Yale digitizes historic correspondence of Horace Walpole

Yale's Lewis Walpole Library has digitized the complete 48 volumes of "The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence" (Yale University Press, 1937-1983).
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Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library has digitized the complete 48 volumes of “The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence” (Yale University Press, 1937-1983).

This new digital resource provides free online access to the complete correspondence of Horace Walpole (1717-1797). An author and collector, Walpole is best known for his Gothic villa called Strawberry Hill, which was built along the Thames River and attracted so much attention that it was considered a “treasure house.” Walpole was the youngest son of Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first prime minister.

The digitization of this scholarly work coincides with the 294th anniversary of Walpole’s birthday in September.

Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis ‘18 B.A. dedicated nearly half a century to producing the “Yale Edition,” which set a new standard for scholarly editing by providing an authoritative text, extensive and informative annotations as well as a comprehensive index. The appendices include a wealth of supplementary texts, including writings by Walpole and several of his correspondents.

The “Edition” is considered a major contribution to the political and cultural history of Britain and remains a central resource for 18th-century studies. At the time of its publication, The New York Times praised the project for “transport[ing] us in time and space to Walpole’s England, with its politics, its literature, its society, and its gossip.”

According to Lewis’ preface of the first volume, the “primary intention” of the “Edition” is “to facilitate the studies of scholars in the 18th century. Sooner or later, the 18th-century scholar, be his subject what it may, must consult Walpole’s correspondence.”

To create the digital version of “The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence,” each page of the printed volumes was scanned and run through optical character recognition (OCR) processing to allow scholars to browse pages as well as search the text for keywords. In addition, users can browse indexes created from the OCR text, including indexes by date of correspondence and by name of correspondent as well as indexes to the illustrations and appendices.

The Lewis Walpole Library, a department of the Yale University Library since 1980, is an internationally recognized research collection in the field of British 18th-century studies. Located in Farmington, Connecticut, the library runs an active fellowship program and sponsors conferences, lectures, classes and exhibitions in cooperation with other Yale libraries and departments.

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345