Finding aids

A dozen closed books, one open book.
Selected finding aids in the Folger’s Reference collection, with Papers of the Rich Family open in the foreground.

Finding aids are hierarchical descriptions of individual collections of manuscripts, archival materials, and other distinct groupings, also known as "archival description." The levels of finding aids include, from largest to smallest: collection, series and sub-series, box, folder, and item levels. Most archival descriptions go only to the box or folder level, but almost all Folger finding go all the way to the item level.

Finding aids complement the bibliographic descriptions found in library catalogs like Hamnet. Starting in the early 2000s, the Folger Shakespeare Library began converting its paper-based finding aids into electronic form, and creating new finding aids directly online. The result is the Folger's Finding Aid Database. The paper finding aids can still be found in the Reading Room, under the call number Z6621.F61.

The specialized term "finding aid" is easily confused with general how-to guides to finding information about specific topics. For this sort of guide at the Folger, see Research guides.

Early modern finding aids

Hierarchical descriptions of collections from the Early Modern period at the Folger include:

Contains papers and letters relating to Bacon's career: 11 papers relating to his work as Justice of the Peace, including a paternity case, and 5 papers concerning a case brought forward by a Nicholas Ringolde for money owed; 3 papers as Clerk of Methwold and Deputy Steward of the Duchy of Lancaster; and 26 papers relating to the Norfolk Militia, of which 6 concern an inquiry into the number of forces raised and paid in Norfolk, 1594-1595 and 20 concern the musters in Norfolk, 1603-1620, which had not been held between 1591 and 1611. Also includes 11 personal papers, of which 6 are autograph letters signed to Bacon from various correspondents, 3 are documents relating to his daughter Lady Anne Townshend and the wardship of her son Roger Townshend and 2 relating to land in Hockwold.
Letters and documents concerned with family, business, estate, financial, legal, and governmental affairs of Sir Nathaniel Bacon (1547-1622), Sir Nicholas Bacon (1509-1579), and members of the Townshend family, all of Norfolk. A few items are earlier than 1550 or later than 1640.
Primarily autograph letters signed, dating from 1557-1671, especially of Richard Bagot and of his son Walter. They are letters to them, letters from them (some of them drafts written on blank parts of letters addressed to them) and copies made by them of letters addressed to others, especially of official letters. The letters cover a wide range of topics and amply illustrate the life of a prosperous county family the multifarious duties it members were called upon to perform for the Crown. Also included are documents, dating from 1428-1662, concerning recusants, a form of the oath of supremacy (L.a.1044), a few deeds, specifications for two buildings (L.a.1070) and other papers.
Contains mostly Bennet's official papers and reflect the shifting fortunes of the Parliamentarians and Royalists. Many of the official papers concern or are from both houses of Parliament, and the Council of State. Among the personal papers are several concerning law-suits and other business matters, a few deeds, Hannibal Vyvyan's directions to Colonel Bennet when he was sick in 1649 (155), and letters to and from fellow Anabaptists at Looe, 1656. A few miscellaneous documents seem to have no direct bearing on Colonel Bennet; two report on speeches of Cromwell, [1657-58], (207-208), one more fully than any copy hitherto known.
The letters of the Booth family of Twemlow consist of two series of letters from different generations of the family: the first contains letters from William Booth (b. 1602) to his brother, John Booth (1584-1659), and the second comprises letters of Thomas Booth (b. 1646) to his brother, another John Booth (1641-1698). The letters intersperse discussion of family and business matters with contemporary accounts of military and political events.
Abstract to come.
Mostly consists of correspondence, as well as various financial documents, warrants, petitions, orders, physician instructions and other miscellaneous documents relating to the Cavendish, Talbot, Wentworth, and Slingsby families as well as to Sir Humphrey Style, and Stanley and Sarah Gower.
Bound collection of contemporary copies of nineteen documents concerning English Catholics and diplomatic affairs during the Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604). Specifically, the documents concern Catholic plans to conquer England and Scotland.
Papers principally of Sir Edward Dering, 1st bart., and of his son, Sir Edward Dering, 2nd bart. Contains: Family and business papers, 1606-1638, including a copy of a letter from the archbishop of Canterbury to Sir Daniel Donne about certain seats in Pluckley church, September 11, 1606, and a copy of a letter from the Privy Council concerning the laxness of the Commissioners for the loans in collecting the loans, June 3, 1627 (1-7); Genealogical papers and notes from the public records, ca. 1450-ca. 1640, including a leaf from Sir Edward Dering's history of his family (8-16); Papers of Sir Edward Dering, 2nd bart., ca. 1676-ca. 1680, including notes from an early manuscript version of Sir William Petty's Political Arithmetick; proposals for reducing smuggling and notes of a speech, probably dating from the time when Sir Edward was a commissioner of the Customs, 1676-1679, and minutes of a meeting of the Grand Committee of the House of Commons (at which he presided), considering the king's supply and the need for 90 ships of war February 6, 1677/8? (17-21).
Warrants and orders mainly pertaining to the upkeep of the royal household.
A collection of personal letters from 1592-1805 of the Este family of Modena and the Farnese family of Parma and Piacenza.
Family and official papers of the Ferrers family of Tamworth Castle dating from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century (mostly mid-sixteenth century to mid-seventeenth century) concerning the family's political, legal, financial, personal, and manorial affairs mostly in Derbyshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, and Warwickshire.
Contains over 75 boxes of material created and collected by Henry Clay and Emily Clara Jordan Folger, the founders of the Folger Shakespeare Library. The collection includes correspondence, financial records, personal papers, photographs, and books, artifacts, and personal belongings owned by the Folgers.
Contains 28 letters and 11 documents relating to the careers of Sir John Goodricke, his son Sir Henry Goodricke and their family, spanning the reigns of Charles I through the ascension of William & Mary.
The Letters of Mary Hatton Helsby consists of ten letters, 1651-1668 and thirteen newspaper clippings reproducing Hatton Helsby's correspondence, ca. 1900. The collection includes letters from both sides of the courtship between Mary Hatton Helsby and her eventual husband, Randolph Helsby, several containing commentary critical of both Royalist and Parliamentary factions.
Consists of papers collected by the More family of Loseley Park, Surrey, dealing largely with: the Offices of the Tents and of the Revels under Sir Thomas Cawarden (d.1559); property in Blackfriars, London, owned by Cawarden and later by his executor, Sir William More (1520-1600); and the activities, personal and governmental, of Cawarden, Sir William, and Sir George More (1553-1632). Also includes 14 autograph letters signed from John Donne (1573-1631), as well as the official and personal papers of Sir Christopher More (d.1549), Sir Robert More (1581-1626), Sir Poynings More, bart. (1606-1649), Sir William More, bart. (1643-1684), and Rev. Nicholas More (d. 1684).
Largely English MS newsletters, dating from 1674 to 1715, received and compiled by the Newdigate family of Arbury Hall in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The letters cover a diverse range of topics, but are mainly concerned with contemporary domestic and Continental news.
Printed and manuscript material, including proofs, letters, reviews, clippings, poems, obituaries, announcements, and business papers, relating to The Gentleman's Magazine.
Compiled by several people, this collection of political and parliamentary documents contains speeches; letters and petitions (including to Elizabeth I, Queen of England and James I, King of England); reports of famous trials; notes on the history of England (covering from the time of William the Conqueror through the Commonwealth), France (particularly the Huguenots and the death of Henry I, Duke of Guise), and Spain (including the West Indies and Central America); Anglo relations with the French, Spanish and Portuguese; relations between Turkey and Poland; many satirical poems, chiefly of the Civil War period; and several prophecies, including two by Merlin, telling of the coming of James I. The original writer(s) of some of the parliamentary speeches may have been a member of parliament. The first person singular occurs several times in the reports, e.g. "Mr. Mason his advice to me of my manner of proceeding in Parliament" (p. 145), and elsewhere, e.g. "I Thomas Gee ..." (p. 232 -- transcribed as Thomas Crepe in the sale catalog).
Privy Council letters mainly concerning troops and provisions for English garrisons in Ireland.
Contains primarily incoming correspondence to the Lairds of Craighall including David Rattray, James Rattray and Patrick Rattray. Correspondents include, but are not limited to: William Fullerton of Fullerton; David Leslie, Lord Newark; Patrick Lyon, Earl of Kinghorne; and John Ogilvy of Balfour. Also includes incoming correspondence to the Ladies of Craighall, outgoing correspondence from the Lairds, and some miscellaneous correspondence relating to the Rattray's of Craighall, as well as a few deeds and receipts.
Contains family and estate papers of the Rich family of Mulbarton, Norfolk, and of Roos Hall and Ashman's Hall, Suffolk, principally of: Sir Edwin Rich (1594-1675); Sir Charles Rich (ca. 1619-1677); Sir Robert Rich (1648-1699); as well as of: Sir Edwin Rich (d. 1640); Richard Rich (1597-1676); Lady Elizabeth Rich (ca. 1623-1694); Lady Mary Rich (d. 1714); Civel Rich (d. 1716); Sir Robert Rich (1685-1768); and Charles Rich (ca. 1731-1808). The papers primarily consist of correspondence, manorial records and deeds, as well as wills, inventories, and other legal documents. Also, the papers of Sir Robert Rich (1648-1699) include a few of his official papers as M.P. for Dunwich, Suffolk, as a Lord of the Admiralty, as vice-Admiral for Suffolk and also his journal to St. Helena. Some of the papers document the families activities as merchants especially the knitting industry.
Contains fair copies, drafts, and notes in the hand of Richard Smith. Consists of writings and notes on the Bishops and Archibishops of England, Christ's descent into hell, a collection of short essays on religious and secular topics, rites and ceremonies of the church (presumably the Church of England), and indulgences.
Collection of 17th and 18th century transcripts made for the Strozzi family of Florence of political and religious material, relating to papal diplomacy, etc., of documents dating from the 14th century through the 17th century, with the bulk dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. A note in volume 1 states that the manuscripts came from Rome, from the archives of the Strozzi house, and indicates that the series is incomplete, as may be seen from the lower series of numbers on the spines of the volumes. A note at the end of volume 7 may indicate that the Barberini family also had some part in the collection of these manuscripts. The date of the making of these transcripts is not recorded. An indice de manoscritti, che sono nella libreria dell'Illustrissimo ... Lorenzo Strozzi, duca di Bagnolo e principe di Torano compilati per ordine di Alfabeto, 1728, (volume 199) reveals that the collection at the Folger Shakespeare Library forms a large part of the manuscripts listed in it. The call numbers in the index refer to the upper initial (each of which represents a certain class of document) and the lowest numeral on the spine and a comparative list of the former and present call numbers is tipped into the back of this index. Volumes 1-185 were already so numbered when received. Volumes 186 -199 have since been assigned these numbers arbitrarily, as those they had sometimes overlapped with the first series.
The papers of Jacob Tonson consists of 76 manuscript and 7 photographed manuscript letters and other papers addressed to Jacob Tonson (1656?-1736), written by him, or otherwise connected with him, mostly dating from the period 1685-1737. Some items relate to his business partner and nephew, Jacob Tonson (d. 1735), and his great-nephew, Jacob Tonson (d.1767).
A collection of paper from sixteenth and seventeenth-century manuscripts and printed books, broadsides, and pamphlets, gathered and arranged according to watermark type by E. Williams of Hove, Sussex, in the early twentieth century. Many of the manuscripts relate to the legal, financial, and manorial affairs of the Hale family of King's Walden, Hertfordshire.

Shakespeare and performance finding aids

Hierarchical descriptions of collections related to Shakespeare and Performance at the Folger include:

Includes 312 autograph letters signed and initialed and one typed letter signed to and from Delia Bacon and others; 10 miscellaneous items including prospectuses of Delia Bacon, her The author's apology and claim, [1857?], an engraving of Leonard Bacon, a memorandum of an agreement between Delia Bacon and Samuel Coleman, an inventory of school items to be sold at a private sale in 1831 and payments to various people for sums due, and 3 newspaper clippings.
Letters from Edwin Booth to various recipients. A large portion of the letters (approximately 307 items) are addressed to theatre critic William Winter.
Loose material removed from Collier's annotated copy of The history of English dramatic poetry ... (W.a.212-214). Includes letters and information from T.E. Tomlins, Thomas Richards, Frederick Devon, M.J. Thorpe, J. Harland, P. Bliss, Sir Frederick Madden, W.H. Black and N.H. Nicolas, and several other copies of documents, W.b.502. W.b.502 (18) and W.b.502 (19) cataloged separately. W.b.502 (3) bears the impression of a seal stated to be Donne's. W.b.502 (107) refers to Blackfriars.
Items collected by John Payne Collier for An old man's diary. Removed from Collier's own annotated copy, cataloged as W.b.504-507. Includes autograph manuscripts by Collier himself, as well as letters addressed to Collier and others.
Manuscript and printed transcriptions of ballads as well as references about ballads and hangmen. Also, notes and transcriptions on miscellaneous topics related to early modern Britain.
Letters written by John Payne Collier, mostly from later in his life. Also, newspaper clippings about the forgery controversy. Items not collected together until Folger staff created this collection.
Letters to John Payne Collier from various correspondents, including some addressed to other recipients and forwarded to Collier. Letters refer to manuscript editing, editions of Collier's writing on Shakespeare and English Drama, and assorted events within membership ranks of literary and antiquarian societies.
A collection of letters and papers (n.d., 1849-1916) of Augustin Daly (1838-1899) arising mainly out of his management of the two successive Fifth Avenue Theatres (1869-1877), the Grand Opera House (1872-1874), and Daly’s Theatre (1879-1899), all in New York City. The majority of the letters are addressed to Daly. Letters in German are described in greater detail in the Guide to Letters and Papers by German Authors.
Descriptive lists of records of Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres. Includes lists of journals, nightly accounts, pay books, records of the wardrobe keepers, lists of plays with casts, inventories, etc. with dates.
A guide to the playbills in the Folger Shakespeare Library relating to the professional career of David Garrick, spanning the years 1741-1776.
Letters and other documents from 68 authors, written almost exclusively in German and mostly pertaining to the works of Shakespeare. The items range in date from 1777-1912, although most of them fall within the nineteenth-century. More than three-quarters of the items are letters, many from the Augustin Daly collection. Also included are newspaper clippings, a short biography, an encomium, poetry and translations, a 21 folio typescript called “Nochmals Shakespeares Totenmaske” (along with other materials concerning the Darmstadt Shakespeare death mask), a printed flyer, a visiting card, a library slip, several course announcements, an examination report, and a lecture.
Intended for inclusion in J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps' Shakespeareana scrapbook series (Folger MS W.b.201-256) mainly pertaining to Shakespeare's life, residences, friends, family, and literary predecessors. The scraps include: letters, printed book fragments, notes, clippings, prints, copies of accounts, maps, and photographs.
The William Henderson collection of playbills, etc. consists of varied materials (chiefly playbills) concerning music on the British stage, Shakespeare, stage adaptations of Waverley, and Scottish plays, assembled by the music printer and composer William Henderson. This finding aid describes only the manuscript content in the larger collection. The manuscript content includes numerous autograph letters of 19th century authors, poets, artists, composers, vocalists, and actors, as well as fragments of manuscript music, annotations, clipped signatures, and facsimiles of manuscripts.
Materials by and relating to C. Walter Hodges, illustrator and Shakespearean scholar, including: production, set and costume designs, sketched reconstructions of Elizabethan theaters, book illustrations, and designs for a Shakespeare's Globe project in Detroit.
Letters collected from various sources. Includes autograph letters signed or initialed by Charles Kean. Topics of these letters include Kean's opinions on Shakespeare, acting theory, and theater management, as well as more personal matters such as his engagement and marriage to Ellen Kean and comparisons of his own success as an actor to his father's success.
650 letters, mostly autograph letters signed (ALS). Leo was editor of the Shakespeare Jahrbuch from 1880-1898; much of the correspondence illuminates the early history of the Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft and Shakespeare studies in Germany, England, and the United States. Several concern the theatre. A few include poems. In addition, H.A. Bulthaupt and H.H. Furness mention Edwin Booth [Y.c.1510 (2, 3); Y.c.1530 (13, 16)]; Furness refers to a Shakespeare Calendar for 1881 and 1882 compiled by J.P. Moreau, and to [Marcus] Jastrow [Y.c.1530 (8)]; A.W. von Hofmann enclosed a translation of Lord Dufferin’s Letters from High Latitudes [Y.c.1552 (1)]; H.R. Jodrell(?) of Manchester describes his extensive collection of Shakespeare illustrations in 1866 [Y.c.1560]; C. Lowe invites Leo to meet Henry Irving and Ellen Terry [Y.c.1579]; J.P. Norris refers to Joseph Crosby [Y.c.1591]; W. Oechelhauser mentions Fanny Kemble [Y.c.1592 (19-21)]; E. Sachau writes of Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark [Y.c.1601 (2, 3)]; A. Tobler issues a certificate on behalf of Max Pfeffer in 1882 [Y.c.1621]; and A.D. White introduces Phillips Brooks and W.T. Hewett, and mentions H. Corson [Y.c.1625]. Also, 22 mostly autograph letters signed (ALS) to Kunstamann from [Georg H.] Pertz and K. Tropus, 1837-1866 [Y.c.1630-31]. Poems listed in the Folger index of first lines.
Collection of material relating to Tate Wilkinson (1739-1803), his descendants, and the York Theatre, especially the Siddons acting family; 2 scrapbooks of theatrical engravings including several York playbills; 5 letters to Wilkinson; 10 letters between H.G.I. Siddons and Mary North concerning North's collection of Siddons memorabilia; 2 commonplace books of Anne and Jane Wilkinson; photographs and silhouettes of members of the Wilkinson and Siddons families, and other miscellaneous material.
Letters collected from various sources. Includes autograph letters signed or initialed by Sarah Siddons, many of which include her opinions of Shakespeare's plays and her own acting abilities.
This finding aid provides descriptive entries for all manuscripts in the Folger collection that mention Stratford-on-Avon or Warwickshire. The guide also identifies the hands of writers and copyists, provides full identification of mentioned names, and cross-references Folger manuscripts with copies at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Autograph letters, manuscript and printed essays, newspaper and magazine clippings, scrapbooks, and printed programs, all pertaining to John Cuming Walters' interests in Shakespeare and involvement in the cultural community in Northwest England.
Contains mostly letters and copies of diary entries from William Winter to Elsie Leslie.
Letters from William Winter to various recipients, most concerning theater life and people of the late 19th and early 20th century, both in England and America.
The collection includes mostly correspondence, as well as literary manuscripts, journals, family history records, publishing records, clippings, programs, photographs, personal relics, correspondence of his son William Jefferson Winter, correspondence between other family members and research material collected by William Jefferson Winter and Robert Young documenting the life and career of William Winter. The correspondence includes letters to and from various family members and well-known actors and public figures from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century.