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Samuel Johnson Collection

600 items (dispersed).

To complement the Library’s substantial manuscript collection of Johnsoniana, first editions and interesting association copies of most of the printed works of Johnson are available, including his very first published work, a Latin verse translation of Pope’s Messiah which appeared in the 1731 edition of A Miscellany of Poems by Several Hands compiled by John Husbands. 

A Johnsonian Proposal for printing a translation of Sarpi’s History of the Council of Trent in 1738 was discovered in an uncatalogued duplicate by a former Librarian: it is considered to be unique.

The Library has recently acquired a copy of Johnson’s first independently published work in prose (albeit pseudonymous), a satire on the Hanoverian succession entitled Marmor (1739).

There are many editions of the famous Dictionary available including the first issue of the first edition of the 1747 Plan, in which Johnson announced his intentions, and the first edition of the Dictionary (1755). Particular attention can be drawn to a copy of the fourth edition (1773), which was at one time owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds and contains over 250 corrections in Johnson’s own hand: these were subsequently incorporated in the sixth and later editions.

An equally strong collection of printed items relating to Boswell is available, including first editions of The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (1785), and The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. (1791), and a rare copy of the early anonymous pamphlet, The Cub, at Newmarket: A Tale (1762).1

Correspondence with Samuel Johnson may be found within the Bagshawe Muniments, the Mary Hamilton Papers and the Thrale-Piozzi Manuscripts.

1Frederick Albert Pottle, The Literary Career of James Boswell, Esq. (Oxford, 1929), no. 6.

See also

the Bagshawe muniments and the Thrale-Piozzi manuscripts for correspondence with Samuel Johnson.

Finding aids

  • Recorded in .
  • J.A.V. Chapple, 'Samuel Johnson's Proposals for Printing the History of the Council of Trent, [1738]', Bulletin of the John Rylands Library , vol. 45 (1962-3), pp. 340-69.


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