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.
- Letters of the Booth family of Twemlow, 1628-1689, Folger MS F.c.6-16 and Folger MS F.c.17-34, 28 items
- 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.
- Drue Burton collection of state papers and other materials, ca. 1607-ca. 1625, Folger MS.G.b.10, 1 volume
- Abstract to come.
- Papers of the Cavendish-Talbot Family, 1333-1705 (bulk 1548-1676), Folger MS X.d.428 (1-203), 203 items, see also Folgerpedia article Papers of the Cavendish-Talbot family
- 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.
- De conquestu Angliae per Hispanos, 1570-1604 (bulk 1580s), Folger MS G.b.5, 1 volume (19 items)
- 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 of the Dering family, ca. 1450-ca. 1680, Folger MS X.d.531 (1-21), 21 items
- 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).
- England and Wales, Warrants and orders from Lord Chamberlain of the Royal Household to Master of the Great Wardrobe, 1669, 1676-1677, Folger MS.X.d.679.(1-27), 27 items (27 bifolia)
- Warrants and orders mainly pertaining to the upkeep of the royal household.
- Collection of letters from members of the Este family of Modena and the Farnese family of Parma and Piacenza, 1592-1805, Folger MS X.d.394 (1-30), 30 items
- A collection of personal letters from 1592-1805 of the Este family of Modena and the Farnese family of Parma and Piacenza.
- Papers of the Ferrers Family of Tamworth Castle, 1371-1806 (bulk 16th - 17th century), Folger MS L.e.1-1200 and X.d.685, 1225 items (29 boxes)
- 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.
- Papers of the Goodricke family of Ribston Hall, Nidderdale, Yorkshire, 1639?-1689, Folger MS V.b.333 (1-39), 1 volume
- 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.
- Letters from Mary Hatton Helsby to various recipients, 1651-1668, Folger MS X.d.493 (1-23), 23 items
- 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.
- Papers of the More family of Loseley Park, Surrey, 1489-1682 (bulk 1538-1630), Folger MSS L.b.1-712, 22 boxes (712 items)
- 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).
- Newdigate family collection of newsletters, 1673/1674-1715, Folger MS L.c.1-3950, 3,950 items
- 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.
- Nichols family papers relating chiefly to The gentleman's magazine, 1778-1873, Folger MS Y.d.24, 5,952 items in 30 boxes
- Printed and manuscript material, including proofs, letters, reviews, clippings, poems, obituaries, announcements, and business papers, relating to The Gentleman's Magazine.
- Collection of political and parliamentary documents, compiled circa 1550-circa 1650, Folger MS V.b.303, 1 volume (350 pages)
- 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).
- Letters from the Privy Council, 1545-1621, Folger MS X.d.30 (1-58), 58 items
- Privy Council letters mainly concerning troops and provisions for English garrisons in Ireland.
- Papers of the Rattray family of Craighall, 1593-1699, Folger MS X.c.61 (1-194), 194 items (3 boxes)
- 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.
- Papers of the Rich family, 1485-ca. 1820 (bulk 1649-1715), Folger MS X.d.451 (1-231), 231 items
- 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.
- Papers of Richard Smith, ca. 1633-ca. 1670, Folger MS.V.a.510, 1 box (642 leaves)
- 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.
- Manuscripts of the Strozzi family, 17th and 18th century, Folger MS W.b.132 (1-199, 169a), 200 volumes
- 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.
- Papers of Jacob Tonson, 1685-1891 (bulk 1685-1737), Folger MS C.c.1 (1-83), 83 items (1 box)
- 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).
- Papers of John Cuming Walters relating to Shakespeare, ca. 1898-1932, Folger MS Y.d.1417 (1-2011), 2,011 items
- 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.
- E. Williams 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
- 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:
- Papers of Delia Salter Bacon, 1820-1952 (bulk 1827-1859), Folger MS Y.c.2599 (1-323), 323 items
- 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.
- Autograph letters signed from Edwin Booth to various recipients, 1858-1893, Folger MS Y.c.215 (1-534), 534 items
- Letters from Edwin Booth to various recipients. A large portion of the letters (approximately 307 items) are addressed to theatre critic William Winter.
- John Payne Collier 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", 19th century, Folger MS W.b.502-503, 152 items
- 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.
- 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