Skip to main content

Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson

Call Number: GEN MSS 664

Scope and Contents

The Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson, formed by Beinecke Library benefactor Edwin J. Beinecke, comprises the largest group of material by, about, and relating to author Robert Louis Stevenson in the world. In addition to Edwin J. Beinecke's research files, the collection contains correspondence, writings, documents, photographs, artwork, memorabilia, scrapbooks, and personal papers dating from 1828 to 1970, with the bulk of the collection dating from the 1870s through 1940s, and Stevenson's correspondence and writings dating from the 1870s to his death in 1894.

As George Leslie McKay notes in his preface to volume three of A Stevenson Library: Catalogue, Stevenson's "wanderings about the face of the earth" and "distances of thousands of miles" from friends and family, resulted in voluminous correspondence. The collection contains approximately 3,300 pieces of correspondence altogether, with 1,000 letters by Stevenson and 300 letters by his wife Fanny Van de Grift. The largest groups of Stevenson correspondence can be found for his parents, Thomas and Margaret Isabella Stevenson, editor Edward L. Burlingame, and friends Charles Baxter and Sidney Colvin. Other noteworthy correspondents include Stevenson's cousin Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson, his stepchildren Lloyd Osbourne and Isobel Field, collaborator William Ernest Henley, authors J. M. Barrie, Henry James, Andrew Lang, and Charles Warren Stoddard, the publisher Charles Scribner, and artists who made representations of Stevenson during the last decade of his life, Will Hicok Low, Auguste Rodin, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and John Singer Sargent. Given Stevenson's wanderings and distances from correspondents, not surprisingly, according to McKay, many Stevenson letters document "his health... what he ate and drank, the people he met... [his] states of mind, [and] the books he read and... wrote."

Series II. Manuscripts by Robert Louis Stevenson consists of writings and other materials, such as notes and lists, in Stevenson's hand. The collection contains drafts of "more than half the poems" to several collections of poetry, including both Underwoods (1887) and Songs of Travel and Other Verses (1896), and complete or partial drafts to several prose works, including Catriona (1893), The Ebb-Tide (1894), In the South Seas (1896) and St. Ives (1897). There are also portions to the last three chapters of Stevenson's popular Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).

Series III. Addition and Other Materials consists almost entirely of Stevenson related materials not documented in McKay's Catalogue. This includes the photographs, artwork, and memorabilia that came to the library in the early 1950s with the principal gifts of Edwin J. Beinecke's collection, as well as smaller gifts and purchases made through the 1960s. There are original photographs of Stevenson, family, and friends, many Stevenson homes and residences, and the areas in which he lived and travelled, as well as albums containing material relating chiefly to Stevenson's life in Samoa. Artistic representations of Stevenson include work by well-known artists working at the turn of the 20th century. Works include: oil and watercolor portraits by Girolamo Nerli and Percy F. S. Spence respectively; charcoal portraits by Nerli and John Singer Sargent; busts and reliefs by Gutzon Borglum, Allen Hutchinson, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens; and engravings, etchings, and woodcut and linoleum prints by Robert Bryden, Timothy Cole, Samuel Hollyer, Thomas Johnson, Joseph Simpson, and Samuel Johnson Woolf. In addition, there are original drawings and watercolors for book illustrations by Robert Browne, William Hole, George Varian, and R. Canton Woodville, as well as original drawings by James Renwick Brevoort and Erastus Salisbury Field.

Edwin J. Beinecke's research files contain correspondence and documents relating to his acquisition of Stevenson material. Volumes feature correspondence between Edwin J. Beinecke and his assistant, Gertrude Hills, and others, including book and manuscript dealers, publishers, libraries, and Stevenson scholars. Correspondents include Clayton Hamilton, Sanki Ichikawa, Archibald MacLeish, Vincent Starrett, and descendants of Stevenson's family and friends.


  • 1828 - 1970
  • Majority of material found within 1870 - 1940


Language of Materials

Chiefly in English; some materials in Samoan, French, and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile Papers in box 134 may be consulted only with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies or photographic prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Existence and Location of Copies

Microfilm for portions of the collection available from Access Services.

Conditions Governing Use

The Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson is 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

Acquired through various gifts and purchases from Edwin J. Beinecke from 1949 to 1970.


The collection is organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 185?-1953. II. Manuscripts, 1828-1960. III. Additions and Other Materials, 1876-1966. IV. Research Files, 1877-1970.

Associated Materials

Material related to Robert Louis Stevenson that was acquired by the library through sources other than Edwin J. Beinecke is located in the Robert Louis Stevenson Collection (GEN MSS 684).


54.23 Linear Feet ((136 boxes) + 12 art)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson contains correspondence, manuscripts, personal papers, and research files by, about, and relating to Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Robert Louis Stevenson was one of the most popular and prolific British writers of the late 19th century, the author of verse, novels, travel books, short stories, plays, and essays, including such titles as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island. There is considerable secondary literature on Stevenson, including book-length biographical studies, chronologies, and bibliographies. Summary information is available in the standard print and online biographical resources.

Processing Information

The Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson was first processed in the 1950s, during which time George Leslie McKay, curator and librarian at the Grolier Club (1924-1959), compiled a six volume Stevenson Library Catalogue in collaboration with Yale University Library staff and faculty. While the McKay Catalogue documents the three largest components of the collection, the printed materials, correspondence, and manuscripts, it does not account for: artwork, photographs, memorabilia, and other materials acquired with the principal gifts of the early to mid 1950s; additional gifts and purchases made by Edwin J. Beinecke for the collection until his death in 1970; or Edwin J. Beinecke's research files. The manuscript collection was reprocessed in 2009 in order to consolidate the various parts of the collection and to represent the collection through a single online guide. The arrangement documented in McKay's Catalogue has essentially been preserved. Printed materials described in volumes one, two, and six of the Catalogue form part of the Beinecke Library's printed collections and, with a few exceptions (503-505, 2576, and 7701), are not reflected in this guide. A significant number of books in the collection have been cataloged and can be found by searching the library's online catalog (Orbis). Other printed materials, such as journal articles and ephemera, have not been cataloged and can be found by paging material by McKay number. During reprocessing, materials acquired by the library (474, 2622, 6062 and 7580) through sources other than Edwin J. Beinecke were removed to the Robert Louis Stevenson Collection (GEN MSS 684).

This collection includes material formerly classed as Ms Vault Stevenson, Ms Vault Stevenson "Supplemental", Uncat Ms Vault File Stevenson, and Uncat Ms Vault 805.

Guide to the Edwin J. Beinecke Collection of Robert Louis Stevenson
Under Revision
by Michael L. Forstrom
December 7, 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

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.