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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

b(P1.R3.04 - P1.R3.06), 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.
Link to catalog
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
Finding aid written in English.

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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