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.
For general guides to finding information about specific topics at the Folger, see Research guides.
Early modern finding aids
Hierarchical descriptions of collections from the Early Modern period at the Folger include:
- Papers of Nathaniel Bacon, 1574-1650 (bulk 1590-1622), Folger MS X.d.502 (1-51), 51 items
- 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.
- Papers of the Bacon-Townshend family of Stiffkey, Norfolk, 1550-1640, Folger MS L.d.1-1036, 1036 items, also see Folgerpedia article Bacon-Townshend collection
- 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.
- Papers of the Bagot family of Blithfield, Staffordshire, 1428-1671 (bulk 1557-1671), Folger MS L.a.1-1076, 1076 items
- 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.
- Papers of Robert Bennet, 1603-1678 (bulk 1642-1663), Folger MS X.d.483 (1-209), 209 items
- 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.
- Booth family of Twemlow, Letters, Folger MS F.c.6-16 and Folger MS F.c.17-34, 28 items
- Burton, Drue, Collection of state papers and other materials, ca. 1607-ca. 1625, Folger MS.G.b.10, 1 volume
- Cavendish-Talbot Family, Papers of the, 1333-1705 (bulk 1548-1676), Folger MS X.d.428 (1-203), 203 items, see also Folgerpedia article Papers of the Cavendish-Talbot family
- De conquestu Angliae per Hispanos, 1570-1604 (bulk 1580s), Folger MS G.b.5, 1 volume (19 items)
- Dering family, Papers of the, ca. 1450-ca. 1680, Folger MS X.d.531 (1-21), 21 items
- England and Wales, Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household, warrants and orders to Master of the Great Wardrobe, 1669, 1676-1677, Folger MS.X.d.679.(1-27), 27 items (27 bifolia)
- Este and Farnese families, Collection of letters, 1592-1805, Folger MS X.d.394 (1-30), 30 items
- Ferrers Family of Tamworth Castle, Papers of, 1371-1806 (bulk 16th - 17th century), Folger MS L.e.1-1200 and X.d.685,1225 items (29 boxes)
- Goodricke Family of Ribston Hall, Nidderdale, Yorkshire, Papers of, 1639?-1689, Folger MS V.b.333 (1-39), 1 volume
- Helsby, Mary Hatton, Letters to various recipients, 1651-1668, Folger MS X.d.493 (1-23), 23 items
- Loseley Collection (Legacy), 1489-1682 (bulk 1538-1630), Folger MSS L.b.1-712, 22 boxes (712 items)
- Newdigate family collection of newsletters, 1673/1674-1715, Folger MS L.c.1-3950, 3,950 items
- Nichols Family Papers Relating to The gentleman's magazine, 1778-1873, Folger MS Y.d.24, 5,952 items in 30 boxes
- Political and Parlimentary Documents, Collection of, compiled circa 1550-circa 1650, Folger MS V.b.303, 1 volume (350 pages)
- Privy Council, Letters from, 1545-1621, X.d.30 (1-58), 58 items
- Rattray Family of Craighall, Papers of the, 1593-1699, Folger MS X.c.61 (1-194), 194 items (3 boxes)
- Rich family, papers of, 1485-ca. 1820 (bulk 1649-1715), Folger MS X.d.451 (1-231), 231 items
- Smith, Richard, Papers of, ca. 1633-ca. 1670, Folger MS.V.a.510, 1 box (642 leaves)
- Strozzi Family, Manuscripts of the, 17th and 18th century, Folger MS W.b.132 (1-199, 169a), 200 volumes
- Tonson, Jacob, Papers of, 1685-1891 (bulk 1685-1737), Folger MS C.c.1 (1-83), 83 items (1 box)
- Walters, John Cuming, Papers of, ca. 1898-1932, Folger MS Y.d.1417 (1-2011), 2,011 items
- Williams, E., watermark collection, including the papers of the Hale family of King's Walden and other papers, ca. 1570-1699, Folger MS.L.f.1-1058, 1,058 items
Shakespeare and performance finding aids
Hierarchical descriptions of collections related to Shakespeare and Performance at the Folger include:
- Bacon, Delia Salter, Papers of, 1820-1952 (bulk 1827-1859), Folger MS Y.c.2599 (1-323), 323 items
- Booth, Edwin, Letters to various recipients, 1858-1893, Folger MS Y.c.215 (1-534) 534 items
- Collier, John Payne Collection of letters and papers removed from The history of English dramatic poetry to the time of Shakespeare, and Annals of the stage of the restoration by J.P. Collier, 19th century, Folger MS W.b.502-503, 152 items
- Collier, John Payne Collection of letters and papers, removed from An old man’s diary ca. 1875, 1647-1875 (bulk 1830-1875), Folger MS Y.d.341 (1-172), 172 items
- Collier, John Payne copies of manuscripts and printed material, ca. 1400-ca. 1700, ca. 1825-1861, Folger MS Y.d.582, 48 items
- Collier, John Payne, Autograph letters signed and initialed to various recipients, 1824-1882, Folger MS Y.c.1055 (1-224), 224 items
- Collier, John Payne, Letters from various correspondents, 1799-1884, Folger MS Y.d.6 (1-231), 231 items
- Daly, Augustin, 1838-1899. Collection of letters and papers, n.d., 1849-1916, Y.c.2602-3099 and Y.c.4000-5378, 33 boxes
- Drury Lane and Covent Garden Theatres, records of, 1714-1880, Drury Lane Theatre and Covent Garden Theatre, 282 items (218 manuscript volumes and 64 manuscript documents)
- Halliwell-Phillipps, J.O., Scrapboxes of, 19th century, Folger MS Y.d.1119-1414, 43 boxes
- Kean, Charles, Letters of, 1828-1866, Folger MS Y.c.393 (1-299), 299 items
- North Family Collection of Letters and Papers relating to Tate Wilkinson, Mrs. Siddons, and the North family of York, 1732-1955, Folger MS Y.d.618 (1-38), 38 items
- Siddons, Sarah, Letters to various recipients, 1783-1820, Folger MS Y.c.432 (1-26), 26 items
- Winter, William, Letters to Elsie Leslie, 1898-1916 (bulk 1910-1915), Folger MS Y.c.1825 (1-221), 6 boxes (221 items)
- Winter, William, Letters to various recipients, 1864-1917, Folger MS Y.c.573 (1-114), 114 items