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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Thr 1859

Ernest Lewis Gay collection on John Gay


Contains prints, playbills, clippings, cardboard figures, and other materials relating to John Gay's poetic and dramatic works, specifically including "Fables," "Shepherd's Week," and "Beggar's Opera."


  • 1714-1922

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.


3.25 linear feet (7 boxes and 34 oversize folders)

Contains prints, playbills, clippings, cardboard figures, and additional papers relating to John Gay's poetic and dramatic works. Specifically, Series I contains etchings and engravings of illustrations to Gay's "Fables" and "Shepherd's Week," produced from 1714 through the mid nineteen century, and ranging from small sizes for books to larger folio-sized prints. A single print in this series was created in memorium to John Gay.

Series II has not been processed, and contains materials relating specifically to Gay's "Beggar's Opera," a ballad opera. These include clippings and playbills related to specific productions, as well as prints and illustrations for the work. A group of Nigel Playfair cardboard figures from 1922 are also included.

Biographical / Historical

Ernest Lewis Gay (1874-1916) was a librarian of the University Club and a book collector of Boston, Massachusetts. He collected materials especially concerning the English poet and playwright, John Gay (1685-1732). He received an AB from Harvard College in 1897. His brother, Frederick Lewis Gay (1857-1916), was also a collector, and attended Harvard College with the class of 1878.

John Gay (1685-1732) was an English poet and dramatist. His works include the ballad opera "The Beggar's Opera," for which he is perhaps best known, as well as further works such as "Fables" and "Shepherd's Week," among others.


Arranged in two series: I. "Fables" and "Shepherd's Week" illustrations, and II. "Beggar's Opera" playbills, prints, and other materials. Series I is made up of oversized materials, which have been arranged in alphabetical order by the surname of the artist or the publishing company title, depending on what is available. Series II, made up of boxed materials, has not been processed, and is loosely arranged by material type.

Physical Location

pfd (P1.C2.06.05 - P1.C2.06.06 [Folders 1-22]), ppf (P1.C2.06.07 - P1.C2.06.09 [Folders 23-34])

Custodial History

Presented as a bequest of Ernest Lewis Gay by his nephew, George Henry Gay.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of Ernest Lewis Gay, 1927 June 15.

Related Materials

Additional materials collected by Ernest Lewis Gay, including materials on John Gay, appear throughout the Houghton Library colleciton.

Processing Information

Processed by Betts Coup, 2018 October.

Gay, Ernest Lewis, 1874-1916. Ernest Lewis Gay collection on John Gay, 1714-1922 (MS Thr 1859): Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard University.
2018 October 03
Description rules
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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