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The Carl H. Pforzheimer collection of English manuscripts contains nearly 2,000 items dating from 1485 to 1844. While most manuscripts in this collection are indeed in English, it is also home to 200 pieces of correspondence written in French and Latin and a few items in Dutch, Italian, and Spanish. Most letters are written by or to members of the English nobility and aristocracy but there are several letters by notable Continentals such as Philip II, King of Spain and husband to Queen Mary (Bloody Mary) of England; Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor; kings of France from Francis I through Henry IV; and Isabella and Albert of Austria.
Highlights of the Pforzheimer collection include letters by Sir Walter Raleigh, English kings Henry VII and James I, Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys, and John Locke. There is also a group of letters and documents signed by Queen Elizabeth I of England pertaining to her ultimately failed marriage suit with François, Duke of Anjou. Literary connections in the collection include a letter each by seventeenth-century playwright William Congreve and by sixteenth-century poet John Donne, designs and letters by seventeenth-century diarist, essayist, and gardener John Evelyn, and a rare copy of Edmund Spenser’s Shepheardes Calendar translated into Latin. Many of these manuscripts are bound into unique extra-illustrated volumes assembled in the mid-nineteenth century that also contain rare artistic prints and portraiture, many of which are vividly colored.
Along with these diverse holdings, the largest portion of this collection includes manuscripts from the family of Sir Richard Bulstrode. Bulstrode was a British diplomat in the late seventeenth century whose son, Whitelocke Bulstrode, was a prominent religious essayist in the early eighteenth century. The collection holds drafts of many of Whitelocke’s works and additional documents from the Bulstrode family estate. Most importantly, however, the Pforzheimer collection preserves over 1,450 handwritten newsletters that were sent from offices in London to Richard Bulstrode between 1667 and 1689 while he was stationed in Brussels. These newsletters contained proprietary information for their subscribers about proceedings in parliament, activities of the military and royal family, and court gossip that could not be printed in public newspapers. As reciprocation for this service, Bulstrode and other subscribers around the English realm and Europe mailed accounts of news and politics from their host regions along with copies of local newspapers back to London. Together with a supplemental set of letters between Bulstrode, Joseph Williamson (the owner of the principal newsletter office), and the clerks who worked in Williamson’s office, the Pforzheimer collection preserves one of the world’s largest records of early correspondence journalism.
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