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The Library of William Congreve   By: (1670-1729)

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First Page:

[Transcriber's Note:

This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (Unicode/UTF 8) version of the file. Characters that could not be fully displayed have been "unpacked" and shown in brackets:

[oe], [OE] ("oe" ligatures)

In the printed book, line breaks in the Congreve catalogue were shown as virgules or slashes / (the "shilling marks" described in the editor's Introduction). The breaks have been restored in this e text, omitting the / but retaining any hyphens. Book sizes printed with superscript "o" have been rendered as 4to, 8vo, 12mo. Other superscripts, including a few books written as 8^vo, are shown in braces: 8{vo}, 2{3} edn.

Bracketed periods [.] were printed with small subscript brackets. They occur whenever a catalog entry ends with an abbreviation ("Tom.", "Vol.", "papr."); the final period was supplied by the editor in most of these entries. Under the headings of Forma , Editio , Theca (size, edition, case number), sets of four unspaced dots .... were added by the transcriber to indicate an empty column.

Variations and inconsistencies match the original, including:

Variation between [oe] and oe, æ and ae. Dashes and hyphens. In general, four dashes represent a single long line; other combinations are groups of distinct hyphens. Spacing within entries in the Editio column. Dots and ellipses other than the .... sets noted above.

It was assumed that errors in the Catalogue itself, and inconsistencies in quotations from original printed works, were reproduced from their originals. Typographical errors, whether corrected or unchanged, are listed at the end of the e text.]


[Illustration: First page of Congreve's "Bibliotheca," showing the partially obliterated entries by the first hand. Reproduced from the original in the library of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society by permission of His Grace the Duke of Leeds.]

The Library of



University of Tennessee, Knoxville


New York

The New York Public Library


Reprinted, with additional illustrations, from the Bulletin of The New York Public Library of 1954 1955. Printed at The New York Public Library.

The Library of William Congreve


When William Congreve died in 1729 he left a collection of books which his old friend and publisher, Jacob Tonson, described (in a letter preserved at the Bodleian) as "genteel & well chosen." Tonson thought so well of the collection that he urged his nephew, then his agent in London, to purchase Congreve's books. But Congreve had willed them to Henrietta, the young Duchess of Marlborough, who was much concerned with keeping intact (as she wrote in her will) "all Mr. Congreaves Personal Estate that he left me" in order to pass it along to her youngest daughter Mary. This daughter, said by gossip to have been Congreve's daughter also, married the fourth Duke of Leeds in 1740, and thus Congreve's books eventually found their way to Hornby Castle, chief seat of the Leeds family in Yorkshire.

There apparently most of Congreve's books remained until about 1930, when the eleventh Duke of Leeds sold his English estates and authorized Sotheby's to auction off "a Selected portion of the Valuable Library at Hornby Castle." Among the 713 items advertised for sale on June 2, 3, and 4, 1930, were ten books containing the signature of William Congreve. These ten, along with a few others that have been discovered here and there with Congreve's name on the title page, and nine books published by subscription with Congreve's name in the printed list of subscribers, made a total of some thirty odd books known to have been in Congreve's library. These, we may presume, were but a small part of the Congreve books which had been incorporated with the Leeds family library in 1740.

Finding and Identifying Congreve's Book List and His Books

Among the voluminous papers of the Leeds family now stored in the British Museum, the Public Record Office, and several other depositories in England are at least a half dozen manuscript lists or catalogues of Leeds books... Continue reading book >>

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