Literature of the British Isles has been one of the central collecting areas from the early days of the library. General scope for British materials ranges from the fourteenth century through World War I. The strength of the collection lies in literary texts rather than literary criticism, in printed works rather than manuscripts, in original form rather than reprint. While secondary materials have been collected at varying levels over the years, the focus has always been directed to primary materials.
Within the broad strength of the English literature collection, particular strength is reflected in the following areas: prose fiction, especially to about 1760; texts of all major and many minor writers with multiple editions and many works by women; Elizabethan and Restoration drama; early English translations of classics and continental literature; eighteenth and nineteenth centuries periodicals; poetry. The titles in the Pollard and Redgrave, Wing, and English Short Title Catalogs are well-represented in Newberry holdings.
- Courtesy books
- Travel literature
- Spenser and Spenseriana
- Long runs of serial publications, such as papers of academies and learned societies
- Early poetic miscellanies
- Sermons, prayerbooks, and other devotional literature
- Biography, autobiography, memoirs
- Folklore, proverbs, customs, dialects, early philology
- Emblem books
- Reference and bibliography
- Recusant collection of English Catholic thought
- History of learning, education, libraries
- Irish literature
- Children’s books
The following Newberry Library Bulletin articles provide a useful examination of the type of material the Newberry has for the study of British Literature and History: Nineteenth Century British Pamphlets at the Newberry Library & Nineteenth-Century English Periodicals.