Papers of James Kinsley (1922-1984), Professor of English Studies at the University of Nottingham, 1931-1980

Scope and Content

The collection comprises:

Photocopies of items in manuscript collections (Kb 1-31, 189-192, 205).

Transcripts of items in manuscript collections (Kb 32-41).

Miscellaneous transcripts (Kb 42-75).

Microfilms (Kb 76-82, 186-187).

Miscellaneous material (Kb 83-162, 193-198).

Photocopies used during the preparation of The Oxford Book of Ballads (Kb 163-185).

Microfilm copy of the ballad 'A Gest of Robyn Hode' from the National Library of Scotland (Kb 186).

Typescript historical note about the University of Nottingham's Department of English Studies (Kb 188).

Student essays about ballads, 1978-1980 (Kb 199).

Published items formerly in the possession of James Kinsley, 1931-1974 (Kb 200-204).

This reference collection of personal research papers includes items acquired by James Kinsley in the course of his work on Robert Burns and the Scottish ballad tradition. The bulk consists of copies of original documents and records, a number of which are held in other repositories. A significant number of items were however in private hands at the time of the research and the current location of the originals is not always certain. The transcripts, photocopies and microfilms of manuscripts in question were used in Professor Kinsley's edition of The Collected Poems of Robert Burns, published in three volumes by the Oxford University Press (1968). Further material of a similar nature relating to ballads, and including copies of music, was used in the preparation of the 1969 edition of The Oxford Book of Ballads.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Kinsley was born on 17 April 1922 and received his early education from the Royal High School, Edinburgh. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1943 and served in the Royal Artillery for the remainder of the second world war. After the War, Kinsley took a degree in English at Oriel College Oxford graduating with first class honours in 1947. He then returned to the University of Edinburgh where he achieved his Ph.D. in 1951 and was awarded a D.Litt. in 1959.

Following his graduation from Oxford, Kinsley was appointed to the academic staff of the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. In 1954 he was elected to the Chair of English Language and Literature at the University of Wales, Swansea, and subsequently moved to the Department of English Studies at the University of Nottingham in 1961 where he became Professor of English Studies and head of the department.

Professor Kinsley took holy orders in 1964, joined The University of Nottingham's chaplaincy and became literary advisor to the Church of England Liturgical Commission. Professor Kinsley was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 1971. He died on 25 August 1984.

Editions of poems of John Dryden (published in 4 volumes in 1958), Robert Burns (published in three volumes in 1968), and William Dunbar (published in 1979) are James Kinsley's best known works but he was involved with many other editions of literary texts including a number for the Oxford University Press. His last major work, an edition of Pickwick Papers for the Clarendon Dickens series, was published in 1986.


Items Kb 1-186 have been listed numerically and described in full. Cataloguing of remaining items in the collection has not yet been undertaken.

Access Information

Accessible to all readers; restrictions apply to uncatalogued material; contact Manuscripts and Special Collections for advice.

Other Finding Aids

Copyright in all finding aids belongs to The University of Nottingham.

In the Reading Room, King's Meadow Campus: Typescript Catalogue, 12 pp

At the National Register of Archives, The National Archives, Kew: Typescript Catalogue, 12 pp

Online: Available on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue, accessible from the website of Manuscripts and Special Collections.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements


Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Keeper of Manuscripts and Special Collections (email

In general these papers are available for local reference only and copies cannot be supplied without the specific agreement of the owners and curators of the original materials. Any copies supplied are subject to the usual restrictions, limiting their use to educational and private study purposes.

Custodial History

The collection has been acquired by The University of Nottingham's Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections in five deposits between 1970 and 1999.


James Kinsley, ed.,' The Collected Poems of Robert Burns' (Oxford University Press; 1968)James Kinsley, ed., 'The Oxford Book of Ballads' (Oxford University Press; 1969)