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The Library's collection of over 700 books primarily by and about Jonathan Swift was bequeathed in 1964 by the Swift scholar Sir Harold Herbert Williams (1880-1964). Williams read theology at Christ's College Cambridge, graduating in 1904. He went on to pursue a career as a literary scholar, as well as being actively involved in local government administration. Williams was president of the Bibliographical Society from 1938-1944 and was elected FBA in 1944 and FSA in 1948. His knighthood in 1951 was awarded for services both to bibliography and to county administration.

Williams was the leading authority on Gulliver's travels, and published extensively on Swift, including Dean Swift's library with a facsimile of the original sale catalogue and some account of two manuscript lists of his books (1932), the introduction to Herbert Davis's edition of Gulliver's travels (1941), and his own important edition of The poems of Jonathan Swift (1937, rev.ed. 1958). In 1950, he delivered the Sandars Lectures in Cambridge on New light on the publication of Gulliver's travels. In 1963, he published the first three volumes of Swift's Letters (the remaining two volumes were published posthumously). Williams's papers on Swift, along with his books, came to the University Library after his death.

In addition to the Swift, Williams's collection includes a number of other items, mostly literary works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries by authors such as Pope, Arbuthnot, and Defoe. Standout items include a copy of what is generally considered to be the second issue of the first edition of Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia epidemica (1646), and three sixteenth-century books: Philip Sidney's The countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia (1598), and two editions of Cicero.

The Library regularly purchases items to enrich its Swift holdings: new acquisitions are placed in the general Rare Books classes 5000-8000.a-e.

Manuscripts and Williams's papers relating to Jonathan Swift are held in the Manuscripts Department as Collections on Jonathan Swift, MS Add.7788.

References and further reading:

  • Herman Teerink. A bibliography of the writings in prose and verse of Jonathan Swift. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1937. Williams.725
  • Herman Teerink. A bibliography of the writings of Jonathan Swift. 2nd ed., edited by Arthur H. Scouten. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, [c1963]. B151.SWI.1