The Library's formidable strengths in literature reflect Henry E. Huntington's focus on the history and culture of English-speaking peoples. The Ellesmere Chaucer and outstanding Shakespeare and Renaissance print holdings anchor the broad and deep collections. These encompass a variety of materials, from commonplace books of the early modern period and 18th-century letters—such as those of Elizabeth Montagu and her circle—to contemporary authors' papers.
The Larpent Collection is an unparalleled dramatic resource, a unique archive of almost every play submitted for license in Great Britain between 1737 and 1824. Among the exceptional Romantic poetry holdings are Percy Shelley autograph notebooks and the illuminated books of William Blake; there are also important Robert Burns manuscripts. Later strengths include Victorian novels and related correspondence, manuscripts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, and the library and papers of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Modernist literature is represented by significant drafts from such authors as W.B. Yeats and James Joyce.
American literature begins with the colonial era. The Huntington possesses an impressive number of imprints from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as print and manuscript materials of the New England authors, most notably successive drafts of Thoreau's Walden. Holdings related to the publishing industry include the papers of James T. and Annie Fields and records of the Merrymount Press.
The Library has the largest collection anywhere of Jack London's papers and several related collections such as the papers of George Sterling, Ina Coolbrith, and Joan London Miller. Samuel Clemens, Hamlin Garland, and Mary Austin are among the other writers of the West and Southwest represented by major resources.
The Huntington actively collects the papers of modern-day writers. Twentieth-and 21st-century authors collected include Wallace Stevens, Kingsley Amis, Evelyn Waugh, Christopher Isherwood, Hilary Mantel, Charles Bukowski, Octavia E. Butler, and Paul Theroux.
Guide to Literary Manuscripts in the Huntington Library
Banner image credit: Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), Parable of the Talents: novel: notes. OEB 1829. Gift of the Estate of Octavia E. Butler, August, 2008.