sub-fonds 460 - Papers of R. B. McKerrow

Identity area

Reference code

Add. MS a/460


Papers of R. B. McKerrow


  • 1910-33 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

12 items, in 3 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 three of his own publications, namely an offprint of ‘Some Notes on the Letters i, j, u and v in Sixteenth Century Printing’, reprinted from The Library, July 1910 (Adv. c. 25. 80), and his editions of John Weever, Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut and Newest Fashion, 1599 (1911) (Adv. c. 25. 81), and Greenes Newes both from Heauen and Hell, 1593, and Greenes Funeralls, 1594 (two texts in one volume) (1911) (Adv. c. 25. 82). These books were among a number of books and papers donated to the Library by McKerrow’s son Malcolm in September 1994.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The letters and papers in this group all relate either to the books from which they were removed or to similar literary and bibliographical subjects. Two of the books were part of an abortive series of reprints. This series was first brought to the notice of the public in 1910 in a prospectus (2/1) in which McKerrow announced his intention of producing a short series of reprints of Elizabethan and Jacobean tracts, to be published for the editor by Sidgwick and Jackson and printed at the Oxford University Press. Subscribers were sought for the initial set of six volumes, and de-tails of the first five were given (the sixth was to be announced later), but McKerrow pointed out that, although the first two volumes would be is-sued in any case, he could not proceed further with the project unless he received the names of at least 150 subscribers. The first two books—editions of John Weever’s Epigrammes in the Oldest Cut and Newest Fashion, 1599, and of Greenes Newes both from Heauen and Hell, 1593 and Greenes Funeralls, 1594 (two texts in one volume)—were in sub-scribers’ hands by September 1911 (2/4) and a notice of the proposed series appeared in Notes and Queries in November (2/5), but the condition for its continuance was apparently not met, for no further volumes were issued. McKerrow’s account of subscriptions (2/2) indicates—if it is complete—that orders for only sixty-five sets were received.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The documents are arranged in three files, according to the publication from which they were removed. Within each of these files the items are arranged in chronological order.

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. 80–2. 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. 457.

      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 2008.




          Accession area