The collection of books recently bequeathed to Harvard by H.E. Widener '07, who went down with the Titanic, while not wide in range compared to a number of other American collections, is one of the finest in the country. Primarily it is devoted to the famous works of English literature. It includes first editions of Shakespeare, Milton, Spenser, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gray, Keats, and Shelley--indeed, all the great names of the last four centuries. The volumes of modern authors--Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, Meredith, Stevenson, and the others--are further distinguished by being in many instances copies personally associated with their authors, some with presentation inscriptions, others with manuscript corrections and annotations.
In addition to the books and autographs the Widener collection is very notable for its drawings by such artists as William Blake, George and Robert Cruikshank and Thomas Rowlandson. The Rowlandson water color drawings, about 150 in number, constitute perhaps the finest series of nineteenth century humorous drawings in any private library. Of drawings by the two Cruikshanks there are some 250, a considerable portion of these being dramatic portraits. The most interesting Cruikshank item is a sketch for "Oliver Twist," the drawing on which Cruikshank based the claim that it was he who had given Dickens the suggestions which he had elaborated in his novel.
Mr. Widener had already begun a collection of American literature along the lines of his English volumes. During the year or two preceding his death he had acquired many rare association books of New England authors.