H. H. Furness Memorial Library manuscript collection
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
The H.H. Furness Memorial Library is devoted to the study of Shakespeare and other Tudor and Stuart dramatists. Horace Howard Furness, a Shakespearean scholar responsible for the New Variorum, and his son, Horace Howard Furness, Jr., who continued to work on Variorum Shakespeare after his father's death, accumulated a library that was donated to the University of Pennsylvania in 1932. In the process of their research and work on Shakespearean scholarship, they corresponded with many other scholars. This collection consists largely of material related to Shakespeare studies and the Memorial Library, but also contains some Furness family correspondence and material, in particular the correspondence and writings of William Henry Furness, father of Horace Howard Furness. This collection should be used closely with the Furness family papers (Ms. Coll. 481), as there is significant overlap.
William Henry Furness (1802-1896) was a Unitarian minister, abolitionist, and biblical critic. The son of William Furness (a bank clerk), and Rebecca Thwing, he was born and educated in Boston. While he was a student of the Boston Latin school, Furness met Ralph Waldo Emerson, with whom he developed a friendship that he would cultivate for the rest of his life. He graduated from Harvard College in 1820, and from the Harvard Divinity School in 1823. In the spring of 1824, Furness moved to Baltimore to work as an assistant to Rev. W. H. Greenwood. A few months later, the Unitarian Society of Philadelphia (which had remained without a designated minister since its foundation in 1796) invited Furness to preach, and in January 1825, he took charge of the Society, becoming its only pastor. That same year, William married Annis Pulling Jenks, with whom he would have four children: William Henry Furness, Jr. (1827-1867), a portrait painter; Annis Lee Furness (1830-1908), an author and translator; Horace Howard Furness (1833-1912), a Shakespeare scholar; and Frank Heyling Furness (1839-1912), an architect. Furness maintained his position as a pastor of the Philadelphia Unitarian Church for fifty years, until he resigned in 1875. Shortly after, however, he was appointed minister emeritus until his death in 1896. Furness was a staunch supporter of the antislavery cause, and, in 1859, he participated in a Philadelphia public prayer vigil for abolitionist John Brown. He authored several books on the gospels and the figure of Jesus, whose miracles are discussed according to rational principles. Among his most notable works are Notes on the Four Gospels (1836), The History of Jesus (1853), The Blessing of Abolition (1860), and Jesus, The Heart of Christianity (1882).
Horace Howard Furness (1833-1912) was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Harvard in 1854. After graduation, he undertook a two-year tour of Europe, Asia, and Africa with Atherton Blight, his former college roommate. Upon his return to Philadelphia, he became involved in the abolitionist movement. He was admitted to the bar in 1859, and he married Helen Kate Rogers (1837-1883) the following year. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Horace attempted, with his brother Frank, to enroll in the army as a volunteer. While Frank joined the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Horace was rejected because of a growing deafness that developed after contracting scarlet fever in Europe. During the war, however, Furness joined the U.S. Sanitary Commission, a war relief organization created in 1861 to provide support to wounded soldiers and their families. During this time, Furness's deafness began to negatively influence his career as a lawyer, which he eventually abandoned to begin studying and collecting Shakespearian texts. In November 1860, he became a member of the Shakspere Society of Philadelphia, and in the following years, he gradually created his own working library of Shakespearian texts. In 1871, he produced the first volume of the New Variorum Shakespeare, an edition of Romeo and Juliet. The series was designed to bring together all known information about the plays' textual variants, sources, and critical reception. During his career, Furness published sixteen additional Variorum volumes, establishing an international reputation as a Shakespeare scholar. In 1880, he became a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania. Furness received honorary degrees from many institutions, including Cambridge University, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and University of Göttingen (Ph.D.). Furness died in 1912 in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, where he had permanently resided since 1894. Furness's family shared his enthusiasm for Shakespeare. His wife, Helen Kate Furness, was responsible for compiling A Concordance to Shakespeare's Poems (1874), and his son Horace Howard Furness Jr. (1865-1930) took up the project of editing subsequent Variorum editions after his father's death. Besides Horace Howard Jr, Horace and Helen had three children: Walter Rogers Furness (1861-1914), who in 1896 became a partner in the architecture firm of his uncle, Frank; William Henry Furness III (1866-1920), an explorer and ethnologist; and Caroline Augusta Furness (1873-1909), an ethnologist. For more information on Horace Howard Furness, see the article "Horace Howard Furness: Book Collector and Library Builder," and the biography The Philadelphia Shakespeare Story: Horace Howard Furness and the New Variorum Shakespeare (New York: AMS Press, 1990), both by James M. Gibson.
Horace Howard Furness, Jr. (1865-1930) graduated from Harvard in 1888, but before approaching the Variorum project, he studied music at the University of Pennsylvania and taught physics at Episcopal Academy from 1891 to 1901. Macbeth, the first revised edition in the Variorum series under his editorship, was produced in 1903. He became a trustee of the University of Pennsylvania in 1929. Furness donated his family's collection of books, letters, and memorabilia to the University of Pennsylvania, at the time of his death. With the gift came funds to build a space on campus to house the collection. Dedicated on April 23, 1932, and originally housed in the main library building (now the Anne & Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library), the Memorial Library was moved to Van Pelt Library in 1962 and reconstructed in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts in 2013.
The Horace Howard Furness Memorial Library manuscript collection consists mainly of personal correspondence to and from Rev. William Henry Furness; Horace Howard Furness; and Horace Howard Furness, Jr. It also includes several notebooks, copies of speeches and articles, and other assorted items relating to Shakespearean scholarship or to the Furness family. The collection was divided into four separate series. Series I-III include materials relating to William Henry Furness (series I), Horace Howard Furness, Sr. (series II), and Horace Howard Furness, Jr. (series III). Series IV includes letters between other correspondents, and additional materials including ephemera, clippings, images, and writings on Shakespeare and on other subjects. Researchers are encouraged to perform keyword searches for individual names or organizations. For more information on each group of materials, please refer to the descriptive notes associated to each series.
The bulk of the collection was donated by the Furness family after the death of Horace Howard Furness, Jr. in 1930. The collection was later expanded through further acquisitions, the latest in 2013.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Siel Agugliaro
- Finding Aid Date
- 2018 September 19
- 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.