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British and Commonwealth Literary Studies

British Poetry of the Romantic Period
1789 to 1839

The Amulet. London: W. Baynes and Son, and Wightman and Cramp, 1827. Courtesy of the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries.

The Collection

Location: Green Library, Special Collections

Call Number: Not in Socrates. Accessible by item number in the catalog of the collection. A printed copy of the catalogue is also available in the Reading Room of the Department of Special Collections.

Content: A collection of 1600 first or bibliographically significant early editions of poetry published in Britain from the French Revolution to the beginning of the Chartist Movement. The books were chosen to complement Stanford's already strong holdings of Romantic verse.

Major Poets

The collection includes first editions and rarities by major figures of the period including Byron, Coleridge, Shelley and Wordsworth.

Minor Poets

Hundreds of volumes of minor and unrecognized writers are included in the collection. These range from authors who were early influences on the major Romantics to those who in turn derived their own poetic style from the leading Romantics during the 1820s and 1830s. It is these minor poets who put the majors into perspective and provide the background against which they were working. The texts are also interesting for what may be learned from their dedications, notes, and subscription lists, which contribute to an understanding of the sociology of the literature of the Romantic period. The minor poets of the period represented in the collection include Anderson, Atherstone, Baillie, Barton, Bayly, Bloomfield, Boswell, Bowring, Cary, Hartley Coleridge, Conder, Cottle, Croly, Cunningham, Lady Dacre, Darley, Dermody, DeVere, Doubleday, Ebenezer Elliott, Gilfillan, Heber, Hemans, Heraud, Herbert, Ireland, Kenyon, Leyden, Lloyd, Lyte, Mant, Mitford, James Montgomery, Motherwell, John Nicholson, Pringle, Procter, Rodger, Rose, Smith, Sotheby, Spencer, Story, Strong, Tannahill, Tennant, Thurlow, Watts, White, and Barbarina Wilmot.

Women Poets

The volumes by women represent all styles of poetry, all classes of society, and all parts of Great Britain. Much of the recent research on poetry of the Romantics has focused on such women as Mary Robinson, Felicia Hemans, who outsold all but Byron, and Joanna Baillie, who was a leading playwright of her day. The collection contains interesting material by all these authors, as well as other women poets including: Anna Laetitia Aikin, later Barbauld, Miss Carmichael, Hannah Cowley, Mrs. Grant of Laggan, Barbara Hoole, Mary Howitt, Laetitia Elizabeth Landon, Mary Russell Mitford, Hannah More, Lady Caroline Norton, Amelia Opie, Mary Robinson, Anna Seward, Caroline Bowles Southey, Emily Taylor, Jane Taylor, Lady Emmeline Stuart Wortley.

Thomas Moore Sheet Music

An unusual group of items in the collection are the fifty musical settings of Thomas Moore's poetry, many with music written by Moore himself. Moore was the major Irish poet of the period writing in English--a prolific writer of songs, epics, translations, and satirical poetry. His great collections of song, Irish Melodies and National Airs as well as many of his individual songs were originally published with their accompanying musical notation in a folio format. Moore's talents as song writer have been obscured for later generations by the later practice of printing the words by themselves apart from the airs to which they are inextricably linked.

Literary Annuals and Gift Books

Annuals and gift books are well represented in this collection with very good runs of established titles like The Amulet, Forget Me Not, Friendship's Offering, The Keepsake and The Literary Souvenir. There are also some remarkable rarities, such as The Bengal Annual , which includes the poetry of Emma Roberts. Literary annual and gift books were the sources of poetry for the bulk of the reading public. These volumes were aimed at the female population and included women amongst both their contributors and their editors. The good runs of these titles are a source for both women's literary output and popular culture. They were also sought after for their illustrations-- fine copper engravings often of privately owned paintings that were unknown other than in these small pocket-sized volumes. They are also important evidence for the study of the history of nineteenth-century book production and whilst some of them have been rebound by previous owners there are still a great number in their beautiful original bindings, in some cases even with the slipcases.

Provincial Publishing and Distribution

The whole subject of provincial imprints has yet to receive the scholarly attention it deserves, for it raises many questions about the relationship between minor authors and the business of cultural production, including the role of local printers and the issues of print runs, copyrights, payment and/or royalties, sales and distribution. Many of the items in British Poetry of the Romantic Period bear provincial imprints, ranging from Inverness to Newport, Isle of Wight, from Ipswich to Aberystwyth. These books were printed in small towns throughout the country-- improved transportation systems made that cheaper and easier than previously possible. Of even greater interest are volumes that bear the provincial imprints of local distributors--booksellers, publishers, news agents and stationers--sometimes acting on their own but also frequently in consort with with a head-distributor in London. The books in this collection are a source of information about the history of publishing and its associated trades. The catalogue lists indices printers, publishers, and distributors.

Subscription lists

Many of the titles in this collection were published by subscription and the lists of subscribers make fascinating reading. Duchesses and Countesses can be found in lists along side the author's next-door neighbors. Robert Burns subscribed to several of the titles--in the case of Miss Carmichael's Poems for two copies. The subscription lists offer evidence of literary networking in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.


Last modified: September 27, 2006

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