The Folger Shakespeare Library houses one of the world's finest collections of literary manuscripts, systematically organized to reflect the broad history of English literature and culture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Drama is a particular strength of the collection. Rare and valuable items include two 1624 scribal copies of Middleton's A Game of Chess (Va 231 and Va 242); a leaf from Marlowe's A Massacre at Paris of c.1590 (Jb 8); John Fletcher's The Woman's Prize, c.1640 (Jb 3); and Francis Beaumont's The Beggar's Bush, c.1640 (Jb 5).
Chief among the poetic manuscripts is the unrevised version of Sir Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia (Hb 1). Other major works include John Donne's Metempstchosis, or The Progress of the Soule (Va 241), and Sir John Harington's original autograph Epigrams of 1605 (Va 249).
Manuscripts of women writers of the English Renaissance are notoriously rare, but the Folger series offers manuscripts of Aphra Behn (Xd 250), Mrs. Katherine Philips (the Matchess Orinda) (Vb 231), Esther Inglis, Anne Wharton, Anne Campbell, Countess of Argyll, Lady Mary Wroth, and Anne, Countess of Winchilsea.
Commonplace books and collections form a major portion of the series -- no less than 77 are included. These personal collections have long been an invaluable source for rare Renaissance poems, epigrams and proverbs.
The collection is accompanied by a guide giving a listing of the manuscripts on each reel and descriptive entries for all the manuscripts.
Part One: Manuscripts Ccl--Va 358
Part Two: Manuscripts Va 363--Bd.w.J 131
Complete collection: 30 reels