The nucleus of this collection of early English plays was formed by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762). It was built up by her son-in-law, the third Earl of Bute (1713-92), and added to substantially by her grandson, the first Marquis of Bute (1744-1814), who most notably acquired the Shakespeare quartos. The collection was bought from Major Michael Crichton Stuart in 1956 and contains 1,266 English plays and includes 17 16th-century editions, 530 17th-century and 650 18th-century editions. The earliest work is John Lyly's Sapho and Phao (1584). There are 39 Shakespeare quartos, 16 printed before the first folio in 1623, including first editions of The Second Part of Henrie the Fourth (1600), The Merchant of Venice (1600), and Troilus and Cressida (1609) and many examples of 17th- and 18th-century adaptations of Shakespeare's works. The other Elizabethan, Jacobean and Caroline dramatists are mostly well represented, notably Lyly, Chapman, Middleton, Dekker (including a perfect copy of The Converted Curtezan of 1604), John Ford, Massinger, Shirley, Webster, etc. Among Restoration and 18th-century dramatists Dryden is pre-eminent with 30 plays, and there are first editions of Congreve, Vanbrugh, Farquhar, Addison, Steele and Sheridan. These leading figures in the English drama are complemented by the works of a host of minor playwrights of the 18th and the 19th century. The collection also includes a number of prompt books, mainly of the 19th century, from the Theatre Royal, Haymarket.
The Shakespeare quartos are recorded (as Crichton Stuart copies) in H.C. Bartlett and A.W. Pollard, A Census of Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto, 1594-1709, New Haven, 1939. M.P. Linton, 'The Bute Collection of English Plays', Times Literary Supplement, 21 December 1956, 772. ----, 'The Bute Collection of English Plays', Friends of the National Libraries Annual Report 1956-57, 8-10. W.T. Johnston, Scottish dramatists [electronic resource], Livingston, 2005. ----, 'The Bute Collection of English Plays', Stechert-Hafner Book News, April 1958, 89-91. ----, 'Prompt-books in the Bute Collection of English Plays', Theatre Notebook, 11 (October 1956), 20-23. ----, 'National Library of Scotland and Edinburgh University Library Copies of Plays in Greg's Bibliography of the English Printed Drama', Studies in Bibliography, 15 (1962), 91-104.