Boxes of Delight: the SIL Pamphlet collection

When I was asked if I could help re-classify the library’s pamphlet collection little did I realise just what gems we would uncover. The library holds just over 6,000 pamphlets; off-prints from journals, manuscript texts, programmes, unpublished material, magazines and articles, etc. Many of these have been donated to the Library by our users, some of them from academics and enthusiasts and supporters of the Shakespeare Institute Library all over the world. The pamphlet collection also holds a significant amount of material in languages other than English – making cataloguing and classifying a little tricky at times. Dr Martin Wiggins one of the fellows here at the Institute, has saved us many a headache with his knowledge of Greek and Latin – and what better reward for him than to discover some works he did not know the library had which have proved invaluable to his research.

The biggest section of the collection contains theatre programmes of not just the Royal Shakespeare Company, National Theatre, the Old Vic and Birmingham Rep for example, but also theatre companies who have performed Shakespeare and Renaissance works around the world. We hold a large number of programmes from Shakespeare festivals both here and abroad, including Stratford Ontario, Dusseldorf, Oregon and Ludlow. In the reclassification project this part of the collection was completed first because of its heavy usage.

Shakespeare in education resources can also be found. If you want to compare how the English Renaissance was taught in schools in previous decades you can discover the joy of the ‘Jackdaw’ folders (so familiar to me from my days in the public library sector). We hold several off these educational packs on topics relevant to the Renaissance period but each pack contains at least 12 separate items, copies of source documents, and of course each needs cataloguing.

Contents of Young Shakespeare Jackdaw Pack

It is a mammoth task but as we open each box we begin to realise just what we have and just what treasures the collections hold.

The library’s monthly exhibitions have proved a useful showcase for highlighting the library stock and for most of our exhibitions we have unearthed a little gem to display from the pamphlet collection. One of our first exhibitions was the Jacobean Text exhibition and something that generated great interest was the BBC Radio 3 script from 1973 of Eastward ho! by Ben Jonson, George Chapman and John Marston, adapted by Peter Barnes.

Daily we see how the collection supports the research of our staff and students. Last Christmas we dug out the 1873 edition of Prof. O. Phelps Brown’s: ‘ Shakespeare Annual Almanac’ for the students on the MA Shakespeare and Creativity course for use in their assessment. This is such a wonderful little treasure which mixes the Queen Mab speech from Romeo and Juliet with herbal cures! I have scanned a couple of pages that I’m sure you will find of interest.

Falling sicknessQueen Mab








Anne Phillips, Information Assistant


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