Skip to Main Content

Literatures in English: Manuscripts & Archives

This page lists sources that cover multiple periods, genres, and/or nationalities. See additional resources in the "Historical Literary Period" and "Geographical Region" pages.

Guides to English Literary Manuscripts

Index of English Literary Manuscripts. Eds. P.J. Croft, Theodore Hofmann, and John Horden. London: Mansell; New York: Bowker, 1980-1997. Volume I: 1450-1625 (2 parts); Volume 2: 1625-1700 (2 parts). Vol.. 3: 1700-1800 (4 parts). Vol. 4: 1800-1900 (3 parts). A descriptive catalog of extant literary manuscripts of over 200 British and Irish authors who thrived from 1450 through the nineteenth century.  7th floor, PR 83 .I5

Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Ed. Davd C. Sutton. London: British Library, 1995. 2 vols.  Reference: PR Z 6611.L7 L625 1995

Ricci, Seymour de. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1935-1940 (3 vols). Supplement: New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1962.  A finding list of Western manuscripts created before 1600 that are owned by institutions and private collectors, arranged by state, city, institution or collector, with indexes at the back of volume 3. Not intended to be definitive (and many of the manuscripts in private collections have since changed hands), but this is still an important starting point for locating medieval and early modern manuscripts.  Available as an ebook from the American Council of Learned Society's (ACLS) ebook collection. UCSD's print set is at SRLF; there is also a set at SDSU's Love Library.

Location Register of 20th-Century English Literary Manuscripts and Letters. Maintained (as funding permits) by the University of Reading Library. The printed edition doesn't have the post-1988 updates that the database does, but may still be useful: Reference Z 6611 .L7 L63 1988 (2 volumes).


Online Finding Aids to Manuscripts and Archives (All Subjects)


Includes over 5 million records describing archival materials, bringing together information about historical documents, personal papers, family histories, and more. With over 1,000 different archival institutions represented, ArchiveGrid helps researchers looking for primary source materials held in archives, libraries, museums and historical societies.

Online Archive of California

The Online Archive of California (OAC) provides free public access to detailed descriptions of primary resource collections maintained by more than 200 contributing institutions including libraries, special collections, archives, historical societies, and museums throughout California and collections maintained by the 10 University of California (UC) campuses.

National Union Catalogu of Manuscript Collections

Archive Finder

British Library Manuscripts Catalogue

Searches in WorldCat may be limited to Archival Resources in its advanced search mode. For example, entering the author Brainard, Joe and limiting to Archival Materials will lead to catalog records (but not detailed finding aids) for collections containing his manuscripts, art works, and correspondence located in other writers' archives.


Manuscripts at UCSD

All manuscript collections at UCSD, including those formerly located at the Scripps Institution Of Oceanography's Library, are housed in Special Collections & Archives, located in the West Wing of the main (second) floor of Geisel Library. 

A small number of separate manuscripts, such as a single letter from one author to another that are not part of a larger archive, are cataloged separately in Roger, and there is no finding aid for these. However, the bulk of the manuscript collections are fairly extensive collections, consisting of from one to over one hundred archival boxes of materials, and each of these collections is accompanied by a finding aid that describes the scope and arrangement of the collection and provides a box-by-box, folder-by-folder (but not item-by-item) listing of the contents of the collection. To see an alphabetical list of these manuscript collections' finding aids, along with another list arranged by major collection strength (e.g. Archive for New Poetry or Baja California), click here.

Because of the irreplaceable nature of manuscripts and their fragility, users of manuscripts must fill out a registration card before consulting them. Signing this card also commits you to following rules for using them and, where copying is permitted, requesting any copies. Read these Rules for Readers here and details of our Duplication Policy here.  

Guides to American Literary Manuscripts

American Literary Manuscripts: A Checklist of Holdings in Academic, Historical, and Public Libraries, Museums, and Authors' Homes in the United States. 2nd ed. Comp. by J. Albert Robbins et al. Athens: U. of Georgia Press, 1977.  A guide to the location of manuscripts of approximately 2800 American writers in approximately 600 institutions. Although this book is old, manuscripts typically don't leave an institution once they're there, so the information is still accurate except for the addition of manuscripts to institutions since about 1975. Reference PS 88 .M6 1977

Women's History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States. Ed. Andrea Hinding and Ames Sheldon Bower. NY: Bowker, 1979, 2 vols.  Although not strictly a guide to literary manuscripts, a considerable number of the entries in this guide are to archival materials of women writers.  6th floor: HQ 1410 .W64 1979

Subject Headings for Manuscript Guides

As with every other topic, there are standard Library of Congress subject headings (LCSH) to help you discover finding aids to manuscripts and archival collections as well as books ABOUT manuscripts and archives. Here are some examples:

English literature--Manuscripts--Catalogs

Manuscripts, English (Old)

Manuscripts, Medieval--[Country, e.g. England]

Manuscripts, American--Facsimiles

Twain, Mark, 1835-1910--Manuscripts

Whitman, Walt, 1819-1892--Manuscripts--Facsimiles