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.