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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Eng 891, MS Eng 893

Thomas Percy papers


Transcripts of English ballads and popular poetry by the English antiquary Thomas Percy and others, along with correspondence and other materials relating to the collecting of ballads.


  • Creation: 1759-1785.

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


3 linear feet (7 boxes)

Contains transcripts, written by Percy and others, of English ballads and popular poetry from the 11th to the 18th century. Also includes Percy's correspondence with Thomas Warton concerning ballads that they were collecting, together with copies of ballads, original verse, translations of Spanish and other European ballads, as well as annotated proof sheets, notes, and other materials concerning Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.

The following table of contents lists titles of poems and ballads, identification of the hand where possible in parenthesis, and a brief collational statement. Unidentified copyists and correspondents are listed together as "unknown?" The appended index of correspondents and identifiable hands includes only those authors whose works are present in autograph; Percy, Child, and Kittredge are not included in the index.

Biographical / Historical

Percy was an English antiquary and poet. His compilation of ballads, Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, was published in 1765.


Organized into the following series:

  1. I. bMS Eng 891: Correspondence concerning the Percy ballads
  2. II. bMS Eng 893: Ballads and related papers

Francis James Child first arranged the papers, and his annotations appear throughout the collection. George Lyman Kittredge annotated them later in much greater detail. The folders have been retained because of his notes, and the order of the material has been preserved as he left it.

Physical Location

b, pf

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Sotheby's by Harvard College Library; received: 1884.

Harvard College Library purchased this collection at the Percy sale, Sotheby's, 29 April 1884 (The one exception is folder 259, added subsequently from other sources). Two marked copies of the sale catalogue may be consulted: 25247.20* annotated by the librarian Justin Winsor; and 25247.20.5* annotated by Francis James Child.

Separated Materials

A collection of printed broadsides, some annotated by Percy, is part of the Houghton collections under the call number p EB75 P4128C no.1-321. The Library also has, among other copies, a copy of the Reliques annotated by Percy for a second edition.

The manuscripts contained in this index were formerly shelved as 25247.20.5* and 25241.33*.

Index of correspondents and identifiable transcribers

Occurrences of Percy himself not included.
Barnard, Thomas (1728-1806) 126A-C.
Bulman, J., 24 C, 24 E.
Collier, John Payne (1789-1883) 259 A-B.
Cowen, Henry, 22 G
Dodsley, Robert (1703-1764) 251.
Farmer, Richard (1735-1797) 149.
Garrick, David (1717-1779) 248D.
Greene, Richard (1716-1793) 132.
Grow, E., 24 E.
Hailes, Sir David Dalrymple, lord (1726-1792) 9F.
Halt, Roger, 127 A.
Hest, T., 279 B.
Jackson ['the bookseller'] 138F.
Lambe, Robert (1712-1795) 24 A, 24 G, 128 A-F, 129 E
Lingen, [ ] 261
Lye, Edward (1694-1767) 138 C-D.
Mathias, Thomas James (1754?-1835) 271.
Parsons, Philip (1729-1812) 129 A-C, 129 F-J.
Paton, George (1721-1807) 9 E, 124 A, 124 B, 124 C, 124 D, 124 F, 124 G
Pegge, Samuel (1704-1796) 7
Percy, Arthur [T.P.'s brother] 145.
Pinkerton, John (1758-1826) 9 H.
Portland, Margaret Cavendish (Harlesy) Bentinck, duchess of (1715-1785) 131.
Procter, William, 138 C.
Shenstone, William (1714-1763) 14, 153, 157, 165, 273.
Steevens, George (1736-1800) 263.
Wale, Samuel (d. 1786) 138 A.
Warren, Edmund, 133.
Warton, Thomas (1728-1790) 12 A, 20 B, 154,
Watson, John (1725-1783) 130 A-D.
Percy, Thomas, 1729-1811. Thomas Percy papers, 1759-1785: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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