Collection of James O. Halliwell-Phillipps (1820-1889)

Held at: Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives
Reference: GB 0237 H-P Collection
Title: Collection of James O. Halliwell-Phillipps (1820-1889)
Dates of creation: 16th century-19th century
Name of Creator: James Orchard Halliwell (1820-1889)
Extent: circa 1000 volumes (circa 16 linear metres)
Level of Description: Fonds

Administrative/Biographical History

James Orchard Halliwell was born in Sloane Street, in London's Chelsea, on 21 June 1820. He was educated at private schools, and showed an aptitude for mathematics. In his teen years, he began to collect books and manuscripts. In November 1837 he matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge, but in April 1838 he transferred to Jesus College. There, he was awarded a mathematical prize and scholarship, and he acted as Librarian. In 1839, before he was nineteen years of age, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and then Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1840, Halliwell left Cambridge after the Lent term, without a degree, and settled in London. By then, he had collected around 130 early manuscripts, mainly dealing with mathematics and astrology, but these had to be sold under pressure from creditors. In London he worked in the Library of the British Museum and continued buying books and manuscripts. It was his purchase and collection of manuscripts that, in 1844, led to serious charges against him of abstracting material from Trinity College. Throughout his life, he was an insatiable collector of rare books and manuscripts. Halliwell was also an energetic member of the many literary societies founded at the time - the Camden Society, the Percy Society, the Shakespeare Society. To the latter he contributed many short essays. In 1841, Halliwell came to the attention of antiquary and bibliophile Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872). He soon became a house guest and in 1842 Halliwell married the eldest daughter of Sir Thomas Phillipps, after which he assumed the name of James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps. Also at this time, he began to concentrate his attention on the life of Shakespeare and the text of Shakespeare's works. His publication record as a whole includes works on archaeology, folklore, balladry, philology, and history, and some notable works are A brief account of the life, writings and inventions of Sir Samuel Morland: master of mechanics to Charles the Second (1838), An introduction to the Midsummer Night's Dream, an essay on the character of Falstaff and Shakesperiana (1841), Dictionary of archaic and provincial words, obsolete phrases, proverbs, and ancient customs from the fourteenth century (1846), New boke about Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon (1850), The complete works of Shakspere: revised from the original editions (1850), and Outlines of a life of Shakespeare (1881). In the course of his literary researches he often had occasion to communicate with David Laing (1793-1878), historian, antiquary, bibliographer, and collector. James O. Halliwell-Phillipps died on 3 January 1889.

Scope and Content

The Halliwell-Phillipps Collection includes 16th-century works by Italian, French and Spanish authors. Its strength lies in English books however, especially English drama of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Collection also includes more than 600 plays including works by Ben Jonson, Beaumont and Fletcher, George Chapman, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, John Dryden, Philip Massinger, and William Wycherley. Several are playhouse copies with contemporary stage directions added in manuscript. There are circa 300 volumes containing around 15,000 letters of authors, circa 100 volumes of assorted Shakespeare scraps, literary cuttings, diaries, notes and cuttings on collections, and lists of records.

Administrative Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 1872, James Orchard Halliwell-Phillips wrote to the Principal of Edinburgh University offering to present his Shakespearean library. This was accepted and the major part of the collection came to in 1872, and large additions followed in 1873 and later. In May 1964, at Sotheby's, Edinburgh University Library purchased the Halliwell-Phillipps Collection previously given to the private subscription Penzance Library. The purchase consisted of over six hundred items.

Custodial History

Access Conditions

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The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Dictionary of national biography, Vol.8. Glover-Harriott (London: Smith, Elder, and Co., 1908). (2) University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol.7. 1934-1935, pp.107-109 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd). (3) University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol.21. 1963-1964, p.273 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd). (4) University of Edinburgh Journal, Vol.22. 1965-1966, pp.15-16 (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd).

Further Information

Finding Aids

Handlist, H12; Another important finding aid is the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives. Additions to the typed slips in sheaf binders were made until 1987.