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British Literary Materials in Special Collections: Literature Before 1700

Guide to archival and rare print resources in British literature available in Duke University's David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Renaissance English Literature (16th Century)

 Areas of strength in the collections include:

  • Religious texts, especially sermons and Bibles
  • Early editions of Edmund Spenser's poetry

    17th-Century English Literature

    Francis Beaumont, 1554-1616, and John Fletcher, 1579-1625: Multiple and early editions of many of the plays, including the first folio of their Comedies and Tragedies (1647). 

    John Dryden, 1631-1700: About 175 versions of works by Dryden, including multiple and early editions of many plays.  The collection also includes editions of Dryden's translations of works by Ovid, Plutarch, and Virgil.  

    Ben Jonson, 1573?-1637: Over 35 versions of Jonson's works, including the first folio and multiple early editions of the Workes, Every Man in His Humour, The Alchemist, and Volpone.

    John Milton, 1608-1674: About 160 versions of Milton's works, including more than fifty editions of Paradise Lost from the 1669 first edition to the 21st century, multiple early editions of Paradise Regained, and many of the prose works. 

    William Shakespeare, 1564-1616: Nearly 300 editions of Shakespeare's works, including a copy of the fourth folio, many illustrated sets, and hundreds of individual plays from 1700 to 2000.