Literature in English

The Library houses major collections of works of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Oliver Goldsmith. We also have smaller, but significant collections of English and American literary manuscripts, correspondence, and first editions.

Engraved portrait of Charles Dickens, 1838. Engraved by Edward Stodard from a drawing by Samuel Laurence.

Charles Dickens

We have the largest Charles Dickens collection in the United States, with thousands of letters, original illustrations, and important first editions.

Among the items in this collection are a presentation set of the The Pickwick Papers, a series of stories comprising nineteen parts. Dickens inscribed the first fourteen parts in this set to his young sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, prior to her death.

Our collection also includes the autograph manuscript of Dickens's Children's New Testament and five leaves of The Pickwick Papers manuscript.

Finding Aid Digital Collection Catalog

Edgar Allan Poe

Thanks to a 1971 donation, we have one of the finest Poe collections in the world, including the only surviving copy of "The Raven" in Poe's handwriting.

This collection is rich in autograph manuscripts and letters, and includes copies of all the first editions of Poe's works. Manuscripts in this collection include "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Raven," "Annabel Lee," and "For Annie."

The rarest of the printed pieces are the first edition of Tamerlane (1827) and the "Balloon Hoax" (1844). The collection also includes the periodicals and gift books in which many of Poe's poems and stories first appeared, as well as later editions and translations of his works.

Finding Aid Digital Collection Catalog

Lacquered painting on wood, illustration for the <i>Vicar of Wakefield</i> by George Cruikshank, in the Free Library's Rare Book Department.

Oliver Goldsmith

This comprehensive collection, assembled by William M. Elkins, consists of first and later editions of Goldsmith's works, autographed letters, and manuscripts recording Goldsmith's contractual arrangements with publisher John Newbery. The numerous editions of She Stoops to Conquer, The Deserted Village, The Vicar of Wakefield, and other works in the Elkins Collection formed the basis of Temple Scott's Oliver Goldsmith Bibliographically and Biographically Considered, published in 1928.

Finding Aid Digital Collection

Leaf preceding Romeo and Juliet from the Free Library of Philadelphia's copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare. A hand pre-dating c. 1670 wrote this text as well as annotations throughout.

English and American Literature

We have great collections of American and English literature, which include first editions, noteworthy copies, letters and drafts, andopular materials from authors Langston Hughes, Christina Rossetti, Mark Twain, and Oscar Wilde. Most famous, perhaps, is our annotated copy of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare, likely owned by John Milton

  • The first four folio editions of Shakespeare in contemporary bindings
  • First editions, association and annotated copies, and manuscript material of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Wilkie Collins, Joseph Conrad, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bret Harte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Keats, Rudyard Kipling, William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Bernard Shaw, Robert Louis Stevenson, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Alfred Tenyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, Sol M. Flock, Mrs. Richard Gimbel, Mrs. Wharton Sinkler, and Edward F. R. Wood.
  • A group of letters between George Bernard Shaw and Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mansfield
  • A significant collection of the writings of James Branch Cabell
  • A collection of the works of Christopher Morley, A. Edward Newton's copies of his own writings, and the works of Agnes Repplier