Skip to main content

Joseph Ritson collection

Call Number: GEN MSS 76
Scope and Contents

The Joseph Ritson Collection contains manuscript and printed material by and about the eighteenth-century antiquarian Joseph Ritson. The material spans the dates 1782-1824.

The collection has been divided into three sections. The first section, Joseph Ritson, consists of three volumes and nine folders of works and letters by Ritson. Volume 1 is a first edition of Bibliographia Poetica, annotated in two hands which have been identified as Ritson's and his nephew's. Ritson's interest in Scottish literature is reflected in Volumes 2 and 3. Volume 2 is the autograph manuscript of his unpublished Bibliographia Scotica. which he described as "a catalogue of historians and poets, native to Scotland, with the titles of their respective works." The listings include Latin authors, works still in manuscript. and pieces which appeared only in periodicals. Select Scotish Poems is the binder's title of Volume 3, a composite work assembled from sheets of two of Ritson's unpublished anthologies. The work opens with ninety-six pages titled Select Scotish Poems, followed by corrected and repaginated sheets of The Caledonian Muse, and four additional texts copied in Ritson's hand.

Letters by Ritson are located in Box 1, folders 2-9, and are largely devoted to bibliographical and literary subjects. An 1803 letter to George Chalmers contains questions about Scottish writers. Folders 8-9 hold transcripts of Ritson's letters to Joseph Cooper Walker. Topics include Irish literature; romances; Percy's ballads; spelling reform; the French Revolution; and Ritson's poor health and frequent depressions.

Section two consists of works by Ritson's biographer and colleague Joseph Haslewood. Volume 4 includes a printed copy and two manuscript drafts of Haslewood's 1824 life of Ritson. The more finished manuscript has been annotated and corrected by Thomas Park. Volume 4 also contains an index of Ritson's anthology of Percy's Reliques; the 1803 auction catalogue of Ritson's library; and several portraits and caricatures of Ritson. Volume 5 is another copy of Haslewood's biography, heavily annotated by Edith and T. G. Wright. The notes include information on the ladies mentioned in Ritson's "Verses Addressed to the Ladies of Stockton," and other biographical data.

Additional information on Ritson's life can be found in Section three, Other Papers. A short biographical sketch, tentatively attributed to Thomas Park, is located in folder 11. H. C. Selby's letter to Thomas Percy details rumors concerning Ritson's background, early unpopularity, and atheism. Folder 14 contains an account by Robert Smith of Ritson's final insanity, accompanied by a report by Selby of an interview with Smith.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Joseph Ritson Collection 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

Gift of Mrs. Bertrand H. Bronson, 1986.

1 Linear Feet ((1 box) + 5 volumes)
Related Names
Ritson, Joseph, 1752-1803
Language of Materials