.

Of central importance in the correspondence are letters from such Irish notables as William Butler Yeats (127 items, with several hundred letters from other members of the Yeats family), Maud Gonne MacBride (56 items), Lady Gregory (148 items), George W. Russell (103 items), James Stephens (23 items), Douglas Hyde (131 items), Sir Roger Casement (21 items), James Joyce (32 items). English and American literary figures include Arthur Symons (122 items), Joseph Conrad (72 items), Frank Harris (30 items), Wyndham Lewis (17 items), James G. Huneker (200 items), Ezra Pound (253 items), and T.S. Eliot (27 items).

A large body of the correspondence relates to Quinn's assembling of what was certainly one of the most important private collections of paintings of contemporary artists, a collection which was dispersed within three years of his death. Correspondence with art dealers, with Henri-Pierre Roché who served as Quinn's adviser in France, and with Walter Pach who acted in a similar capacity in the United States, as well as with the artists themselves, is described in chapter 28 of this Guide.

The J.E. Spingarn Collection of Criticism and Literary Theory

The library's collection of literary criticism was strengthened in 1926 by Dr. Joel Spingarn's gift of approximately 1,000 books and pamphlets relating to literary criticism, literature, and aesthetics, including some important early works.15 In 1955. Mrs. Spingarn presented her late husband's papers and documents bearing on American literary criticism, military history, and issues of academic freedom.16 Correspondence relating to Spingarn's Troutbeck Press is also included.

Warburg Collection

The library acquired in 1941, as the gift of Mrs. Felix M. Warburg, a collection of over 100 rare books and manuscripts, ranging from fifteenth-century

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illuminated Books of Hours to a set of Thackeray's The Newcomes in the original parts. The collection is general in character and not confined to a single field of collecting. It contains manuscripts, examples of early printing, Americana, first editions, and fine bindings.17

Weld Memorial Collection

In memory of her husband, Mrs. Francis Minot Weld presented to the library in 1950 more than 1,600 volumes from his collection of general literature, reference books, and first editions, together with a fund for the purchase of books in the fields in which Weld was interested, especially French and German literature.18 The earliest book in the group is Joachim Du Bellay's Les Oevvres Françoises (1569). There are first editions of Molière and Victor Hugo. Weld's collection of German authors contained numerous first editions of Goethe, Schiller, Heine, Grillparzer, and Lessing. There are also important English and American first editions.

Wells Bequest

In 1947, Gabriel Wells, a prominent New York book dealer, stipulated in his will that the library might select from his shelves rare books and manuscripts to the value of $10,000.19 Among other items chosen were the first and second editions of Richard de Bury's Philobiblon (1473, 1483), the first translations of Seneca into English by Jasper Heywood, and the Quadripartitum of Claudius Ptolemaeus (1484). Manuscript items include material relating to the early history of New York, as well as holograph items of Washington Irving and Robert Louis Stevenson.