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British Literary Materials in Special Collections: 18th-Century Literature

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


Areas of strength in the collections for the eighteenth century include:

  • Works of Alexander Pope
  • Development of the English novel, including works by Defoe, Fielding, Goldsmith, Richardson, Sterne, and Swift
  • Drama, including hundreds of plays in the Graves and Hinton Collections
  • English literature in Germany

Notable Author and Subject Collections

Daniel Defoe, 1661?-1731: More than 170 editions of works by Defoe, including early and multiple editions of Robinson Crusoe and A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain.  The collection also includes works attributed to Defoe such as Faction Display'd and A Short History of the Parliament, and German editions of some works. 

Henry Fielding, 1707-1754: More than sixty editions by or attributed to Fielding, including early and multiple editions of Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones, and many theatrical works, as well as translations into German and French.   

Oliver Goldsmith, 1730?-1774: More than 100 editions of Goldsmith's works, including early and multiple editions of fiction, poetry, and works for the stage. 

Graves Collection: This collection, focused on eighteenth-century British drama, is named for Professor Thornton Shirley Graves, professor of English at Trinity College (now Duke University), 1913-1921.  It contains over 300 plays from the seventeenth to nineteenth century. 

Samuel Johnson, 1709-1784: More than 160 works by and about Johnson, including first, early, and multiple editions of many works such as his Dictionary of the English Language and History of Rasselas.  The collection also includes several editions and translations of his periodicals The Adventurer and The Rambler, and many of his editions of Shakespeare's works.  

Hannah More, 1745-1833: Nearly ninety editions of works by More, including poetry, dramatic works, children's literature, and prescriptive literature. 

Alexander Pope, 1688-1744: More than 170 editions of works by Pope, including many first and early editions, and rare translations of his works into German, French, and Italian.  The collection also includes rare works responding to works by Pope and works spuriously attributed to him.  

Samuel Richardson, 1689-1761: More than thirty editions of works by Richardson, including first editions of Clarissa and The History of Sir Charles Grandison and many early editions, continuations, and adaptations of Pamela.

Laurence Sterne, 1713-1768:  More than fifty editions of works by or attributed to Sterne, including first editions of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.  There are also many translations, continuations, and spurious compilations, especially in Germany and especially of works attributed to Yorick, the character in Tristram Shandy.  

Jonathan Swift, 1667-1745: More than 130 editions of works by or attributed to Swift.  The collection includes early and multiple editions of Gulliver's Travels and many other works, and also includes three rare German editions of a continuation of Gulliver's Travels, entitled Des Capitains Lemuel Gulliver Reisen.  

Mary Wollstonecraft, 1759-1797: A first edition of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman highlights a collection of fifteen or so early editions of works by Wollstonecraft.

Related Collections and Guides