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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Hyde 76

Boswell's Life of Johnson : including Boswell's Journal of a tour to the Hebrides and Johnson's Diary of a journey into North Wales, edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated


Printed books with hundreds of inserted manuscripts and prints relating to the text, compiled and bound by collector Robert Borthwick Adam.


  • 1464-1897
  • Majority of material found within 1724-1874

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


7.7 linear feet (31 volumes)
The set includes prints and manuscripts for many of the people and places mentioned in Hill's Boswell's Life of Johnson, including individuals mentioned only in footnotes or as historical figures, who may have only a tangential relation to Samuel Johnson.

Perhaps the most significant item in the collection is James Boswell's eleven-page Remarks on the Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, item (2. 4. 310), apparently written for Samuel Johnson shortly after the book's publication. In dozens of detailed notes, Boswell offers suggestions on points of fact and interpretation, and praise for passages that he thought particularly strong.

The one author most heavily represented in manuscript form is George Birkbeck Norman Hill. The set includes the draft preface for his edition of The Life of Samuel Johnson, item (1. 1. xxviii); drafts of many of his footnotes, items (1. 2. 77-95) and (3. 1. 1-31); his draft prospectus for the work, item (6. 1. vi. 11); a draft mansucript of his preface to Johnson's Rasselas, item (6. 1. xxviii. 2); and three of his letters, items (1. 1. vii. 1), (6. 1. vi. 2), and (6. 1. vi. 14).

The set also includes letters by John Adams; Jane Austen; Sir Joseph Banks; Otto, Fürst von Bismarck; Robert Browning; Charles X, King of France; Thomas De Quincey; Isaac Disraeli; Jonathan Edwards; David Garrick; George I, King of Great Britain; George II, King of Great Britain; Edward Gibbon; Charles George Gordon; William Hayley; James I, King of England; James II, King of England; Johannes Kepler; Sir Godfrey Kneller; Louis XV, King of France; Louis XVI, King of France; Edmond Malone; Philipp Melanchthon; Clemens Wenzel Lothar, Fürst von Metternich; John Stuart Mill; Napoleon I, Emperor of the French; Peter I, Emperor of Russia; William Pitt, Earl of Chatham; Leopold von Ranke; Laurence Sterne; Alfred Tennyson, Baron Tennyson; Noah Webster; William Wordsworth; Sir Christopher Wren; Arthur Young; and many others.


The Adams acquired prints and manuscripts to illustrate places and individuals mentioned in the text of Hill's book. Items are mounted on pages facing the appropriate text (preceding odd-numbered pages and following even-numbered pages). The inventory is arranged as items appear in the volumes.

The first digit of each item number refers to the volume as published in Hill's 6-volume set. The second digit refers to the sub-volume as bound by Adam, who expanded Hill's 6 volumes into 31. The third digit refers to the page number in the published text. The fourth digit, where necessary, refers to the sheet number of the insertion in cases where more than one item is inserted for a page. Example: (2. 3. 123. 3) indicates that the item is in volume 2, sub-volume 3. Within that volume, it appears facing page 123, and starts on the third inserted sheet facing that page. It follows immediately after (2. 3. 123. 1) because that item is mounted on two sheets.

Physical Location



This set was compiled by collector Robert Borthwick Adam (1833-1904) of Buffalo, N.Y., in the years following the book's publication in 1887. It was inherited in 1904 by his nephew and adopted son R.B. (Robert Borthwick) Adam (1863-1940), who may have expanded it into its present form, and commissioned the present bindings from the Club Bindery. Bookplates show that in 1910, R.B. Adam presented the set to his wife Lena Stevens Adam (d. 1940). The set was purchased from the Adam estate by Donald Frizell Hyde and Mary Hyde in 1948.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2003JM-76. Bequest of Mary Hyde Eccles, Four Oaks Farm, Somerville, New Jersey; received: 2004.

Existence and Location of Copies

Available on microfilm.

Separated Materials

Between 1948 and 2003, the Hydes removed many items from these volumes for exhibition, conservation, or reproduction. When possible, these removals have been listed as "REMOVED" after their appropriate page number, with a citation showing their present location. Most of the known removals are presently at the Houghton Library. Eight manuscript items were donated to the Houghton Library in 1979 as part of the Mary Hyde Eccles Autograph Collection, MS Eng 1343. Many other items were distributed through the unbound portions of the Hyde collections, which were bequeathed to the Houghton Library in 2003 along with these volumes. Two items, (2. 5. 392. 12) and (3. 2. 94), were donated to other libraries by Mary Hyde Eccles. Only four removals have been noted without a tracking reference: items (1. 1. 36. 2), (2. 5. 392. 14), (3. 6. 428. 1), and (5. 2. 68. 7). These items were apparently all removed under the ownership of Mary Hyde Eccles, and did not appear in the Levinson spreadsheet.

  • Adam, R.B. Catalogue of the Johnsonian Collection of R.B. Adam (Buffalo, N.Y.: privately printed, 1921).
  • Eccles, Mary Hyde. A Miscellany of her Essays and Addresses (New York: Grolier Club, 2002).
  • Redford, Bruce, ed., The Letters of Samuel Johnson (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992). Cited as "Hyde Edition."

Processing Information

Processed by: Rick Stattler and Marcia Levinson

A full inventory spreadsheet was compiled by Marcia Levinson while the set was property of Mary Hyde Eccles. This spreadsheet was expanded and developed into the present guide in 2005.
Link to catalog
Boswell, James, 1740-1795. Boswell's Life of Johnson : including Boswell's Journal of a tour to the Hebrides and Johnson's Diary of a journey into North Wales, edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated,1464-1897: 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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