18th Century Collections

Black-and-white panorama of the city of Norwich with small illustrations in the top corners. Below is the text from the front-page article.
The masthead of the "Norwich Gazette," volume 22, number 1153, "from Saturday, November 2, to Saturday, November 9, 1728." Call Number: Bond P20.

The 18th century, both in England and in France, is a period of particular strength for Special Collections. In addition to the collections separately described below, the general collections contain large numbers of 18th century works, particularly in politics, economics, literature, and natural history. Spencer Library's collection of 18th century English imprints is one of the largest in North America as reported to the English Short Title Catalog (ESTC).

Bond Periodical and Newspaper Collection

A large collection 18th century periodicals, including many involving Joseph Addison and Richard Steele.

From no other source can a researcher gain so vivid and detailed a picture of this period as from the newspapers and periodicals of the day, and few sources are so elusive. Survival does not come easily to an old newspaper. Acquired by Special Collections in 1970, the collection of Richmond P. and Marjorie N. Bond was the result of years of patient and knowledgeable searching. Begun as a teaching collection - a group of representative items illustrating the development of the English periodical press - it is now a collection matched in no private hands and in but few institutions.

Of the more than 900 entries in the Bonds' original catalog, approximately one-fourth are concerned with Joseph Addison and Richard Steele. The great Tatler and Spectator constitute the core of the collection, occurring in original form, later editions, and varied formats. Letters, contemporary pamphlets, and other works connected with Addison and Steele add to the research value of this portion of the collection. Well over two hundred other journals published before 1800 are included, with many of the eminent journals in complete or good files and many other papers represented by a few issues. The collection ranges from the weekly news pamphlets of the Civil War period, through the Popish Plot era (the Observator and others), the post-Revolutionary Present State of Europe, and the great age of the periodical, the 18th century. The collection includes almanacs, parliamentary debates, provincial papers, many of the great and lesser essay journals, review journals, and what can only be described as general magazines. Some items are very well known, including the Connoisseur, Dr. Johnson's Rambler, the Ladies Diary, the Flying Post, and the Daily Courant. Many others are obscure, such as Jopson's Coventry Mercury and the Lady's Curiosity. Some items in the collection - including News from the Dead and Free Holder - are extremely rare.

The collection continues to grow in variety, importance and usefulness, supported in part by the continuing generosity of Mrs. Bond. Additions to the collection since its acquisition include the following:

  • L'Estrange's Intelligencer, a gift of the Friends of the Library
  • scientific journals such as The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, begun in 1664 and still publishing
  • periodicals in business and economics such as Lloyd's Evening Post
  • many other journals that strengthen the original topics of the collection.

Altogether these materials constitute a teaching collection that has grown into a research collection of uncommon value.

Brodie of Brodie Collection

A collection of approximately 1,200 pamphlets amassed by the Brodie family of Elgin over a period of 150 years, covering subjects ranging from theology to politics to literature to technology and medicine.

The Brodie of Brodie Collection, purchased in 1961, is a group of about twelve hundred pamphlets acquired by the Brodie family of Elgin over a period of 150 years and formerly part of the library in their eastern Scottish home, Brodie Castle. The pamphlets are bound in 134 volumes with the clenched fist of the Brodie crest on each spine. The last quarter of the seventeenth century is represented by about thirty pamphlets and the first quarter of the nineteenth century by 175; the rest are from the 18th century. The book-buying interests of four generations of Brodies are here, including the following:

  • the theological fervor of the Covenanting Alexander Brodie, who began the collection
  • the political pre-occupations of his son James, who added William Sherlock's The Case of the Allegiance due to Soveraign Powers (1691), Killing No Murder (1689 reprint), and A Letter to a Gentlewoman Concerning Government (1697)
  • the literate and sophisticated tastes of the second Alexander Brodie, who lived in London and collected more than half of the pamphlets, including those by Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, Young, and many minor authors; a complete run of The Briton; and anonymous pieces on Walpole, the grand fireworks display, and "the present state of whorecraft"
  • the legal, scientific, agricultural, and medical interests of the James Brodie, whose death in 1834 seems to have terminated the collection (Lunardi's An Account of the First Aerial Voyage in England, 1784; Francis Lowndes' Observations on Medical Electricity, 1787; Thomas Bucknall's The Orchardist, 1797; and numbers of works on foot plows, mine augers, the bites of mad dogs, and other practical technological and medical matters).

Edmund Curll Collection

A collection of volumes brought out by Edmund Curll (1675-1747), an 18th century bookseller and publisher notorious for his unscrupulous publication practices.

Among the many colorful figures of the 18th century was "the unspeakable Curll," a very successful businessman and most prolific publisher and bookseller with well over a thousand books and pamphlets to his credit or discredit. Singularly unimpressed by the concept of literary property, Curll was almost constantly at war with Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, or another of his involuntary authors. In 1955 Special Collections acquired Peter Murray Hill's private collection of Edmund Curll, numbering at that time about five hundred books. Carrying on Mr. Hill's detective endeavors, we have raised the number to nearly eight hundred. Curll's own vitality and persistence seem to be communicated to those who study him: they continue to discover previously unknown titles at such a rapid rate that it is impossible to say what proportion of the whole is present in our collection.

Of Curll's unwilling authors the best known is certainly Jonathan Swift, whose Meditation upon a Broomstick - first printed by Curll in 1710 from a manuscript obtained by theft - is one of the puzzles of the collection. Scholarship has not yet been able to discover which of the two versions in the Curll Collection is earlier: the 16-page twopenny edition or the 30-page sixpenny edition. Pope, Matthew Prior, Nicholas Rowe, John Oldmixon, Sacheverell, and Sir Thomas Browne all appear in the Curll collection. Trials, scandals, topical poems, poetical miscellanies, politics, British antiquities, travels and the classics are revealed as stock that Curll felt would move well or could be made to move by being reissued with a new and up-to-date title-page.

18th Century Pamphlet Collections

An extensive collection of 18th century pamphlets, organized into four groups: poetical, dramatic, political and economic, and religious.

Perhaps the most common form of publication of the 18th century was the pamphlet. Every conceivable subject and nearly every 18th century figure of any note was discussed in a pamphlet, or more commonly in a series of pamphlets. We have, over the years, assembled large numbers of these invaluable sources. In particular we have attempted to obtain unbound pamphlets, with the secondary aim of using them for bibliographical study.

The English 18th century pamphlets, aside from the named collections that are discussed separately, fall into four large groups: poetical, dramatic, political and economic, and religious. The poetical pamphlets are mostly the works of minor or anonymous poets but there are a number of poems by Thomas Gray, Goldsmith, Pope, Addison, James Thomson, and other well-known authors. The dramatic pamphlets (nearly half Irish imprints) include plays by Garrick, Cibber, General Burgoyne, Nathaniel Lee, Sheridan and a host of minor authors, and operas by Dr. Arne, Charles Dibdin, and John Gay. The political and economic pamphlets--the largest category--cover the South Sea Bubble, controversies over the East India Company, Irish difficulties, reactions to the American and French revolutions, the state of the currency, and new methods of agricultural improvement, and include long series of official proclamations and acts of Parliament. The religious pamphlets are mostly sermons, a good number of them on purely devotional concerns, but many of them are political sermons dealing with the great controversies of the day.

English Poetical Miscellanies Collection

A collection of approximately 500 poetical miscellanies dating from the first quarter of the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century.

Serving the functions of both the modern anthology and the "little magazine," the poetical miscellanies, especially those of the 18th century, are invaluable tools for the scholar of English poetry. In 1962 Special Collections began collecting these charming and useful volumes and we now have about 500 of them, dating from the first quarter of the 17th century to the 19th century, the greatest number being from the 18th century. They contain the first appearances of many works of major authors (Dryden's "MacFlecknoe," Pope's "The Rape of the Lock," for instance) and the only appearances of many minor authors. The vast numbers of political and personal satires which were the chief genre of nondramatic verse during the Restoration and the early 18th century are present in the many volumes of the State Poems (variously entitled The Muses Farewel to Popery and SlaveryPoems on Affairs of StateA New Collection of Poems Relating to Affairs of State, etc.), and in the so-called Dryden-Tonson miscellanies (published by Tonson, with Dryden as consultant). Thomas D'Urfey's Wit and Mirth, or, Pills to Purge Melancholy is here in many editions, as are The Union, Dodsley's collections, and The Foundling Hospital for Wit. There are also numerous translations and adaptations by various hands from classical authors (Ovid and Juvenal being the favorites) and many of the collections published by Westminster School and the two universities.

Ancillary to the English Poetical Miscellanies Collection is the Boys-Mizener index, a card index of first lines of the poems in the miscellanies which are listed in the standard bibliography by Arthur Ellicott Case. The index was donated by the compilers, Professors Richard Boys of Michigan and Arthur Mizener of Cornell.

Horn Collection of the Duke of Marlborough

A collection of poems and pamphlets (satirical and panegyrical) concerning John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722).

Significant holdings in Special Collections on the life and activities of the First Duke of Marlborough were given sharper focus in 1976 by the acquisition through gift funds of the Robert D. Horn Collection of contemporary poems on the Duke. The more than 150 pamphlets of satire and panegyric provide a literary complement to the largely historical items already in the collections.

Frank E. Melvin Collection of French Revolutionary Pamphlets

A collection of over 9,000 pamphlets pertaining to the French Revolution, the majority of which were published in France between 1787 and 1800.

The Frank E. Melvin Collection of French Revolutionary Pamphlets was begun in 1952 and now numbers about 9,000 items. The bulk of the pamphlets were published between 1787 and 1800 and cover the following:

  • the struggles between the King and the parlements from 1787 to 1789
  • the reaction of the clergy to the religious reforms of the National (Constituent) Assembly
  • issues concerned with governmental finances and with the drawing up of the Constitution of 1791
  • the reorganization and financing of the army from 1789 through the period of National Convention
  • the trial of Louis XVI
  • the Thermidorian Reaction
  • the period of the Directory (1795 to 1799)

There are many interesting editions of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and equally interesting editions of the Republican Calendar. The collection also includes works by famous, obscure, and anonymous authors, including Jacques Pierre Brissot, Lazare Carnot, Nicolas de Condorcet, Pierre Samuel du Pont de Nemours, Henri Gregoire, Lameth, HonorĂ© Gabriel Riqueti comte de Mirabeau, Jacques Necker, Maximilien Robespierre, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyes, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-PĂ©rigord. The literary forms they employed are almost as varied as the questions they treated: reasoned political essay, didactic narrative, verse, song, dialogue, and drama. All are considered appropriate to political argument.

Supplementary collections of pamphlets concerning the revolutionary activities in Belgium and Geneva of approximately the same date add several hundred items to this group of sources for the study of one of the most important periods of European history.

Realey Collection of Sir Robert Walpole

A collection of nearly 500 volumes documenting the administration of Sir Robert Walpole (1721-1742).

The late Professor Charles B. Realey bequeathed his library to the University and in 1963 his collection of Walpoliana came to Special Collections. The original two hundred volumes, now increased to nearly 500, provide a concentrated and remarkably full coverage of Sir Robert Walpole's term as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain (1721-1742). Complete sets of The Craftsman and of Cato's Letters, many clandestine and controversial pamphlets, and a sizable group of contemporary newspapers are particularly valuable additions to the Library's resources on the political life of the period.

Special Collections Contact

Elspeth Healey

Special Collections Curator for post-1700 materials (except the areas listed below)



Eve Wolynes

Special Collections Curator for pre-1700 materials, Asian collections, history of science, maps/cartography