Methodology - People, Roles, and Coteries

Several hundred individuals who play manuscript roles or poem roles, or who are members of coteries associated with manuscript miscellanies, are recorded in this database.  They are listed by their most relevant or commonly used first name and surname in a table that also includes any variant names (such as maiden or married names, aristocratic titles, or professional titles), their gender, and their role in relation to any miscellany or poem in the database. Further details include birth and death dates (if known) and brief descriptions of their involvement in poetry writing, coterie networks, and/or miscellany creation. Links to biographies such as the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) are provided where available. It should be noted, however, that for many of these individuals information is very limited and identification may be uncertain; outside biographical sources are the exception rather than the rule.

Manuscript Roles

Each manuscript display includes a Contributors tab. Contributors are people who play one or more of six Manuscript Roles.

  • primary compiler – the primary creator of the miscellany, in whose hand all or most of the contents are written
  • coterie member – a member of a sociable literary network (or coterie) whose activity is reflected in the miscellany
  • major author – a poet whose work comprises a substantial portion of the miscellany, whether at least four poems in the entire compilation, for example, or a continuous block of poems
  • dedicatee – an individual named in a miscellany as its dedicatee
  • recipient – an individual to whom a miscellany is given as a gift or bequeathed as a legacy
  • owner – an eighteenth-century owner of miscellany, as signalled by a signature or bookplate.

Poem Roles

Individuals may also play a role in relation to individual poems found in miscellanies and recorded in the database. These are:

  • author – the creator of the poem
  • addressee – the one to whom a poem is addressed
  • subject – they or their works are the subject of the poem, or their work is being imitated by the poem.


Many of the manuscripts in the Manuscript Verse Miscellanies database are associated with social networks, or coteries. A coterie is here defined as a select group of individuals linked by social ties of kinship or friendship, but whose sociability is characterized more particularly by an appreciation and mutual encouragement of poetic composition and by exchanges of manuscript poetry. It appears that such literary groups often included one or more people who preserved and recorded the verse productions of the coterie’s members in the form of a miscellany (often along with other favourite poems). While a few of the coteries identified in this database are known to literary historians, many are not, and names have been assigned to them based on evidence about their locations and membership.