Skip to main content

Katherine M. Briggs Collection

Identifier: 03-exws_briggs

Scope and Contents

The Katherine M. Briggs collection contains typescript and manuscript copies of some of her later works: Nine Lives: Cats in Folklore (1980); The Vanishing People (1978); Folklore of the Cotswolds (1974); Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts (1979); A Dictionary of Fairies (1976) and A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales (1970-1971). We also hold manuscript and typescript copies of articles: "Folk-Tale Story Tellers"; "Tradition and Invention in Ghost Stories" ; "Fairy Themes in Folktales and in Modern Children's Literature"; "Some Unpleasant Characters Among British Fairies"; "Fairies, Hobgoblins and Other Strange Creatures" (1978); "Historical Traditions in English Folklore" (1965); and a biographical notice for Edward Clodd (1979).
The collection also includes plays she and her sisters Winifred and Elspeth performed and wrote for an amateur touring company (The Summer Players), family letters from the early nineteenth century, books and plays written by her sister and other family members.
There is also correspondence concerning the receipt of copyrighted materials for her book Nine Lives (1980), and a correspondence with her publisher Batsford regarding The Folklore of the Cotswolds (1974) and The Vanishing People (1978). In addition, there are typescripts, manuscripts and interviews with Ruth Lyndall Tongue, a fellow folklorist and author with whom Katharine edited and collaborated with, as well as correspondence with Roy Palmer, fellow folklorist who contributed information for Katharine Briggs work and other miscellaneous articles and typescripts sent to Katherine Briggs for review or collected by her.


  • Creation: 1805-1980
  • Other: Majority of material found within Bulk 1958-1980
  • Other: Date acquired: 2001


Biographical / Historical

Katherine M. Briggs (1898-1980) was a folklorist who contributed greatly to the field of British fairies and folk narratives disproving the idea Britain did not have any folk-tales. Daughter of Ernest Briggs, an eminent water-colorist, she grew up in both London and the Highlands of Scotland (Perthshire) where her father spent much of his time painting landscapes.
During her time at Oxford she became interested in Elizabethan and Jacobean literature, an interest which shows up in her first academic book: The Anatomy of Puck (1959) on the treatment of fairies and witches in Shakespearian literature. Though she received her BA in 1922 and her MA in 1926, she did not complete her DPhil until after WWII, at which point she began her career as a British folklorist. She was an active Girl Guide, playwright and children's novelist during her adult life, aspects of which contributed to the direction of her later academic work.


11 boxes

Language of Materials



Papers of British folklorist Katherine M. Briggs (1898-1980). Scholarship on British Isles folklore, Elizabethan and Jacobean literature, children's literature; book, article and play manuscripts and typescripts; correspondence.

Physical Access Requirements

WMU Special Collections. Non-circulating. Contact department for access.

Source of Acquisition

Richard Ford, bookseller, London, United Kingdom.

Method of Acquisition


Physical Description

The collection is housed in 11 archival boxes (approximately 4.5 linear feet).

Katharine M. Briggs Collection Finding Aid
Ira Esch
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Special Collections Repository

Western Michigan University Libraries, Special Collections
Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490