Johnson’s letters, scanned

I briefly pop my head up out of an excruciatingly busy semester to note that Harvard is in the process of scanning their collection of Johnson’s letters. From the OASIS website:

This collection consists of 746 letters and fragments written by Johnson between 1731 and 1784, and manuscript transcripts and reproductions of other Johnson letters which are unavailable elsewhere. It is the largest single collection of Johnson’s letters in existence, comprising nearly half of the known surviving letters. It includes 232 letters to Johnson’s most regular correspondent, his friend Hester Lynch Thrale (later Hester Lynch Piozzi), from 1765 until Johnson ceased his correspondence with her in 1784.
Other particularly noteworthy correspondents were actor David Garrick (1717-1779); the painters Frances Reynolds (1729-1807) and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792); and novelist Samuel Richardson (1689-1761). Regular correspondents represented most heavily in the collection include Mrs. Thrale’s daughter Hester (later Hester Maria Elphinstone, Viscountess Keith, 1764-1857); friend and protege Bennet Langton (1737-1801); stepdaughter Lucy Porter (1715-1786); and boyhood friend John Taylor (1711-1788).

So far, only a fraction of these letters has been scanned, but they appear to be working through their collection to make them available to the public. If you scroll down on their site, you’ll see links to color facsimiles from this collection. (I’m particularly fond of this one.) And I’ll also put a link in our resources sidebar, so if you’re looking for it later, it will be here.

-Carrie Shanafelt


4 responses to “Johnson’s letters, scanned

  1. David Mazella

    Hey Carrie,

    Thanks for alerting us to this, and hope things are going OK this term. Let us know how your classes etc. are going. And thanks for updating the Collaborative Readings as well!

    Best wishes,


  2. I will! I know I’ve been off the map for a while, but I have plenty of exciting updates about my teaching this semester. In addition to my regular Brit Lit survey at Queens College, CUNY, I’ve been doing the Gothic Novel at Stern College for Women of Yeshiva University, and it’s been a blast. We’re finishing up Caleb Williams now and about to start Wieland, about which I am way too excited.

    And I’m very much enjoying lurking in on the Roach conversation! This sounds like a book I need to be reading.

  3. Please also take a look at this blog maintained by a cataloger working with this collection.

  4. David Mazella

    Thanks, Minerva, for pointing out this blog. Please let us know if you come upon any other library/rare books and manuscripts/cataloguing blogs that might interest Long 18th folks. Best, DM