The Collectors

Portraits of Collectors

Here are four stories of people who collected material relating to Shakespeare and other early modern dramatists. Their stories illustrate how different people – scholars, collectors and writers – have responded to Shakespeare over four centuries, and how his reputation has changed over that time.

To these collectors we owe the preservation of the items featured in this resource. Their collections are now held in the National Library of Scotland and the Library of the University Edinburgh.

Visit each collector’s page to watch a short film about them, see some related images, and find out more about their lives.

John Dover Wilson

Professor of English Literature at Edinburgh University, John Dover Wilson was one of the leading Shakespeare scholars of the 20th century. Unlike our other collectors, Dover Wilson never assembled his own large library of original editions – but he brought collections of such material to both the National Library and the University Library.

Find out more about John Dover Wilson

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps

Halliwell-Phillipps was a true Victorian – a busy, thorough and enthusiastic amateur scholar and collector, devoted to researching Shakespeare, his life and times. He built up several substantial collections of material relating to Shakespeare over his lifetime, two of which are now held by the Library of the University Edinburgh.

Find out more about James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Bute family

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu began collecting playbooks in the early 18th century because she enjoyed reading them. A century later, her grandson the 1st Marquess of Bute had turned this collection into an important country house library.

Find out more about Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and the Bute family

WIlliam Drummond of Hawthornden

William Drummond, a contemporary of Shakespeare, was an enthusiastic writer and reader of the literature of his day. His collection shows us how Shakespeare was received by one of his first readers.

Find out more about William Drummond


Shakespeare portrait

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