Information about our holdings

Osborn Collection

The Osborn Collection consists of English literary and historical manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon period to the twentieth century, with particular emphasis on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on English poetry. Letters and papers of scholars and antiquaries, such as Edmond Malone, Charles Burney, and many lesser known individuals, are supplemented by historical manuscripts and state papers. A small gathering of scores includes early lute music and autograph manuscripts by Gustav Mahler and such modern English composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten.


 Other Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Manuscripts
 Eighteenth-Century Manuscripts
 Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Manuscripts
 Annotated Books
 Music Manuscripts



The James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection traces its beginnings to the mid 1930s when James Osborn studied at Oxford University. Inspired by the example of the eighteenth-century scholar and collector Edmond Malone, Mr. Osborn began to acquire the manuscripts that comprise the core of the collection now housed in the Beinecke Library. Like Malone, whose collection of books and manuscripts is preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, Mr. Osborn sought documents for their value as literary and historical evidence, and like Malone, he intended that his collection would become part of a great library, available for the use of future generations of scholars.

The Osborn Collection originally focused on English poetry, especially manuscript verse of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although it also contained some significant earlier poems. Over the years, the scope has broadened to include letters and manuscripts of significant literary figures, as well as historical papers. Today the collection encompasses nearly every aspect of English literature and history from the late Middle Ages to the reign of Queen Victoria.

By the end of the 1950s, the collection had outgrown the library space in the Osborn home, where nearly two hundred liquor cartons packed with manuscripts filled closets and lined walls. Accordingly, boxes of manuscripts were deposited in a locked cage in Sterling Memorial Library and, from time to time, ownership of portions of the collection was transferred to Yale. When the Beinecke Library opened in 1963, an office and generous storage area in the stacks became available. This space permitted proper arrangement and systematic cataloguing of the collection to begin.

Today the famous liquor cartons have been replaced by a bank of filing cabinets holding over twenty thousand folders containing single letters and documents, and short series of letters and documents. Beinecke shelves, in addition, now hold nearly two thousand Osborn manuscript volumes from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and about 550 printed books (before 1800), nearly all of the latter annotated. Nearly one thousand manuscript boxes hold archival collections and historical documents. Thanks to continuing gifts from generous friends of the Library, and to the endowment left by Mr. and Mrs. Osborn and by Mr. Osborn's sister, Hazel Osborn, the collection continues to grow vigorously in scholarly depth and range.

English Poetry 

Although poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries forms the nucleus of the verse collection, there are at least fifteen pre-1600 manuscripts that contain verse. These include manuscript copies of Geoffrey de Vinsauf's Poetria Nova of the late fourteenth century and Robert Mannyng's Handlyng Synne, of about 1400. The Braye Lute Book, dating from the late sixteenth century, besides providing a highly important source for early English lute music, contains twenty-nine poems. Counted among these is the unique textual source for Benedick's song in Much Ado about Nothing. Recently, four early Scottish love poems by William Dunbar, Alexander Scott, and others have been identified in the Braye manuscript. Richard Rolle, the “Hermit of Hampole,” is represented by a fifteenth-century manuscript of The Pricke of Conscience (formerly in the collection of Sir Walter Greg) and by a newly discovered manuscript, in Latin, of his Commentary on Job . The latter, with a large calligraphic inscription in the hand of John Shirley, is a new addition to the corpus of manuscripts associated with that most enthusiastic copyist and annotator of medieval English literary manuscripts.

Seventeenth-century manuscript verse fills many volumes. Of these, at least two from the early decades of the century consist almost entirely of poems by John Donne. Modern editions of Donne's poems require comparison of significant variations in these and about a dozen other contemporary manuscripts. Other manuscript volumes containing works of a single author include the writings of the earl of Rochester, Henry Colman, George Daniel, Thomas Stanley, Sir William Trumbull, Sir Thomas Urquhart, Sir Aston Cokayne, and John Cleveland. Notable collections of multiple authorship include the commonplace book of Tobias Alston, with early poems by Robert Herrick and others, in addition to numerous contemporary compilations of religious verse and poems on affairs of state. This brief list includes but a few of the dozens of major and minor poets of the late Renaissance in England represented in the collection.

Eighteenth-century manuscript volumes are equally strong, containing verse by Phanuel Bacon; Thomas Hull; both Doctors Burney; John Wolcot, a.k.a. “Peter Pindar”; William Hayley; and Isaac Watts, among many others. Besides these bound volumes, thirteen boxes contain hundreds of loose manuscript sheets of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century verses. A first-line index of English manuscript poetry before 1800 in the Osborn Collection will soon be published, an index that will include entries for nearly twenty thousand individual poems. George Crabbe, Walter Savage Landor, Robert Southey, and John Clare, again to name but a few, are among nineteenth-century poets well represented by substantial holdings.

Other Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Manuscripts

Sixty-five letters addressed to Sir Philip Sidney by scholars and statesmen known to Sidney during his missions on the European Continent of 1572–75 formed the basis of James Osborn's most important book, Young Philip Sidney. Among sixteenth-century manuscripts related to Sir Thomas More is a contemporary manuscript of the Dialogue of Comfort, his tremendously popular devotional treatise written in the Tower of London immediately before his execution. Bearing a 1537 watermark, it may be the earliest of the three known contemporary manuscript texts that survive. Manuscripts related to the history of the Church of England include a preliminary draft of A Necessary Doctrine and Eruditon for any Christian Man, commonly known as The King's Book, one of the key texts of the early English Reformation, and a version, perhaps a deliberate abridgment almost certainly written at Court, of Edward Fox's De vera differentia, his treatise on the royal supremacy of about 1530–34. Another major player in the religious controversies of the mid sixteenth century was John Jewel, bishop of Salisbury in the 1560s and, as author of the Apologia pro ecclesia anglicana (1562), the chief champion of Anglicanism. We have Jewel's copy of the works of Saint Anselm, 1543, bearing his signature and extensive underlining and marginal marking on virtually every page, with numerous examples of his distinctive marginal numbers. Hugh Broughton, the fiery Protestant divine and rabbinical scholar, is represented by his own copy, heavily corrected, revised, and expanded, with additional text, of his A Revelation of the Holy Apocalyps, which was bound with additional printed tracts by Broughton and several other manuscript items in various hands.

Letters and documents of authors, statesmen, antiquaries, and divines abound in the collection. Among the more eminent figures represented are Edmund Waller, Oliver Cromwell, Thomas Fairfax, Sir Thomas Browne, John Evelyn, Abraham Cowley, Andrew Marvell, Sir William Davenant, John Locke, and John Dryden, along with a host of lesser fry.

There are also an abundance of the letters and papers of the diplomatist Sir William Temple, in addition to several literary manuscripts, which include the preliminary autograph draft, with many revisions and corrections, of his first known literary work. This collection of prose tales, titled A True Romance, or the Disastrous Chances of Love and Fortune, was addressed and dedicated (with an additional rough draft of the dedicatory epistle) to Dorothy Osborne, who aided her husband mightily in his career and counted among her friends Queen Mary II; this is likely to be one of the earliest extant specimens of English prose fiction in autograph manuscript. We have a considerable quantity of the early bibliographer and collector Narcissus Luttrell's commonplace books and diaries, as well as dozens of printed volumes and ephemera annotated by him. “The Luttrell File,” a listing of annotated dates on printed ephemera recorded by him over about fifty years from 1680, was long a feature of the Osborn Collection. Begun by Mr. Osborn sixty years ago, and augmented by many additions over the years, The Luttrell File, by Stephen Parks, 1961, and Earle Havens, 1996 Grad., was finally published in 1999.

Autograph letters of John Dryden are excessively rare, but the Osborn Collection possesses two distinguished examples. The first, addressed to William Walsh, criticizes his “Dialogue Concerning Women,” while the other comprises a critique of a translation of a passage from Lucretius' epic-didactic poem, De rerum natura, by Thomas Creech. More recently, we acquired the original petition signed by the patentee and shareholders in the King's Company issued against Dryden, citing “his last new Play Call'd All for Love” (his rewriting of Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra) in which three of the signatories had taken the leading parts. The petitioners complained that Dryden, formerly a fellow shareholder and the company playwright, had failed in his obligation to provide them with three plays a year. This important document, when still in another collection, was first published by Mr. Osborn in his first book, John Dryden: Some Biographical Facts and Problems (1940).

The “grand tour” is a phenomenon that interested James Osborn early in his collecting days, witnessed by his extensive gathering of manuscripts and letters by, and relating to, Joseph Spence, acquired as early as 1938, and Charles Burney, among others. Our interest in the grand tour continues, and recent acquisitions have included a manuscript edition of Richard Lassels's seminal Voyage of Italy. First published posthumously in 1670, our manuscript, amounting to some 672 pages, dates from the middle of the century and differs in innumerable details from the many printed versions. Another unusual travel diary concerns a royal grand tour of 1681–82, which is of exceptional detail and interest. The author was a member of the retinue, perhaps the chaplain, of the fifteen-year-old George Fitzroy, earl of Northumberland, the illegitimate son of Charles II and the duchess of Cleveland, on his tour to Italy, November 1681–June 1682. The author was a keen observer of churches and secular buildings, statues and paintings, antiquities and curiosities. Our grand tour and travel-related manuscripts in the Osborn Collection number more than 350, and a full calendar of these manuscripts was published in 1999.

Historical manuscripts of the seventeenth century have long been a cornerstone of the Osborn Collection. Materials of interest to the student of parliamentary history, especially, include speeches, journals, petitions, orders, and other state papers from the reign of Mary Tudor to that of Queen Anne. The largest individual collection, the Stanford papers, alone consists of more than three thousand documents, mostly preserved by John Brown, clerk of the Parliament during the first decades of the Restoration. The Gordonstoun papers deal chiefly with the Civil War, and with Scottish participation in particular. The Carlingford papers chiefly concern the earl of Carlingford's mission in 1665–67 to the Emperor Leopold during the volatile years of the second Anglo-Dutch war. They include no fewer than two dozen personal letters written twenty years earlier by the exiled King Charles II to one of his companions-in-exile, later created earl of Carlingford. There are also various letters and papers concerning other members of Charles's circle. A gathering of documents related to the revolutionary leader of the Long Parliament, John Pym, includes family papers as well as letters and documents dealing with his central role in the government during the early period of the English Civil Wars.

For the later seventeenth century, diplomatic papers include more than a thousand individual items by, or relating to, William Blathwayt, Secretary-at-War, 1683 to 1704, and Commissioner of Trade, who had also served as secretary to Sir William Temple, whose papers have been described above. Equally important are the papers of Edmund Poley, envoy at the courts of Sweden, Savoy, and Hanover, whose diplomatic efforts are described in over six hundred individual items. The Manchester Papers comprise an additional one thousand letters and documents chiefly received by the duke of Manchester while English ambassador to the courts of Venice and France. These, for the most part, relate to diplomatic, political, and military affairs in Northern Europe, spanning the decades of the monumental Wars of the League of Augsburg and the Spanish Succession, 1696–1737. Manchester's correspondents included William II, Sir John Vanbrugh, Matthew Prior, Joseph Addison, and the duke of Marlborough, including the latter's first-hand account of his victory at the battle of Oudenarde and its aftermath. Several series of manuscript newsletters delineate other day-to-day historical events and including nearly five hundred addressed to Madame Pole of Radnor (1691–95) and sixty-two from John Biscoe to the Maunsell family (1696–1706). Another smaller collection spans the tense months immediately before and after the Glorious Revolution. These provide an intimate and candid view of historical events as they unfolded, unlike much of the censored and unreliable reporting that appeared in the popular press of the seventeenth century.

Eighteenth-Century Manuscripts

Among the early eighteenth-century literary papers in the collection, those of Alexander Pope's “modest Boswell,” Joseph Spence, form a large and important segment. These contain the original notes for Spence's monumental Anecdotes, not published until 1820, as well as two contemporary transcripts of that work. Pope and his circle were a special interest of Mr. Osborn, who produced a scholarly edition of Spence's Observations, Anecdotes, and Characters of Books and Men in 1966 from these and other contemporary transcripts. The Spence papers also include letters, diaries, and extensive material on the theory and practice of garden design, a subject of considerable interest in eighteenth-century England. Spence's friend William Shenstone is also represented by at least four dozen letters, as well as related items concerning his well-appointed estate, The Leasowes, and its excellent grounds.

Of Alexander Pope himself the collection has three oil portraits, seventeen autograph letters, and two manuscripts of poems, one of them autograph. Manuscripts by other friends of Pope comprise an august fellowship, including Lord Bolingbroke, Lord Peterborough, Bishop Atterbury, Jacob Tonson, Ralph Allen, and Bishop Warburton. Of Sir William Trumbull, who encouraged Pope in his pursuit of translating Homer, there are several commonplace books containing legal and other memoranda, his own verse translations of the Psalms, and essays on the practice of verse translation and the virtues of the contemplative life.

The collection also includes painted portraits of other English poets and statesmen, such as Matthew Prior and Joseph Addison (the latter by Kneller in 1716), as well as many of their autograph letters. Of Dr. Samuel Johnson there is but one autograph letter, but it is accompanied by a considerable quantity of Johnsoniana, including a unique account of his earliest recorded conversation. Counted among these are a notable group of letters by Johnson's contemporaries: Mrs. Thrale (62), David Garrick (15, plus letters sent to him, and related documents and verses), Edward Gibbon (7), Thomas Percy (65), and Charles James Fox (94). Indeed, most members of The Club are very well represented on the Osborn Collection shelves. Nearly fifty items concern the early Shakespearean scholar George Steevens, and there are over a century relating to the critic Edmond Malone, as well as good holdings of the literary historians Joseph and Thomas Warton.

Our gathering of materials relating to Edmund Burke amounts to over two hundred of his letters, while the Ballitore papers, from the Shackleton and Leadbeater families, contain additional items related to Burke, who attended the school maintained at Ballitore by Abraham Shackleton and who corresponded regularly with his son. Another large holding is that of the great dramatist and parliamentary orator Richard Brinsley Sheridan, numbering one hundred seventy letters by, and a further one hundred letters sent to, him, along with related items. Of Lord Macartney, there are some forty-one letters, as well as two boxes of papers concerning his embassy to Russia, 1764–67.

The Burney Collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century musical papers, amounts to some four thousand individual items, including the letters and other papers of Charles Burney, Mus.D., his son, and his famous daughter, the novelist Frances Burney d'Arblay. We have also been able to acquire the last remaining Burney papers in family hands, adding about three hundred more items to the collection, including Fanny Burney's own sketch for the title page of Evelina, and E. F. Burney's drawings, which were later engraved, of the famous Handel Commemoration at Westminster Abbey.

Eighteenth-century literary men and women often left extensive literary remains. Fortunately we have been able to keep together some interesting segments. A large collection of letters and other papers formerly belonging to the brewer-poet William Julius Mickle contains letters of many contemporary literary figures as well as many of Mickle's own literary manuscripts. The papers of Sir Nathaniel William Wraxall include the original materials for his important published memoirs, with many additional unpublished anecdotes, travel journals, and correspondence. Holdings of the poet William Hayley include one hundred thirty-six letters, and about one hundred sixty related pieces. There are also some four hundred letters written to and from the well-known publishing firm of Cadell and Davies, as well as eighteen boxes of correspondence addressed to the Nichols family of printers, which also make the Osborn Collection an excellent source for the study of English print culture, in addition to manuscripts.

Among the literary women of the eighteenth century, Lady Mary Hamilton, author of Munster Village and other novels, deserves considerable study. We now possess the autograph manuscripts of two unpublished literary compositions written by her, one consisting of a series of outspoken political letters pseudonymously written to The Morning Post, and the other a satirical novella, literally an “imaginary voyage” made in a homemade air balloon to a realm inhabited by giant men. Clearly, Lady Mary deserves a place in the history of science fiction. We also have a considerable quantity of related papers, consisting of twenty-four letters written to her (1763–91) and sixty-seven letters by her (1759–1816) in addition to other materials, including the manuscript of an unpublished biographical account of Lady Mary written by her grandson, Baron Paul-Adolphe-Dieudonnée Thiebault, his Complement a l'histoire de ma famille maternelle dans le bon vieux temps, ou Histoire de Lady Mary Walker et de ses infants, a manuscript of some 200 pages.

The papers of the Reverend Norton Nicholls, best known for his friendship with the more famous poet Thomas Gray, consist of over three hundred and fifty letters written to him by numerous correspondents, and some four hundred and fifty letters written by Nicholls to his family and friends concerning his student days at Eton and Trinity Hall, Cambridge, his continental travels, and his enjoyment of musical and cultural life in London. In all, the Nicholls archive amounts to a fascinating, almost day-to-day, chronicle of the life of a late eighteenth-century gentleman of leisure.

Historical manuscripts of the eighteenth century range just as widely as the literary papers. Special interest attaches to the almost two hundred and fifty letters of Sarah Churchill, the shrewd and pugnacious duchess of Marlborough (plus twenty-nine of her husband, along with related pieces). The Townshend papers span nearly the entire century, containing many letters by members of this family of statesmen, from Charles, second Viscount Townshend, through to Thomas Townshend, first Viscount Sydney. Another considerable archive derives from Sir John Eardley-Wilmot, Chief Justice of Common Pleas. He maintained a wide correspondence, of which the collection has more than four hundred letters addressed to him, as well as one hundred and twenty-two of his own letters, addressed by him to his son. Besides these there are nearly two hundred letters addressed to the younger Wilmot, a member of Parliament for about twenty years. The papers of Lord Chief Justice Sir William Lee fill no fewer than thirty boxes and cover every aspect of the life of a prominent jurist and landowner of the mid eighteenth century. An important later collection is the correspondence, 1811–29, of Sir Henry Clinton with his brother, Sir William Henry Clinton; military matters and parliamentary affairs are prominent topics in these fifteen hundred letters. The letterbooks of George Byng, fourth Viscount Torrington and Minister Plenipotentiary at Brussels from 1782 to 1792, contain his diplomatic correspondence, neatly copied in secretarial hands, in English and French. These official copies of some thousands of letters, both incoming and outgoing, are contained in fifteen large folio volumes, representing a major source for European diplomatic history at a period of immense turmoil in European affairs, for his was the period leading up to, and immediately following, the great upheavals of the French Revolution.

Richard Oswald, a leading English merchant, was a British peace negotiator at the end of the American Revolution. His letterbooks, 1759–84, were similarly bound in ten volumes containing the original collected correspondence written to Oswald at his estate near Ayr, from his London agent, as well as by his three nephews whom he had taken into business, and his Edinburgh lawyer and other business associates. They provide a considerable trove of evidence of the affairs of a leading merchant, particularly of one involved in the American and African slave trade, and give detailed information on the intelligence that reached well-placed persons in Britain about disturbances in North America. They are particularly revealing of the background of the key British negotiator involved in the Peace of Paris and the settlement of American independence.

Along with numerous letters by individual men of science, from John Beale to Sir Joseph Banks (sixty-eight letters, plus twenty-eight addressed to him), we now hold an important collection of the papers of James Douglas, fourteenth earl of Morton. Morton studied physics on the European continent and was an amateur mathematician and astronomer, and a friend of the brilliant Scottish mathematician Colin Maclaurin. In addition to serving as president of the Royal Society from 1764 until 1768, he was one of only eight foreign members of the Académie Française. His papers include about one hundred and thirty letters to correspondents such as Duhamel du Monceau, Buffon, Pierre-Charles and Louis-Guillaume Le Monnier, Réaumur, and Samuel Koenig, as well as Mme. Geoffrin, Benjamin West, Montesquieu, and Sir Robert Walpole, plus letters to his wife and family. The scientific papers of Sir Charles Blagden, secretary of the Royal Society from 1784 until his death in 1820, number over one thousand items, and contain as well an array of early mineralogical data, letters concerning field surveys of France and England, observations of meteors and fireballs, and important experiments including the “supercooling” of water and the “congelation” of mercury. In addition, nearly one hundred letters from Blagden to Lord and Lady Palmerston cover the vital period 1788 to 1804, and Blagden's personal diary spans the provocative years 1776 to 1788.

Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Manuscripts

Several sections of the collection, such as the Nichols and Blagden papers, bridge the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Walter Savage Landor, born in 1770, the same year as Wordsworth, lived long enough to benefit from friendship with the poet Robert Browning. Our collection of some seventeen letters from Browning to Landor's niece are among the most interesting that Browning ever penned. Notable authors and statesmen of the nineteenth century have significant representations in the collection as well. These include Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges, John Wilson Croker, William Cobbett, Joseph Hume, Sir Robert Peel, John Stuart Mill, and Robert Southey. Mention should also be made of eighteen boxes of the correspondence of Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, who was active in many of the learned societies of the mid nineteenth century, as well as the papers of the Victorian man of letters, Frederic Locker-Lampson, consisting of some two thousand items from numerous correspondents. These present a lively picture of social and literary aspects of Victorian society. A fine group of sixty-three topographical drawings (1836–51) by the architect and indefatigable controversialist, Augustus Welby Pugin, relate to his travels and to his writings, and are a fine study group, as they are a representative selection of his work and interests over many years.

Among travel manuscripts of the nineteenth century, the correspondence of Howe Peter Browne, second marquis of Sligo, during his travels to the Levant, deserves particular mention. A friend of Lord Byron's from Cambridge University, Sligo toured the Levant in 1810 with a considerable entourage, collecting archaeological fragments, before he was joined by Lord Byron for a tour of the Morea. Their travels, and meetings with Lady Hester Stanhope, are also chronicled in nineteen long autograph letters from Sligo, including twelve written to his mother, three to his close friend George Caldwell at Jesus College, Cambridge, and three to his agent at Westport House, County Mayo. They total eighty-seven manuscript pages, written en route from Tripolezza, Argos, Patras, Athens, the Sea of Marmara, Constantinople, and Terapia.

There is also at least one important group of twentieth-century literary papers: those of James Osborn's friend and colleague, the poet William Force Stead. In fifty boxes, the papers contain childhood verses as well as manuscripts of later published works, both of poetry and of literary scholarship. Stead had numerous friends among the writers of his day, and his correspondence includes important letters from T. S. Eliot, Edmund Blunden, and W. B. Yeats.

James Osborn's own papers, which amount to seventy-six boxes containing carbon copies of outgoing letters filed with incoming correspondence, are also being consulted by researchers. His wide correspondence in itself constitutes a chronicle of the progress of English literary and historical studies in the mid twentieth century.

Annotated Books

While the Osborn Collection primarily consists of English manuscripts, we do add annotated printed books to our collection as well. A fine recent example is a copy of the rare 1532 edition of Chaucer's Works, containing the contemporary manuscript commentary of a dedicated English reader. In the wide margins of this copy there appear over two thousand intelligent notes, ranging from a few words to a dozen or more lines. These provide evidence of intensive study by an early reader who commented on Charcer's narrative and didactic intentions, and summarized the plots of episodes, in addition to whole tales. Our copy of Thomas Bardwell's Practical Treatise on Painting in Oil Colours (1795), has similarly knowledgeable contemporary annotations by an early owner, while our copy of Cennino Cennini's Treatise on Painting (1844), belonged to the artist Benjamin Robert Hayden, and bears his numerous manuscript annotations, underlinings, and interlineations. Another art book, Montamy's Traité des couleurs pour la peinture en émail et sur la porcelaine (1765), contains eighteenth-century manuscript recipes for “Bleu de Prusse,” “Encre rouge,” and so forth.

Jonathan Swift's History of the Four Last Years of the Queen (1758), his justification of Harley's Tory government of 1710–14, was one of the most widely read books of the mid eighteenth century, and our copy was extensively annotated by James Harris, M.P., the author of Hermes and an acquaintance of Samuel Johnson. Our copy of Orrery's Remarks on the Life . . . of Dr. Jonathan Swift (1752) was the author's own copy, heavily annotated and revised throughout, presenting the final version of the most important life of Swift written as its author would have wished to see it. Our copy of Bishop Joseph Hall's treatise Episcopacie by Divine Right (1640), belonged to Henry Hammond, chaplain to Charles II, and was copiously annotated by him, while our edition of John Knox's History of the Reformation in Scotland (1587), the major work of this preeminent Scottish reformer, possesses a manuscript epitome and continuation penned by an early owner. Our copy of Sir John Hawkins's Life of Samuel Johnson (1787) belonged to Edmond Malone who annotated it with arch comments on the author, including the invective (p. 231): “The malignant writer means Mr. Edmund Burke, to whom he once behaved so brutally at the Literary club, that no one wd afterwards speak to him in that society, and he was forced to withdraw his name from their books.” Our copy of Horace Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting in England (1765–71), belonged to the Cambridge antiquary William Cole, one of Walpole's closest friends. Presented to him by the author, it bears Cole's copious notes throughout, including additions and comments on Walpole's text.

Music Manuscripts

Music manuscripts form a small but distinguished part of the Osborn Collection. Numbering sixty-one bound volumes, they range from the Braye Lute Book mentioned above to the original autograph pencil score of Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra (1946), with the composer's comments on the individual instruments written in. Marie-Louise Osborn's special interest in music prompted her to purchase three Britten manuscripts in all, his Michaelangelo Sonnets and How Blest Are Shepherds, in addition to the Young Person's Guide. Musicians have paid homage to three important manuscripts of Gustav Mahler in the collection: the autograph full score of his first symphony (which restored the Blumine movement to Mahler's corpus), and a fair copy, with Mahler's corrections, of his second symphony. In 1990, we were fortunate to acquire a manuscript that is apparently the only surviving autograph version, hitherto unknown to Mahler scholars, of the full text of Das klagende Lied, his first major composition, comprising all three parts of the poem and containing a number of significant alterations and differences from the published version including the previously unavailable Waldmarchen movement that was deleted by the composer in 1888 but never destroyed. We have also acquired the autograph manuscript of Mahler's youthful fairy-tale opera Rubezahl, the music for which is lost. Mahler's own score of Beethoven's Third Symphony is also in the Osborn Collection, bearing extensive additions and markings throughout in bright red ink; his annotations include extensive revisions of Beethoven's masterpiece throughout. Not only are there dynamic and phrasing markings on almost every page, but also many orchestral parts have been considerably rewritten, with new parts added, offering a rich and all too rare glimpse of masters interpreting their intellectual forbears. There are, as well, important manuscripts of Johann Sigismund Kusser, Alessandro Scarlatti, Charles Burney, C. I. Latrobe, Gustave Holst, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Another recent acquisition, the Osborn Organ Book is an Anglo-Flemish organ manuscript of the mid seventeenth century, a folio of some three hundred and twenty-nine pages, several dated 1651. The majority of these were written in an English hand of the 1650s, and include music by Sweelinck, Kerckhoven, Hendrik Liberti, and Jacobus de Cherf, among others. The music is arranged according to the Roman Catholic liturgy and includes two complete organ masses, as well as other pieces. Evidence suggests that the various sections of the manuscript were used by English-speaking musicians, presumably recusant Catholics, who sought refuge from religious persecution while in exile in the more tolerant Low Countries.

Modern scholarly editions, such as those of the letters of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, Charles Burney, Fanny Burney, and John Stuart Mill testify to the significance of manuscripts in the collection. Its richness will continue to be revealed as scholars explore some of its unmapped areas and new acquisitions. Thus the Ballitore papers, mentioned in connection with Burke, are potentially valuable for the light they may shed on education in eighteenth-century Ireland, or Quaker life and thought over the same period. Similarly, the many shelves of travel diaries, many of them anonymous records of English and continental journeys, contain evidence of the full range of tastes, attitudes, and tribulations of travelers on the “grand tour.” These diaries also furnish descriptions of towns and individual monuments, or works of art in houses and palaces, many of which may not survive today. The voluminous manuscript collections of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sermons will eventually reward the patience of a researcher interested, for example, in their political content, or in the changing styles of preaching and religious identity over that period. To facilitate their study, we are preparing a detailed calendar of our manuscript sermons, indexing them by preacher, location, biblical text, and general content; we hope to reach publication by 2004. Potential discoveries await the scholar who wishes to look beyond printed books, into the handwritten documents of past eras, in order to learn much more about the characters and attitudes of our literary ancestors, as well as the intellectual and social climate in which they lived.

The Osborn Collection continues to grow steadily in size, scope, and importance. While the founder's vision still obtains—indeed, scholarly source materials are what we seek to acquire—the focus of the Osborn Collection has broadened considerably from its early concentration on English poetry and literary manuscripts, to embrace nearly every aspect of English life and culture.

For further information about the Osborn Collection, see the account by Laurence C. Witten, 2d, in The Book Collector (Winter 1959): 383-96. Biennial reports on acquisitions, by Stephen Parks, appeared in the Yale University Library Gazette 44:3 (January 1970) and in even numbered years to 1980; a similar report covering acquisitions from 1980 to 2001 appeared in the Gazette 76:3-4 (April 2002).

Written by Stephen Parks


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