Dyson Collection

The collection

The Dyson collection includes just over 800 titles of 17th to 19th century English literature with the strongest concentration in the 18th century. There are many first editions, and several of the books are beautifully bound. It provides a good coverage of British poetry in the 18th and 19th century, the principal authors being John Dryden, Alfred Tennyson and the romantic poets Southey, Byron, Coleridge and Wordsworth.

Treasures include:

  • The first subscription edition of James Thomson's The Seasons (1730) with illustrations by the architect William Kent
  • The first and second editions of William Wordsworth's Lyrical ballads (1798 and 1800)
  • The first edition of John Keats' Endymion (1818)

The collector

The collection originally formed part of the library of Henry Victor Dyson, English Tutor and Fellow of Merton College, Oxford. He was known as Hugo, and was one of the Inklings, a contemporary of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. Dyson's room at Oxford is described as having three walls of books "a mass of leather of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries". Dyson lectured on Shakespeare, Dryden, Pope and Dickens and was a specialist on the 18th century. He also published on these topics including Augustans and Romantics, 1689-1830.


This was the Library's first special collection, purchased for £7,500 via Blackwells in 1963.

Collection access

Most of the material in the collection is catalogued and can be accessed via the University of York's online catalogue. Items can be consulted in the Borthwick Search Room and copies can be made subject to copyright.

Further information


  • Humphrey Carpenter. The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their friends (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1978).
  • Hugo Dyson: Inkling, Teacher, Bon Vivant, by David Bratman. Mythlore 21:4 (whole no. 82) (Winter 1997): 19-34.