James M. Gibson research collection on Horace Howard Furness
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
James M. Gibson (born 1948) has written numerous books including the biography The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the Variorum Shakespeare. Gibson earned his B.A. in 1970 from Houghton College in New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. in English in 1974 and 1976 from the University of Pennsylvania. As a graduate student assistant in the Furness Shakespeare Library at Penn, Gibson's interest in Furness and his "New Variorum" was sparked. After earning his Ph.D., Gibson was a professor of English at Houghton College before moving with his novelist wife, Elizabeth Gibson, to Kent in England in 1984. In 1987, he began working as archivist for the Rochester Bridge Trust. He also worked as an archivist for the Richard Watts and City of Rochester Almshouse Charities as well as for the New College of Cobham. As of 2012, he was Senior Research Fellow in the School of History at the University of Kent.
In a book review of The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the Variorum Shakespeare (at Penn), Richard Knowles states that "Professor Gibson, with industry, informed judgment, and good taste, has quarried from a great mass of documents, mainly letters, not only all the facts one could want for a full history of this giant of Shakespearean scholarship and of his times, but also a generous selection of telling details that bring alive a wholly admirable human being," (Knowles, page 99).
Horace Howard Furness (1833-1912), son of William Henry Furness, an abolitionist and a theological scholar, and brother to architect Frank Furness, was a lawyer and an American Shakespeare scholar of the nineteenth century. He graduated from Harvard in 1854 and was admitted to the bar in 1859. According to Knowles, "growing deafness caused him to retire from legal practice and ... he devoted himself mainly to promoting Shakespeare--through writing and subsidizing the Variorum volumes, through collecting his priceless library (now at the University of Pennsylvania), through teaching in and helping to reorganize the University of Pennsylvania English Department, and through his famous readings to overflow theater and university audiences up and down the East Coast," (Knowles, page 98). In his "New Variorum," "he collected in a single source 300 years of references, antecedent works, influences and commentaries [and] he devoted more than 40 years to the series, completing the annotation of 15 plays,"(Ferruzi). The "New Variorum" was well received, and as of 1992, was "an indispensable synthesis of everything known and thought about individual plays up to the date of his edition," (Knowles, page 98). For more information on Horace Howard Furness, see Horace Howard Furness: Book Collector and Library Builder, by James M. Gibson.
Ferruzzi, Donna. "Founding of Furness Library as recalled by one of its founders, A. B. Geary." History Notes: Online Newsletter of the Nether Providence Historical Society (accessed 2018 January 24).
Knowles, Richard. Review of The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the Variorum Shakespeare, by James Gibson. Shakespeare Quarterly, Volume 43, No. 1 (Spring, 1992), pages 97-99.
This collection contains research materials collected and compiled by James M. Gibson for a biography of Horace Howard Furness, The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the Variorum Shakespeare, (at Penn), published in 1990. The bulk of this collection consists of photocopies of original nineteenth and early twentieth century documents made between roughly 1975 and 1985. This collection gathers hundreds of letters and articles that relate to H. H. Furness, from over fifty libraries and repositories, and illuminates Gibson's research and writing process.
The collection is arranged in four series: I. Correspondence and notes of James M. Gibson, II. Photocopied material arranged by institution housing the originals, III. Photocopied material arranged chronologically, and IV. Microfilm. Gibson's organizational scheme of this collection has been preserved.
The first series includes Gibson's correspondence and notes as he worked on his research. The bulk of the correspondence is to libraries and archives around the world, editors, and potential publishers. For the most part, the letters reflect the manner in which Gibson performed his research, directly contacting repositories of primary sources to determine if their holdings included material relating to Furness, requesting copies, and requesting permission to publish. In addition to the correspondence, researchers will find material that document his efforts to publish and include reference materials, documentation on methods and sources, financial information from the Horace Howard Furness Research Fund, loosely structured notes, a photograph of Furness in his library, and some photocopied Furness correspondence. "Furness Genealogy" maps the structure of the family through family trees, letters, articles, short biographies and excerpts from other scholarly works. "Problems" contains some handwritten notes, correspondence and source material. There is a partial draft with comments and notices of and reviews of Gibson's work.
The second and third series are both largely composed of copies of Furness' correspondence. In Series II, the the material is organized alphabetically by the repositories in which the originals were housed. These papers are mostly photocopies (or occasional transcriptions) of letters. A few letters between Gibson and archive librarians are also included, as well as some reprographic copies of articles. Series III. is organized chronologically by the date of the original materials, ranging from 1833 to 1972. While the originals were generally created during the 19th and early 20th centuries, all the photocopies were made circa 1975-1985. These materials are somewhat more eclectic, though they also consist mainly of Furness' transcribed letters. Also featured are some of Gibson's research correspondence, typewritten and handwritten notes, and copies of excerpts from books and journals. A few files contain some original primary source material (clippings, for the most part). Seemingly all of the letters in Series II have been transcribed and included in Series III, alongside additional sources; in other words, the information in Series II can also be found in Series III.
The final series in the collection contains ten reels of microfilm from various repositories.
Gift of John J. McGavin (boxes 13 and 14), 2018
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Rive Cadwallader
- Finding Aid Date
- 2018 January 18
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.