J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps

James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps (1820–1889), was an antiquarian, literary scholar, and major collector of Shakespearean works and related documents. Born James Orchard Halliwell, he acquired the surname Phillipps in 1872 following the death of his father-in-law, Sir Thomas Phillipps. The bulk of his collection is now at the Folger. Helpful hint for spelling his surname: it's as big a "collection" of letters as possible, so double anything that could reasonably be doubled.


Halliwell began collecting while still at William Henry Butler's school in Brighton. By 1839, at the age of 19, Halliwell had become a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and published his first pamphlet on collecting, A Few Hints to Novices in Manuscript Literature. As Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman note in their Oxford DNB biography, “Halliwell's own book-trading behaviour was not always as scrupulous as his scholarship,” and accusations of theft occurred at several points throughout his career as a collector — not the least from his own father-in-law, with whom he had a contentious and troubled relationship.[1] While the accusation that Halliwell stole the second known “bad quarto” of Hamlet (1603) from his father-in-law “is demonstrably untrue,” the Freemans suggest that some other accusations, such as the 1845 accusations that Halliwell had “abstracted” scientific manuscripts from Trinity College, might have some now-unprovable basis in fact.[2]

Halliwell-Phillipps published widely on matters of collecting, reprints of early pamphlets and items in his collections, and on Shakespeare's life and plays. His Shakespearean publications included the monumental Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare (published six times between 1881 and 1887) and a number of shorter pamphlets and "Memoranda" on various plays. After conflicts with the Stratford authorities in his final years, his collections, intended originally for Stratford, were sold to Marsden J. Perry of Providence, Rhode Island. Some Folger items, such as the title page collection bd.w. STC 26145 no.1, mention items bequeathed to Ernest E. Baker, F.S.A., Halliwell-Phillipps's "Nephew and Executor" in January 1889. Henry Clay Folger acquired the bulk of these collections in 1908.

Notable items now at the Folger


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The Folger holds (almost?) all the objects listed in Halliwell-Phillipps's two printed catalogs of objects. Most objects are still in the original pale green or off-white boxes, labeled in Halliwell-Phillipps's distinctive handwriting. Most of the objects are not in the Folger catalog, but can be called up to the Reading Room using his abbreviations "Lyttle Boke" and "Reliques" plus the number from the respective book as as call numbers:

  • "H-P Lyttle Boke [number]" for objects in A lyttle boke gevinge a true and brief accounte of some reliques and curiosities added of late to Mr. Halliwell’s Shakespeare collection (scanned copy available for download here, or view the catalog record)
  • "H-P Reliques [number]" for objects in Some account of the antiquities, coins, manuscripts, rare books, ancient documents, and other reliques illustrative of the life and works of Shakespeare in the possession of James Orchard Halliwell (part 1 and part 2 of a scanned copy available for download here, or view the catalog record). Note that the books and manuscripts listed in Some account... have been cataloged by Folger staff, and can be found through https://catalog.folger.edu.

To find the few objects that are in the catalog, use this link to search for records with "H-P" in the call number.


Halliwell-Phillipps collected Shakespeare-related material by grouping them thematically and pasting them into large uniformly bound volumes. These are now divided between the Folger's art collection (with "ART Vol." call numbers) and the Folger's manuscript collection. All have at least a collection-level record in the catalog, and are listed in the Folgerpedia article List of Halliwell-Phillipps scrapbooks. In addition, the "Scrapboxes" formerly "Safe boxes" (Y.d.1119-Y.d.1414) are described in a finding aid, and listed in the Folgerpedia article List of Halliwell-Phillipps scrapboxes".

Halliwell-Phillipps papers

The Folger also has working papers, drafts, and correspondence of Halliwell-Phillipps, including:

Papers of J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps [manuscript], 1853-1889

64 items, including notes on [James] Shirley and William Kemp; excerpts from his An historical sketch of the provincial dialects of England, 1863, and a short one from his A dictionary of archaic. . . words; proofs of A list of the contents of the drawers in my study, 1870, and of p. 391-394 of vol. II of his [Outlines, 1886]; a copy of reviews of two of his works in the Athenaeum, 1853; A facsimile of an indenture executed by Sir John and Lady Barnard, in October, 1652, 1883; a printed copy of his letter to Thomas Hunt, December 18, 1883, the 2nd edition of The Executive Committee of Shakespeare’s Birth-Place and Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, 1887; corrections and annotations in Shakespeare and the enclosure of common fields...a fragment of the private diary of Thomas Greene...1614-1617, edit. by C.M. Ingleby, 1885 (lacks 3 preliminary leaves, plans and photographs); printed report of the New Shakspere Society, August 1879, and a prospectus, 1880; 3 sketch-plans of the way to Hollingsbury Copse, 1877, 1888; a toast written on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding, December 14, 1869; a notice on him, ca. 1875; an In Memoriam card; and various oddments and newspaper cuttings. Also, a receipt for a subscription to the New Shakspere Society from R.A. Halliwell, signed by A.G. Snelgrove, the hon. sec. January 1, 1874; and a prospectus, 1874. Some items undated.
Call number: Y.d.583 (1-64)

Outlines of the life of Shakespeare by J.O. Halliwell-Phillipps [manuscript], 1885 July.

Corrected to serve as copy for the 5th edition. There is no evidence that the book was actually used as copy. M. R. Halliwell-Phillipps copy
Call number: S.a.168


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Signatures and manuscript marks

Halliwell-Phillipps signature from Luna Image 20282.jpg
Halliwell-Phillipps's signature from The Two Noble Kinsmen (1634), Call number STC 11075 Copy 1. See full image.


  1. Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman, ‘Phillipps, James Orchard Halliwell- (1820–1889)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/12020 accessed 27 Jan 2015. (login required)
  2. Ibid.