The Thomas Pennant Barton Collection is acknowledged as one of the largest and most comprehensive collections in a public institution focusing on the writings of William Shakespeare and his contemporaries. The collection was the first in the United States to include the first four folios of the collected works of William Shakespeare, as well as some 45 early quarto editions of individual plays, many published during Shakespeare’s lifetime. As the preeminent Shakespeare collection from 19th-century America, this collection of 15,000 volumes is strong in Shakespeare’s most important editions, as well as source material, commentaries, and criticism.
Additional collection strengths include translations of and commentaries on Shakespeare’s work; the works of his contemporaries such as Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson; Shakespeare’s 16th- and 17th-century sources; an extensive collection of portraits and illustrative material, some in proof form; the original subscription list for Boydell’s Illustrated Shakespeare, with the autographs of George iii and Queen Charlotte; correspondence of 19th-century antiquarian John Britton and great Shakespeare scholar James Halliwell-Phillipps; notes of editors and commentators inserted in various volumes; manuscripts in the hand of actor, playwright, and impresario David Garrick, including his play, Jubilee, written for the famous Shakespeare Jubilee of 1769; an early version of the music to Macbeth, now attributed to Richard Leveridge; and eight volumes of Thomas Pennant Barton’s own correspondence with book dealers and collectors documenting the growth of this extraordinary 15,000-volume collection.
- Full collection description (PDF)
- Digitized catalog for the collection accessible through Internet Archive
- Background information on Barton and his library:
- Catalogue of the Miscellaneous Portion of the Collection (1888); Boston Public Library Bulletin, 4th series, v.3 (1921), pp. 173-177.
- “America’s First Shakespeare Collection,” by John Alden, in Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, v. 58 (1964) pp. 169-173.