Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays -- Research Guide

Early American Literature (1609-1803)

The Collection

Early American Literature17th Century

Early American literature in the Harris Collection begins in 1609, with the Paris publication of Marc Lescarbot's Les Muses de la Nouvelle France. This work printed a pageant, Theatre de Neptune en la Nouvelle-France that had been performed in Nova Scotia in 1606. Most of the other 17th century imprints in the Harris Collection were printed in London, and include plays by John Crowne, translations of Ovid and versions of the Psalms by George Sandys, and, notably, the 1650 London edition of Anne Bradstreet's The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America. Or Severall Poems, Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight.

The earliest American imprint in the Collection is the fourth edition of the Bay Psalm Book, entitled The Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs of the Old and New Testament, Faithfully Translated into English Metre., printed in Cambridge for Hezekiah Usher of Boston and usually dated to 1669.

18th Century

18th century imprints in the Harris Collection include numerous editions of the Psalms, including Cotton Mather's 1718 Psalterium Americanum, printed in Boston. The New England singing-school movement is represented by Thomas Johnston's 1755 Rules for Singing, and editions of the works of Andrew Law, William Billings, Daniel Read, and Samuel Holyoke, among others.

Notable editions of poetry in the collection include: works of Joel Barlow, particularly an extra-illustrated copy of The Vision of Columbus; Matthew Carey's hudibrastic works The Plagi-Scurriliad (1786) and The Porcupiniad (1799); Timothy Dwight's The Conquest of Canaan (1785), The Triumph of Infidelity (1788) and Greenfield Hill (1794); numerous works by Philip Freneau, including his 1775 American Liberty, with manuscript corrections to the text; several editions of Michael Wigglesworth's writings, including the 1701 edition of The Day of Doom.

Women's writings of the period are represented most strikingly by editions of Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, including a frontispiece portrait of Wheatley; Ann Eliza Bleeker's Posthumous Works (1793); Margaretta Faugeres' The Ghost of John Young the Homicide (1797); several works by Sarah Wentworth Morton including Beacon Hill (1797); and the 1790 Poems of Mercy Otis Warren.

Plays include Thomas Godfrey's 1765 The Prince of Parthia, described by F. P. Hill as "the earliest known tragedy written by an American; first played at Southwark Theater, Philadelphia, April 24, 1767." There are also the 1766 London edition and the 1772 Baltimore edition of Goerge Cockings' The Conquest of Canada; or The Siege of Quebec. Hill notes: "This play and Godfrey's...were the only American plays actually produced on the professional stage before the Revolution. The Conquest has the further distinction of being the first play written in America which obtained the honor of a second edition."

In addition to these two works, the Harris Collection holds seventy-nine percent of the titles listed in Hill's bibliography. The include: a notable collection of works by Mercy Otis Warren, including The Adulateur (1773), The Group (1775), and The Motley Assembly (1779); James Nelson Barker's The Indian Princess (1808), the "first original American play performed in London...and...the first extant play to treat the Pocahontas story"; numerous editions of the works of William Dunlap, often known as "the father of American drama"; Royal Tyler's The Contrast (1790), which introduced the "Yankee" character to the stage, and was the first American play to be presented successfully on the professional stage, in New York in 1787; and Susanna Rowson's Slaves in Algiers (1794), first played at the Chestnut St. Theater in Philadelphia.

See Also:
» Broadsides
» Hymnals
» Microforms
» Songsters

» Top of the page

Related Collections

The Broadsides Collection includes many early American imprints, notably carriers' addresses, broadside ballads, eulogies, and topical verse. The Sheet Music Collection holds over 10,000 items of music printed in America between 1800 and 1825, and approximately 500 pieces printed in the 18th century. The Starred Book Collection, the John Hay L ibrary's general rare book collection, holds a great deal of early Americana, including fiction, religious tracts, scientific works, and historical imprints. The University Archives holds materials related to the history and culture of Brown University from its founding in 1764.

The John Carter Brown Library is an internationally renowned, constantly growing collection of primary historicalsources pertaining to the Americas, both North and South, before ca. 1825. Many of its holdings relate closely to the early American holdings of the Harris Collection, particularly the collections of hymnals.

» Top of the page

Related Internet Resources

Brown University Library Resources: Digital Projects

Brown University Library Resources: Subject Collections

Brown University Library Resources: Online Exhibitions

Brown University Library Resources: Resource Guides to Subject Areas:

Internet Resources:

» Top of the page

Essential References

Blanck, Jacob
Bibliography of American Literature / compiled by Jacob Blanck for the Bibliographical Society of America
New Haven : Yale University Press, 1955-1991.
» See also the Online Edition

Bristol, Roger P.
Supplement to Charles Evans' American bibliography.
Charlottesville: Published for the Bibliographical Society of America and the Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia [by] University Press of Virginia

Bristol, Roger P.
Index of printers, publishers, and booksellers indicated by Charles Evans in his American bibliography
Charlottesville, Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1961

Bumgardner, Georgia B.
American broadsides; sixty facsimilies dated 1680-1800, reproduced from originals in the American Antiquarian Society. Selected & introduced by Georgia B. Bumgardner.
Barre, Mass., Imprint Society, 1971.

A Checklist of American imprints for 1820 to. . .
New York : Scarecrow Press, 1964-
Note: Latest volume is: 1846. A continuation of Evans' American bibliography.

Early Vermont broadsides / John Duffy, editor ; introd. by Mason I. Lowance, Jr.
Hanover, N.H. : Published for the University of Vermont by the University Press of New England, 1975.

Evans, Charles.
American bibliography; a chronological dictionary of all books, pamphlets, and periodical publications printed in the United States of America from the genesis of printing in 1639 down to and including the year 1820. With bibliographical and biographical notes
(Chicago: Priv. print. for the author by the Blakely Press, 1903-1959)
See also the Supplements to Evans, and American Imprints

Felcone, Joseph J.
New Jersey broadsides before 1900 : a checklist of the Joseph J. Felcone collection.
Princeton, N.J. : J.J. Felcone, 1991.

Ford, Worthington Chauncey.
Broadsides, ballads, &c. printed in Massachusetts 1639-1800.
[Boston] The Massachusetts Historical Society, 1922.

Hill, Frank Pierce, comp.
American plays printed 1714-1830. A Bibliographical Record..
(Stanford, Cal: Stanford University Press, 1934)
At the time of composition, Brown was credited with 211, or 52% of the titles listed. Today, 79& of the titles are held by the Harris Collection.

Howes, Wright
U.S. -iana 1700-1950 a descriptive check-list of 11,450 printed sources relating to those parts of continental North America now comprising the United States
Rev. and enl. [i.e. 2d] ed.
New York : Bowker for the Newberry Library, 1963.

Jantz, Harold Stein
Unrecorded verse broadsides of seventeenth-century New England.
[New York] The Bibliographical Society of America, c1945.

The Judgment of experts : essays and documents about the forgery of the Oath of a freeman / edited by James Gilreath.
Worcester : American Antiquarian Society, 1991.

Lowens, Irving.
A bibliography of songsters printed in America before 1821..
(Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1976)
Cites 40 songsters held only by Brown University Library.

McCorison, Marcus A.
Vermont imprints, 1778-1820; a check list of books, pamphlets, and broadsides.
Worcester [Mass.] American Antiquarian Society, 1963.

McDonald, Gerald D. (Gerald Doan).
A checklist of American newspaper carrier's addresses, 1720-1820 / by Gerald D. McDonald, Stuart C. Sherman, and Mary T. Russo
Worcester, MA : American Antiquarian Society, 2000

Metcalf, Frank J.
American psalmody, or Titles of books containing tunes printed in America from 1720 to 1820..
(New York: DaCapo Press, 1968 [1917])

Moebs, Thomas Truxtun.
U.S. reference-iana, 1481-1899 : a concise guide to over 4000 books and articles for researching art, books, broadsides, ephemera, manuscripts, newspapers, maps, pamphlets, photographs, and prints relating to that area within the present limits of the Uni ted States, 1481-1899. Specifically compiled for Americana collectors, booksellers and librarians. .
Williamsburg, Va : Moebs Pub. Co., 1989.

Rhode Island imprints : a list of books, pamphlets, newspapers and broadsides printed at Newport, Providence, Warren, Rhode Island between 1727 and 1800.
Providence : Printed for the Society [Rhode Island Historical Society], 1915.

Shipton, Clifford Kenyon
National index of American imprints through 1800; the short-title Evans [by] Clifford K. Shipton [and] James E. Mooney
[Worcester, Mass.] American Antiquarian Society, 1969 [1970]

Stoddard, Roger E.
American bibliographical notes : fifth addenda to Wegelin's Early American poetry.
Worcester [Mass.] : American Antiquarian Society, c1990.

Stoddard, Roger E.
A catalogue of books and pamphlets unrecorded in Oscar Wegelin's Early American poetry, 1650-1820.
Providence, R.I., Friends of the Library of Brown University, 1969.

Stoddard, Roger E.
Further addenda to Wegelin's Early American poetry.
[New York? 1971?]

Stoddard, Roger E.
Further corrigenda and addenda to Hill's American plays printed 1714-1830.
[New York : Bibliographical Society of America, 1983]

Stoddard, Roger E.
Progress note on a bibliography of American poetry printed 1610-1820 and some corrigenda to Wegelin's Early American poetry.
[Amherst, Mass. : Early American Literature, 1979?]

Taylor, W. Thomas.
Texfake : an account of the theft and forgery of early Texas printed documents / by W. Thomas Taylor ; with an introduction by Larry McMurtry.
Austin : W.T. Taylor, 1991.

Wegelin, Oscar
Early American poetry : a compilation of the titles of volumes of verse and broadsides by writers born or residing in North America north of the Mexican border .
2nd ed., rev. and enl.
Gloucester, Mass. : P. Smith, 1965, c1930.

Winslow, Ola Elizabeth. comp.
American broadside verse from imprints of the 17th and 18th centuries, selected and edited, with an introductory note, by Ola Elizabeth Winslow
New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press; London, H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1930.

» Top of the page