This article examines the history, scope and provenance of the 'Political Tracts' series of 3000 early modern pamphlets that was assembled by the British Museum c. 1790-1807, during the so-called 'synthetical arrangement', when the library of printed books was reorganized along subject-based lines. The series was designed as a repository for most of the Museum's early holdings of pamphlets relating to English political history, drawn together from the Old Royal Library and the collections of Sir Hans Sloane, Major Arthur Edwards and Sir William Musgrave, among others. The pamphlets in the series date from between 1542 and 1807, with a particular concentration in the eighteenth century. However, the series has not been properly recognized because it has lain under the shadow of a far larger series of early modern pamphlets, the 22,000 civil war publications known as the Thomason Tracts. Regarded as Thomason's 'continuation', the Political Tracts were classified and shelved together with the Thomason Tracts as 'E' tracts in the nineteenth century, causing the Political Tracts series to disappear into obscurity. This article reconstructs the series, locates its constituent parts within the British Library today, examines the provenance of its contents, and traces the history of its assembly, disassembly and neglect.
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