The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts

Early Modern Books and Manuscripts includes materials produced between 1600 and 1800. The collection is especially strong in the areas of British and Continental literature, American history, history of science, Canadiana, and the history of the book. The centerpiece of the department is the Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, the bequest of Mary, Viscountess Eccles (1912-2003). Assembled over a 60-year period, the Hyde Collection, with Johnson at its center, encompasses letters, manuscripts, first editions, portraits, and even his silver teapot. It includes half of Johnson's surviving letters; several drafts of his "Plan for a Dictionary" and the few surviving manuscript entries; and is comprehensive in its coverage of Johnson's published works. Comparable riches document his lively biographer James Boswell (including corrected proofs for the Life of Johnson); his great friend Hester Thrale Piozzi; their families; and such friends and contemporaries as Tobias Smollett, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Alexander Pope, and David Garrick. With more than 4,000 volumes, approximately 5,500 letters and manuscripts, and more than 5,000 prints, drawings, and objects, it paints a broad yet detailed picture of 18th century English literature and culture. Materials in the collection will be accessed through the Houghton Reading Room.

For a chronicle of interesting discoveries made by the cataloger of the collection, see the Hyde Collection Catablog.

An online exhibition, A Monument More Durable Than Brass: The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, is now available.

  • E-mail the Early Modern Books and Manuscripts staff for information about the collections, permissions, and programs.
  • E-mail the Reference Desk for information regarding access and use of the collections.
  • Contact information is available in the Houghton Staff Directory.