Early modern English collection development

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See also: our general Collection development policy, and policies on Shakespeare collection development, Continental collection development, Art collection development, and Manuscript collection development.

The Folger Shakespeare Library holds one of the world’s largest collections of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English books. Though never formally stated, the Folger collection development policy for this collection has been to fill in gaps by collecting affordable copies of editions that are not currently in the collection, particularly first editions. Yet this collecting scope that was once defined as “English civilization in all its aspects from the beginning of printing to the early 18th century” is too broad to be sustained. We need to continue to grow the early English collection and fill in gaps, but we need to do so in a selective manner. Although having a physical copy of Short Title Catalogue (STC) and Wing books is the ideal, we must recognize that Early English Books online (EEBO) provides intellectual access to a great number of these texts and is available to many of our users through their home institutions and other independent research libraries. What makes the Folger collection stand out is to offer content that is unique or relatively rare. Thus, the highest priority should be placed on rare and unique titles, particularly those that are not available in facsimile, and books that exhibit copy-specific information--which will have the most immediate research value to our readers. These books are also often quite expensive, so funds should be handled in a way that allows us to collect throughout the entire fiscal year. If fewer peripheral items are purchased early in the year, there will more funds to put towards high priority items that come up towards the end of the year.

Priority purchases ranked in order
  • Rare or unique titles
    • those not available in facsimile are higher priority than those that are
  • Books that exhibit copy-specific information, including:
    • Manuscript annotations and other evidence of early use
    • Contemporary sammelbands or "bound with" volumes
    • Association copies when meaningful
    • Books that have physical features providing evidence regarding the early book trade
  • Core texts of drama, history, literature, religion, philosophy, science, etc., and expanded editions of the same.
    • "core" texts are those found in standard anthologies, text books, "Companions," etc.
  • Desiderata list of non-core texts
  • Specific genres, to be collected comprehensively--list subject to development
    • almanacs
    • writing tables
    • writing manuals
    • copy books
    • emblem books
    • plague bills and bills of mortality
  • First and other significant editions of STC and Wing titles
  • Duplicates: Acquiring copies of books already held in the Folger collection is encouraged if the duplicate is a printed variant or offers copy-specific information that is of research value.
Areas not comprehensively collected: early Americana (defer to JCB and AAS)

n.b. books available elsewhere in the Washington, D.C. area are not a lower priority for English 1500 to 1714.