The library holds early editions of works by women, mostly in English, and mostly within the period 1600-1830. Many of these works are rare and in some cases unique.

First edition of A serious proposal to the ladies by Mary Astell, frequently referred to as the first English feminist

First edition of A serious proposal to the ladies by Mary Astell, frequently referred to as the first English feminist

To name a few of the many writers held in the collection, they include Penelope Aubin, Aphra Behn, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Hannah More, Sydney Owenson, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Robinson, Mary Shelley, Frances Sheridan, Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft.The diversity of women’s writing during this period is clear from the holdings of novels, poetry, drama, published letters, memoirs, and writing on a whole range of subjects including history, travel, medicine, botany, cookery and much more. Women also played a vital part in debates about female education in this period and the collection contains educational works, advice manuals and children’s literature.

The collection also holds some works not necessarily written by women but pertaining to the lives and experience of women, such as female conduct manuals.

The main collection is supported by a selection of modern critical and reference material. We also have a collection of secondary books on the Brontës, kindly donated by Tony Yablon, along with a range of ephemera, and a collection of secondary books on Austen donated by Deirdre Le Faye.

Explore the collection:

  • Library Catalogue

    Search the Heritage Online catalogue.

  • Women Writer Biographies

    Explore our growing collection of biographies providing insight into women writers’ lives and works. With grateful thanks to our contributors.

  • Manuscripts

    See a full list of the manuscripts in the collection [Word doc].

  • Yablon archive of Brontë ephemera

    See the full Bronte archive [Word doc], including magazines, film posters and adverts, theatre playbills and newspaper clippings.

  • Novels Online

    Browse through the collection of online novels – an ongoing project to make some of the rarest works in the collection freely available.

  • The Hampshire Chronicle

    Find out more about this research project, initiated by Ruth Facer, which examines the presentation of fiction through provincial newspapers.