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Thomas J. Wise Collection

100 items (dispersed).

The Library holds an incomplete but significant collection of pamphlets privately printed by the book collector and bibliographer Thomas James Wise (1859–1937).

They contain works of John Ruskin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning, George Borrow, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Algernon Swinburne and other authors. Since the publication of John Carter and Graham Pollard’s An Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets in 1934, the collection has acquired added interest in the field of bibliography as many of the items have been exposed as forgeries.

An early Wise forgery was Shelley’s Poems and sonnets (1887), one of thirty copies issued under a false Philadelphia imprint.

Two genuine but very rare works are a copy of Letters from Percy Bysshe Shelley to J.H. Leigh Hunt (1894), said to be one of six copies on vellum from a total edition of thirty, and one of twenty copies of Swinburne’s The Death of Sir John Franklin (1916); both titles were ‘printed for private circulation’.

The collection also features one of two hundred sets of The Ashley Library: A Catalogue of Printed Books, Manuscripts and Autograph Letters Collected by Thomas James Wise (1922–36); this handsome and useful eleven-volume work, printed for private circulation, was marred by the inclusion of some of the spurious works that Wise had printed himself.

A recent addition to the collection is one of thirty copies of Letters to Edward Clodd, printed by Wise in 1914.

Finding aids

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