The Arch C. Elias bequest of Jonathan Swift material

Frontispiece portrait of Swift from The Works of J.S, D.D, D.S.P.D. in four volumes …, Dublin, 1735. OLS L-11-396

This summer saw the completion of cataloguing of printed items from the Arch C. Elias bequest. This outstanding collection of material by and about Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) was bequeathed to the Library in 2008 by Dr Archibald C. Elias, Jr (1944-2008).

Elias was an independent scholar from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who published widely on Swift and his circle. During the course of his work he assembled a magnificent collection of books and manuscripts which he divided between two institutions, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Pennsylvania. Elias was a frequent visitor to our Library and bequeathed his impressive 18th– and 19th-century Swift and Swiftiana collection, along with 20th-century reference material, some working papers and a small number of notable manuscripts.

Treasures from the bequest to Trinity include Esther Johnson’s autograph word-book (held in our Manuscripts & Archives) and Swift’s first political tract, A discourse of the contests and dissensions between the nobles and the commons in Athens and Rome … (London, 1701). The latter, a first issue from the first edition, bears the name of Rebecca Dingley (Esther Johnson’s companion) on the title-page and contains manuscript corrections, possibly in Swift’s hand. This pamphlet is digitised in full and available to view online in our Digital Collections repository.

Title-page of Swift’s pamphlet The publick spirit of the Whigs … , London, 1714. OLS X-4-21 no.1

The collection contains significant 18th-century editions of Swift’s output. Holdings include:

During the 1690s Swift acted as secretary to the retired English statesman Sir William Temple (1628-1699) at Moor Park in Surrey, and oversaw the publication of his patron’s Letters (1700-1703). Elias’s first book was his detailed study Swift at Moor Park (Philadelphia, 1982) and his bequest contains numerous editions of Temple’s Letters along with late 17th– and early 18th-century editions of Temple’s other publications including: Observations upon the United Provinces of the Netherlands (London, 1673), Miscellanea parts I, II & III (London 1680-1701), Memoirs of what past in Christendom (London 1692, published 1691) and An introduction to the history of England (London, 1695), all featuring in multiple editions, some in French.

The collection contains works by Swift’s eminent contemporaries and fellow satirists, including Alexander Pope (1688-1744), John Arbuthnot (1667-1735) and John Gay (1685-1732), and features numerous London and Dublin editions of the important Swift-Pope Miscellanies in prose and verse (1727-1732) which mark the first appearance of several works in print.

Elias bequeathed editions by Swift’s early biographers including those by John Boyle, 5th Earl of Orrery (1707-1762), by Patrick Delany (1685?-1768), by Swift’s own younger cousin Deane Swift (1707-1783), by John Hawkesworth (1715?-1773), and by Swift’s godson Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788). Lord Orrery produced the first book-length study of Swift, his uncomplimentary Remarks on the life and writings of Dr. Jonathan Swift, which appeared in parallel Dublin and London editions from 1751. Elias owned no less than 10 editions (having researched its first printing), typically with at least two copies from each edition.

A heavily-annotated spread from John Nichols’s copy of Letters, written by the late Jonathan Swift, D.D. …, London, 1766. OLS L-11-584

The collection contains some notable provenances including two volumes from Hawkesworth’s edition of Swift’s Letters (vol. 1 and vol. 6), with copious manuscript notes (particularly on Swift’s Journal to Stella) by the printer-editor John Nichols which were used in his 1801 edition of Swift’s Works. The bequest also boasts two pamphlets owned by Swift: The new association. Part. II by Charles Leslie (London, 1703) and The true Tom Double (London, 1704?) attributed to Francis Atterbury.

Elias inserted index cards into several of his books, some of which are stored alongside their respective volumes. Researchers should note however that the bulk of archival material found inserted in his volumes is now stored in Manuscripts & Archives, along with any working papers that came with the bequest. The following printed items are also in the care of Manuscripts & Archives under shelfmark TCD MS 11611:

  • Elias’s annotated copies of The poems of Jonathan Swift (Oxford, 1958) and The correspondence of Jonathan Swift (Oxford, 1965 and 1972), both edited by Harold Williams, and his annotated copies from the series The prose writings of Jonathan Swift edited by Herbert Davis (Oxford 1959-1968)
  • Elias’s heavily-annotated copy of the second edition of H. Teerink’s Bibliography of the writings of Jonathan Swift edited by Arthur H. Scouten (Philadelphia, 1963).

The printed items are available for online searching in the Library’s Stella Search and can be requested on green call slips for consultation in the reading room of the Department of Early Printed Books and Special Collections. A keyword search under ‘Arch C. Elias bequest’ (refined by ‘Library catalogue only’) retrieves some 597 hits.  All hand-press items (printed before 1820) have been given full collation formulae and all pre-1801 printed items have been reported to the English Short Title Catalogue.

This impressive collection offers researchers the opportunity to consult and compare not only multiple editions of a work, but multiple copies from the same edition with different impressions, issues and states, and adds significantly to the Library’s already important Swift holdings. The bequest was showcased as part of the Library’s Swift350 celebrations in 2017. Readers may also enjoy the collaborative online exhibition Discovering the Dean: Jonathan Swift, Trinity College and Dublin City.