Papers of Herbert John Davis

Scope and Content

The papers contain both personal and academic material. The greater part of the academic papers concern Herbert Davis' work on Jonathan Swift. The papers include:

  • pocket diaries, 1937-65
  • miscellaneous literary notes including notes for lectures, articles, book reviews, and bibliographical references etc., 20th century
  • 15 letters to and from Herbert Davis, 1932-64, n.d.
  • 16 letters, in German, to Herbert Davis from his first wife's mother, Elisabeth Lucas, 1929, n.d.
  • 62 letters from Frank Percy Wilson, 1940-53; some photographs of Wilson, n.d.; and obituaries of Wilson, one written by Davis himself, 1963-4
  • papers, mostly letters, concerning David Nichol Smith, Merton Professor of English, University of Oxford, 1931-67
  • 11 typescript poems, n.d.
  • photographs
  • notebooks containing theological lecture notes from Davis's time at Wells Theological College, 1915
  • papers, including research notes, correspondence, proofs, printers's copies, etc., relating to Davis's editorial work on Joseph Moxon Mechanick exercises on the whole art of printing, 1683-4, ed. Herbert J. Davis and Harry Carter (London, 1958); the Oxford Standard Authors edition of Pope, Poetical works (of) Pope, ed. Herbert J. Davis (Oxford, 1966); and The complete plays of William Congreve, ed. Herbert J. Davis, published in the Curtain Playwrights Series (Chicago, 1967), 20th century
  • papers relating to Davis's work on Jonathan Swift including lectures, notes, correspondence, references, proofs, and photocopies of Swift manuscripts and editions, etc., 20th century

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert John Davis (1893-1967) was a scholar of 18th-century English literature. He spent much of his academic career in Canada and the USA, but returned to Britain in 1949 as Reader in Bibliography and Textual Criticism at Oxford. Davis's most significant publication was his definitive edition of Jonathan Swift's prose, The prose works of Jonathan Swift, which he began in 1939. See Who Was Who for further details.

Access Information

Access to special collections is permitted at any time by prior arrangement with the Librarian (for admissions procedures see

Acquisition Information

The papers were bequeathed to the Library.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library.

Other Finding Aids

There is an unpublished handlist to the papers available in the Library.

Related Material

Herbert Davis gave a number of editions of Jonathan Swift to the Library in 1963.