sub-fonds 457 - Papers of R. B. McKerrow

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS a/457


Papers of R. B. McKerrow


  • 1912-57 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

80 items, in 6 folders

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

These letters and papers were found loose in McKerrow’s annotated copies of four of his own publications, namely The Works of Thomas Nashe (5 vols., 1904–10) (Adv. c. 25. 72–6), Notes on Bibliographical Evidence (1914) (Adv. c. 25. 77), An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (1927) (Adv. c. 25. 78), and his edition of The Devil’s Charter, by Barnabe Barnes (1904) (Adv. c. 25. 79). The list below shows the items removed from each volume. In many cases there is no apparent connection between an item and the place where it was found.

Works of Nashe, vol. i, inside front cover: 3/1–2; p. 56: 1/8, 3/3–5; p. 310: 3/6

Works of Nashe, vol. ii, p. 88: 3/7–12; p. 222: 3/13

Works of Nashe, vol. iii, p. 38: 3/14; p. 72: 1/4, 1/7, 3/15–23; p. 222: 3/24

Works of Nashe, vol. iv, p. 174: 1/1, 3/25–7; p. 454: 1/10

Works of Nashe, vol. v, inside front cover: 3/28–9; p. iv: 3/30; p. 14: 3/31; p. 118: 3/32; p. 152: 1/5–6, 1/9, 3/33–6; p. 196: 1/3; p. 198: 1/2

Notes on Bibliographical Evidence, inside front cover: 4/1–2; before p. 1: 4/3; p. 34: 4/4; p. 40: 4/5; p. 100+1 (interleaved): 4/6

Introduction to Bibliography, p. iv: 5/1; p. vi: 2/4–5, 2/7, 2/9, 5/2–3; p. 34: 2/1–3, 2/6; p. 42: 5/4; p. 44: 5/5; p. 84: 5/6; p. 130: 5/7; p. 170: 5/8; p. 260: 2/8, 5/9; p. 276: 2/3

The Devil’s Charter, p. x: 6/1–2; p. 4: 6/3–4; p. 36: 6/5–6; p. 44: 6/7–9; p. 116: 6/10

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

These letters and papers in this group all relate either to the works from which they were removed or to similar literary and bibliographical subjects.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The letters, which were all removed from either the Works of Nashe or Notes on Bibliographical Evidence, have been separated from the other papers and arranged in two files (Add. MS a. 457/1–2). Within each of these files the items are arranged in chronological order. The remaining papers have been divided into four files corresponding to the four works from they were removed (Add. MS a. 457/3–6). Within each of these files the items are arranged in the order in which they were found. No specific dates have been assigned to them; indeed, very few are dated. The earliest dated item among them is from 1903.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

    Script of material

      Language and script notes

      Physical characteristics and technical requirements

      Finding aids

      Allied materials area

      Existence and location of originals

      Existence and location of copies

      Related units of description

      The printed books from which the present papers were removed are Adv. c. 25. 72–82. The main series of McKerrow’s papers is catalogued under the reference MCKW, and other of McKerrow’s papers are catalogued as Add. Ms. a. 355 and Add. Ms. a. 460.

      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