The collections

Taken together, the National Library of Scotland (NLS) and the Library of the University of Edinburgh (EUL) hold world-class collections of playbooks and material relating to early modern drama. They include far more items than have been mentioned in this resource. This page offers a guide to these collections.

To find out how to access these collections, please see the Further Information page

The quickest way to find out if a particular playbook is held in either library is to search the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC).

The Bute collection

The Bute collection at NLS contains 1,266 English plays, including:

  • 17 editions from the 16th century
  • 530 editions from the 17th century
  • 650 editions from the 18th century
  • 39 Shakespeare quartos
  • Quartos by most of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, including Jonson, Middleton, Dekker, Massinger and Webster
  • Prompt books, mainly 19th-century

Finding aids

More information about the Bute collection, including published articles on its contents, can be found in the entry for the collection in the NLS Special and Named Printed Collections Directory. The collection is also included in the NLS main catalogue for a complete listing use a shelfmark search (shelfmark: Bute).

Other early modern drama collections at NLS

Beside the Bute collection, there are some smaller collections of playbooks which came to the National Library of Scotland at various periods of its history. These include the Maitland Thomson Collection and the Abbotsford Collection.

Finding aids

You can find all these items by searching the NLS main catalogue.

Scottish drama in the National Library’s collections

The NLS website has a page giving an overview of early Scottish theatre collections at NLS.

The library and manuscripts of William Drummond of Hawthornden

Items once in the possession of William Drummond of Hawthornden are held in both the Library of the University of Edinburgh and the National Library of Scotland.

Drummond’s manuscripts

Most of Drummond’s surviving personal manuscripts are owned by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and are on deposit in the National Library of Scotland.

Drummond’s books

The best guide to the books which once formed part of Drummond’s own collection is 'The Library of Drummond of Hawthornden'by Robert H Macdonald (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1971). This book includes information about the location of the books, where known.

The Library of the University of Edinburgh holds the most substantial surviving part of Drummond’s library:

  • The 363 printed books and manuscripts he donated in 1626, listed in the published catalogue 'Auctarium Bibliothecae Edinburgenae' (Edinburgh, 1627)
  • The many books he donated over the next few years.

Drummond retained some books, however, and those which survive are now dispersed around the world.

Finding aids

The manuscripts owned by Drummond held at NLS are fully catalogued and described in the published 'Catalogue of Manuscripts volume 2' [NLS shelfmark: MS.2053-2062].

The books which are now in the Library of the University of Edinburgh are held in the Drummond collection.

The Halliwell-Phillipps collection.

The majority of the playbooks held by the Library of the University Edinburgh are in the Halliwell-Phillipps collection. Halliwell-Phillipps' original donation contains over 600 playbooks, including 17th-century plays by:

  • Ben Jonson
  • Beaumont and Fletcher
  • George Chapman
  • Thomas Middleton
  • John Webster
  • John Dryden
  • William Wycherley

There is a substantial collection of mostly 17th- and 18th-century drama, which Halliwell-Phillipps gave to the private subscription Penzance Library and which EUL purchased at auction in 1964.

There are also around 300 volumes of letters, and around 100 volumes of Halliwell-Phillipps’ working papers, including his scrapbooks, diaries and other notes.

Finding aids:

There is a handlist to the Halliwell-Phillipps collection, numbered H12, available in EUL. There may also be entries for this collection in the typed alphabetical 'Index to Manuscripts' held in the Centre for Research Collections at Edinburgh University Library, and for the printed books in the library’s online catalogue. Both manuscripts and printed items have the shelfmark H-P Collection.

Related manuscripts

The Library of the University Edinburgh also holds some manuscripts written by Halliwell-Phillipps' wife Henrietta:

  • A four-volume diary [EUL shelfmark H-P. Collection 327-330]
  • A separate diary for 1842 [EUL shelfmark E97.63]

Other early modern drama at the Library of the University of Edinburgh

The Library of the University of Edinburgh contains other playbooks, such as the quarto of 'Titus Andronicus', which do not belong to any special collection. Many of these can be found by searching the library’s online catalogue.

There are also manual catalogues for the printed collections held in the Library of the University Edinburgh.

The Laing collection

Edinburgh University holds the papers of the Victorian scholar David Laing (1793-1878). This collection contains material relating to Laing’s own scholarly work on William Drummond of Hawthornden, and his correspondence with J O Halliwell-Phillipps.

Finding aids

Handlists to the Laing Collection, numbered H1-H5 and H5.1, H5.2, H5.3, H5.4.2, are available in the Library of the University of Edinburgh. There may also be entries for this collection in the typed alphabetical 'Index to Manuscripts' held in the Centre for Research Collections at the Library of the University of Edinburgh. [EUL shelfmark: Coll-1; La.1-La.V]

The papers of John Dover Wilson

The papers of John Dover Wilson are held by the National Library of Scotland.

This collection includes:

  • Correspondence
  • His working papers
  • Lecture notes
  • Material used in the preparation of his edition of Shakespeare and other publications.

Finding aids

Catalogue entries and indices to the Dover Wilson papers are held by the National Library of Scotland. [NLS shelfmark: MSS.14323-143400]