Fonds MCKW - Papers of R. B. McKerrow

Identity area

Reference code



Papers of R. B. McKerrow


  • 1858–1945 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

12 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Ronald Brunlees McKerrow was born in Putney in 1872, the son of a civil engineer, and was educated at Harrow, King’s College, London, and Trinity College, Cambridge. After leaving university he spent three years teaching English in Tokyo before beginning a period of intense literary and bibliographical study, largely at the British Museum, two important results of which were his edition of the works of Thomas Nashe (1904-10) and his Notes on Bibliographical Evidence (1914). The latter, revised as An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (1927), became a standard work. From 1914 McKerrow also gave lectures in English literature, and later bibliography, at King’s College, London. In 1917 he was appointed managing director of the publishers Sidgwick & Jackson, and this was his main occupation till his death, but he was also honorary secretary of the Bibliography Society from 1912 to 1934, editor of the Review of English Studies (which he founded) from 1925 to 1940, and editor of The Library from 1934 to 1937. In 1929 he accepted an invitation to prepare an edition of Shakespeare for the Clarendon Press, but, though he prepared a good deal of material, only a general textual introduction ever saw print.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The collection came into the library as two separate accessions—the first from McKerrow’s family in the 1990s; the second, though ultimately from the same source, from an auction sale about 2005. No records were kept of the respective contents of the two accessions and they have been catalogued as a single archive.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

This collection contains correspondence of McKerrow, mainly relating to bibliography and English literature, with various writings by him on the same subjects; early attempts at fiction, verse, and drama; and some personal papers. There are also some family papers, including papers relating to the firm of Brunlees & McKerrow and the estate of Sir James Brunlees, and letters written by McKerrow’s son Malcolm during the Second World War, describing his experiences with the Non-Combatant Corps and the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The collection has been divided into four main classes—correspondence, writings, personal papers, and family papers. Some of the files within these classes represent original groupings of documents; others are artificial. See the notes at file-level.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

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      Physical characteristics and technical requirements

      Finding aids

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Related units of description

      Another accession of McKerrow papers is catalogued as Add. MS a. 355. The Library also holds McKerrow’s own annotated copies of some of his publications (Adv. c. 25. 72–82), and loose papers extracted from these have been catalogued as Add. MS a. 457 and Add. MS a. 460.

      Publication note

      Notes area


      Alternative identifier(s)

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      Rules and/or conventions used

      In descriptions of ‘extent and medium’, a ‘single sheet’ is a single unfolded leaf of paper comprising 2 pages; a ‘folded sheet’ is a sheet of paper folded once, comprising 2 leaves and 4 pages.


      Level of detail

      Dates of creation revision deletion

      This catalogue was compiled by A. C. Green in 2007.




          Accession area