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Frank Percy Wilson Papers

Call Number: OSB MSS 157

Scope and Contents

The Frank Percy Wilson Papers document part of Wilson's scholarly career and include research correspondence and subject files, particularly for articles and papers on Shakespearean topics and on the book Tabacco. Also included are a large alphabetical file of notes for various publication projects; research material for the Facsimile of the Shakespeare First Folio and the British Academy biography of Sir E. K. Chambers; papers relating to the estate of fellow Shakespearean Walter Wilson Greg; and seventeen boxes of note cards and note slips on Elizabethan words and word usage.


  • 1912-1961


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Frank Percy Wilson Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased by James Marshall Osborn from Mrs. Frank Percy Wilson, 1963; bequest of James Marshall Osborn, 1976.


Organized into five series: I. Correspondence and Research Notes, 1912-1961. II. W. W. Greg's Publications and Estate, 1924-1961. III. Miscellanous Notes, undated. IV. Research Cards, undated. V. Research Slips, undated.


13.13 Linear Feet (28 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Frank Percy Wilson Papers contain correspondence, research files, and notes for articles and projected longer works, including an edition of Tabacco; the British Academy biography of E. K. Chambers; and works on Elizabethan vocabulary and proverbs.

Frank Percy Wilson (1889-1963)

Frank Percy Wilson was born in Birmingham, England, the youngest of nine children. He took a first class in English (1911) and an M.A.(1912) at the University of Birmingham, and a B.Litt from Lincoln College, Oxford in the following year. Wilson's thesis was on Thomas Dekker. He volunteered for the Army in September 1914, and was badly wounded at the battle of the Somme in July 1916, spending over a year in the hospital and enduring repeated surgeries. After brief service as the Minister of Food, he returned to his scholarly career. Wilson was appointed as a university lecturer at Oxford in 1923, and as reader in 1927. He was subsequently professor of English at the University of Leeds (1929-1936); Hildred Carlisle Professor of English Literature at Bedford College, London (1936-1947); and finally Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford (1947-1957).

Wilson's academic specialty was Elizabethan language and literature, and he published many papers and articles on the subject during his lifetime, including Illustrations of Social Life, Shakespeare and the New English Bibliography, The Jestbooks of the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries, Shakespeare and the Diction of Common Life, and Shakespeare and the New Bibliography. From 1935 on he served, with Bonamy Dobrée, as general editor of the Oxford History of English Literature. His own volume in the series, English Drama 1485-1585, appeared posthumously in 1969, edited by G. K. Hunter. He also served as general editor of the Malone Society from 1948 until 1960.

Wilson married Joanna Perry-Keene, one of his Oxford students, in 1924; the couple had four children. Joanna Wilson shared his interest in Elizabethan proverbs and sayings, and worked with him for many years to prepare the third edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (1970), which was published after Wilson's death with her introduction.

Processing Information

Boxes 1-10 of the Frank Percy Wilson Papers were housed, arranged and listed by a curatorial assistant in the 1980s, and this list has been preserved in this finding aid. Boxes 11-28 received a basic level of processing, including rehousing and minimal organization, in 2010. The arrangement of the material reflects the order of the files as they were acquired by the library.

Guide to the Frank Percy Wilson Papers
by Hugh Kennedy and Beinecke Staff
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.