Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle

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The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle
Established 1986
Location New York, New York
Other information
Staff 2
Website Pforzheimer Collection

The Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle is one of the special collections housed within The New York Public Library's Stephen A. Schwarzman building. One of the world's leading repositories for the study of English Romanticism, its holdings consist of some 25,000 books, manuscripts, letters, and other objects, chiefly from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its curator is Dr. Elizabeth Campbell Denlinger, and its assistant curator is Charles Cuykendall Carter.

The Collection was the creation of the financier Carl H. Pforzheimer, Sr. (1879–1957), a founder of the American Stock Exchange who amassed a large fortune on Wall Street as a specialist in Standard Oil stock. Pforzheimer took a special interest in the lives and works of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his contemporaries, including his second wife, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, her parents, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, and such friends and fellow writers as Lord Byron, Teresa Guiccioli, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, Leigh Hunt, Thomas Love Peacock, Horace Smith, and Edward John Trelawny. Besides the books and manuscripts of the Shelley circle, the Collection offers a wide range of collateral materials, among which are writings by other literary figures of the period, biographies, criticism, political and scientific treatises, grammars, dictionaries, almanacs, and business directories. In addition, the Collection brings together topical pamphlets, broadsides, and other ephemera related to issues of the day such as the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 and the 1820 adultery trial of the Queen Caroline-events which prompted responses in verse by both Shelley and Byron.

Because of its extensive Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley holdings, materials concerning women have always formed an important component of the Pforzheimer Collection. Books and manuscripts by many lesser-known female writers of the period can be found along with "advice books," manuals on child-rearing, etiquette, and domestic economy, and a number of key proto-feminist texts. Political radicalism, British reaction to the French Revolution, European travel, and publishing history are some of the other subjects covered by the Collection.

The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation, Inc. donated the Shelley and His Circle Collection to the New York Public Library in 1986. Today, the Collection continues actively to acquire books and manuscripts relating to major and minor figures of the Romantic era, as well as works that illuminate the social, political, and cultural history of the age.

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