The Stainforth Library

Visit the project-in-progress, 


The Stainforth Library of Women’s Writing is a digital humanities project that studies the largest private library of Anglophone women’s writing collected in the nineteenth century. Explore our searchable digital edition of Stainforth’s library catalog (in-progress) at

Francis John Stainforth (1797-1866), an Anglican clergyman, collected a unique private library during the mid-nineteenth century. His library catalog lists 7,726 editions (8,804 volumes) authored and edited by 3,721 writers, nearly all of whom are women. The titles in the collection have publication dates that cover four centuries of literary history, and these works were published in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The earliest work in the collection is the 1546 edition of the Examination of Anne Askew, and the most recent works are those published in 1866, the year Stainforth died. The library features women poets, dramatists, non-fiction writers, composers, lyricists, editors, translators, journalists, printers, and artists. By digitizing Stainforth’s library catalog manuscript and making it searchable, we draw critical attention to the extent of authorship and women’s writing in circulation in the nineteenth century. We also point to the fact that these authors and their texts, many of which are now rare or lost, at one time counted.

Help recover authors and titles here by using our data. We have transcribed, edited, and published a digital edition of Stainforth’s 742-page library catalog manuscript and made its contents accessible in multiple ways. The catalog lists the works he owned alphabetically by author last name followed by title, edition, and publication year. With most titles, Stainforth includes their shelfmark(s) with the entry. Many entries include the number of volumes that comprise the text if the number is greater than one. For some titles, Stainforth indicates the publication place, book format, if the book was privately printed, if it contains an author portrait, or if it contains plates. The catalog also contains Stainforth’s wish list of titles to acquire, and most of those listed in the “Wants” section with strikethroughs were acquired. We continue to add to this data by gathering authority records for known and unknown authors, tagging genres, and researching publication places and formats for those titles Stainforth did not record that information for.

  • Browse our transcription of Stainforth’s library catalog and view page images of the manuscript
  • Search the catalog by title, name, keyword, format, publication place, year range, and more
  • View Stainforth’s titles listed as they were shelved
  • Learn about our project rationale, methodologies, and editorial style
  • Read a short biography of the collector Francis Stainforth
  • Locate Stainforth’s original books in libraries around the world