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Thomas J. Wise Printed Works

Date range: 19th-20th centuries

Number of items: 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 (1819-1900), Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), Robert Browning (1812-1889), George Borrow (1803-1881), Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892), Algernon Swinburne (1837-1909) and other authors.

Since the publication of John Carter and Graham Pollard’s An Enquiry Into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets (London: Constable & Co Ltd, 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 Percy Bysshe Shelley’s (1792-1822) Poems and Sonnets (Philadelphia: Printed for private circulation only, 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 (London: Printed for private circulation, 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 (London: Printed for private circulation, 1916).

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 (London: Printed for private circulation, 1922–36). This handsome and useful eleven-volume work was marred by the inclusion of some of the spurious works that Wise had printed himself.

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