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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 51

James Boswell manuscripts


Manuscripts and documents of biographer James Boswell, including drafts and proofs of his literary works, diary entries, and other papers.


  • 1772-1795

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


2 linear feet (.5 box and 17 volumes)
This collection consists of items in Boswell's hand, other than his letters (cataloged separately as MS Hyde 2). Highlights include notes, drafts, and proofs of The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (including a complete set of second page proofs); Boswell's response to Hester Lynch Piozzi's published comments on his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides; a detailed book of visitors kept by Boswell at Auchinleck from 1782 to 1795; the manuscript and page proofs of A letter to the people of Scotland on the alarming attempt to infringe the articles of the Union; a volume of collected anecdotes and aphorisms titled Boswelliana; and three diary fragments.

Biographical / Historical

James Boswell (1740-1795) was the author of one of the most influential biographies in the English language, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. He also wrote two successful travel books: An Account of Corsica, and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. In 1782, he succeeded his father as Laird of Auchinleck in Scotland. He worked intermittently as a lawyer, and served as Recorder of Carlisle (England) from 1788 to 1790.

Physical Location

b (shelved with bMS Hyde 50), Hyde Case 9

Immediate Source of Acquisition

*2003JM-55, *2003JM-108, *2003JM-130-144(f). All material from *2003JM-55 unless otherwise noted. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Related Materials

The bulk of Boswell's manuscripts are at Yale University. According to the Index to English Literary Manuscripts, the Hyde Collection is the only other important one of Boswell MSS outside of Yale. Several of the manuscripts came from the same source as the Yale collection, Col. Ralph Heyward Isham (1890-1955), who had purchased them from Lady Talbot de Malahide.

Separated Materials

Other Boswell manuscript material in the Hyde Collection includes: Boswell's annotations on many of the items in the Samuel Johnson Letters, MS Hyde 1, particularly items (9), (13), (26), (40), (63), (87), (92), and (97); a collection of James Boswell Letters, MS Hyde 2; a transcript of a Boswell manuscript in the R.B. Adam Extra-Illustrated Edition of the Life of Samuel Johnson, MS Hyde 9, Volume II, Part 4, page 310; annotations and transcriptions in the Samuel Johnson Manuscripts, MS Hyde 50, items (4), (59), (67), (68), (69), and (70); and two items annotated by Boswell in the Boswell Family Papers, MS Hyde 52, items (11) and (12). Boswell also annotated several printed works that were cited from the Hyde Collection in IELM, BoJ 107, 109, 147, 152, 153, and 158.

The main reference used is Margaret M. Smith, et al., Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume III, Part 1 (London: Mansell, 1986), pp. 39-58 (cited as IELM). See also George Birkbeck Norman Hill and Lawrence Fitzroy Powell, eds., Boswell's Life of Johnson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934).

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler
Link to catalog
Boswell, James, 1740-1795. James Boswell manuscripts: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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