Digital Exhibition: Rare Books in the EFL

As part of the Oxford Google Books project around 2,000 out-of-copyright texts from the rare book room at the EFL have been digitized. These are available to view through SOLO as digital documents. This digital exhibition highlights several of the most used items and authors in the English Faculty Library’s Rare Book Room which are available online as digitized copies as a result of the Google project. The items from the room have been used for a variety of purposes including teaching, digital projects, exhibitions and individual research.

Firstly, the poetical works of Percy Shelley. Posthumous Poems (1824) was edited by Mary Shelley who collected his scattered poems from manuscripts, poems written in the moment and translations written years prior to his death. Mary prefaces the collection, explaining her process of collecting and editing the work as well as giving a short account of Percy’s life.

The volume is split into several sections including miscellany, fragments and a substantial number of translations. Included within the collection is the poem ‘To—’ which is now more known as ‘Music, when soft voices die’. The poem has inspired compositions which set music to the lyrics.


William Wordsworth’s work from the Rare Book Room has also been frequently consulted in the EFL. The most popular of his works consulted include his Poems, The Excursion and Lyrical Ballads across various editions. Among these the most popular text is Lyrical Ballads, which was produced by Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge in collaboration. Available to view digitally is the EFL’s edition of the Lyrical Ballads: with other poems, a second edition of the work published in 1800 which consists of two volumes.

Initially the Lyrical Ballads were published anonymously until the second edition which names Wordsworth as creator. Coleridge contributes a small number of poems to the work including The Ancient Mariner, although he is only listed as a Friend in the preface, rather than being referred to by name.

The 1800 second edition’s first volume also includes the preface which having been much expanded upon since the first edition sets out key characteristics of the poetry from the Romantic movement. The essay is described as a ‘critical manifesto…providing a lengthy theoretical justification for the works to follow’, (Butler 2003: 48).


Front piece from Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility. 1833.

Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility (first published in 1811 in three volumes) is the most consulted work of hers from the rare book room when considering usage of both the 1813 and 1833 editions. It has primarily been used for teaching within the faculty.


Available as a digitized version is the 1833 edition which is a single volume published by Richard Bentley (who established the journal Bentley’s Miscellany). It is number 23 of Bentley’s Standard Novels series which set out to bring together multipart-volume novels into one book. Many of Austen’s other works was also published in this series in 1833.

Beginning this edition of the text is a series of advertisements including ‘An Improved Edition of the Plays and Poems of Shakespeare’ and translations of Greek and Latin texts from the ‘Family Classic Library’. This is followed by an unattributed memoir of Austen’s life, which was written by Henry Austen.


Title page vignette from Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility. 1833.

Significant to this particular edition is the feature of illustrations, as Looser states that Bentley’s Standard Novel editions provided ‘the first mass-produced visualizations of her novel’ (Looser 2017: 19). The illustrations depict moments from the novel and are accompanied by quotes from the novel to which they refer. They were designed by a ‘Pickering’ and engraved by William Greatbatch. These same two worked on the other illustrations for Bentley’s Standard Novel editions of Austen’s work.






Illustration from Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist; or, The parish boy’s progress. 1838. George Cruikshank.

Finally, Charles Dickens has a number of works from the rare book room which have been popular for consultation over the years. Among these is Oliver Twist, which was first serialized between 1837-1839 in Bentley’s Miscellany. The full narrative was published in three volumes, prior to the completion of its serialization.


Illustration from Charles Dickens. Sketches by Boz. 1839. George Cruikshank.

Available to view as a digitized edition, is the EFL’s three volume edition from 1838, Oliver Twist; or, The parish boy’s progress. It was published by the same Richard Bentley who published the work of Austen referenced earlier in this digital exhibition. This edition appears under Dickens’ pseudonym ‘Boz’. The edition features illustrations by George Cruikshank, who also illustrated Dickens’ Mudfog Papers (1837-38), and Sketches by Boz which was first published in 1836. The 1839 edition of Sketches by Boz from the EFL is also available as a digital version.





To explore more digitized copies of texts available across the Bodleian and college libraries when searching SOLO, filter the collection type by digitized copies.




Links to Full Works

Austen, J. (1833). Sense and Sensibility : A Novel.
Dickens, C., & Cruikshank, G. (1838). Oliver Twist; Or, The Parish Boy’s Progress.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, & Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. (1824). Posthumous Poems.

Wordsworth, W., Coleridge, S., Rees, O., & Biggs, N. (1800). Lyrical Ballads, : With Other Poems. In Two Volumes. Volume 1Volume 2


  • Butler, J. (2003). Poetry 1798-1807: Lyrical Ballads and Poems, in Two Volumes. In S. Gill (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Wordsworth (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 38-54). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Looser, D. (2017). The Making of Jane Austen. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

This digital exhibition has been curated by Emma Jambor – EFL Graduate Trainee 2019-20

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