The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
Publication Year: 2014
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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The Folger Library was unlike other private libraries assembled during the Gilded Age by peers in the Folgers’ social class. It was not a gentleman’s library, which includes a wide range of recognized literary masterpieces rather than esoteric volumes or a specialized collection. It was not a cabinet library, a small collection of highly...
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The Folger Shakespeare Library generously offered me, an independent scholar, a fellowship in 2007 to delve into its Folger Collection and begin writing the first biography of the institution’s founders. I systematically went through what staff refer to as “Folger Coll,” dozens and dozens of gray or black archival boxes of correspondence...
Chapter One: Well Read in Poetry, Fair in Knowledge: Henry and Emily Form a Team
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After the Civil War, a newly muscular American economy became seriously competitive with Europe in international affairs. Culturally, too, the affluent middle and upper classes began, at about the time of the centennial, to resent the long-nosed disapproval of foreign commentators. For every Alexis de Tocqueville...
Chapter Two: Thou Lovest Me, My Name Is Will: Smitten by Shakespeare
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British boots, not books, made imprints in North America only a few years before Shakespeare died in 1616. Virginia was settled in 1607, Bermuda in 1609, Newfoundland in 1610. More than a century passed before an amateur acting company put on the first Shakespeare play in America, a performance of Romeo and...
Chapter Three: Wise, Circumspect, and Trusted: Five Decades at Standard Oil
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The first stories that the young child Henry Folger, in 1860, heard from his father about oil were about whales, not wells. For more than a century, the Folger family had plied the whaling trade on Nantucket Island, twenty-four miles off the Massachusetts coast. Henry’s grandfather, Samuel Brown Folger, was a...
Chapter Four: Leading on to Fortune: Henry Invests to Buy the Bard
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Henry Folger created the wealth to buy Shakespeare in four major ways: a five-decade salary from Standard Oil; investments in the company and its affiliates that generated substantial dividends; careful money management; and a major investment in Magnolia Petroleum Company, which generated very large...
Chapter Five: The Hunt Is Up, the Fields Are Fragrant: Building a Collection
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According to the endowment created in their wills, the Folgers established their library “for the promotion and diffusion of knowledge in regard to the history and writings of Shakespeare.”1 The Folger Shakespeare Library has expanded considerably beyond the collection on the shelves (and still in storage cases) when...
Chapter Six: Whole Volumes in Folio: The Ultimate Prize for Collectors
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Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) is a large book with dense double-column pages printed in London seven years after Shakespeare’s death. One scholar has described its printing as not “consistent,” another as “careless.”1 The manuscripts for this volume have gone missing. Yet its pedigree is matchless. It became, early on,...
Chapter Seven: What News on the Rialto: Maneuvers in the Rare Book Market
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The scene: Sotheby’s, London, December 1919. Tension was palpable in the hushed auction room. At stake was ownership of the only known 1599 copy of Shakespeare’s first printed work, Venus and Adonis. Key collectors vying for this treasure, however, were absent. They were home in America. While many collectors frequented local shops for antiquarian and rare books...
Chapter Eight: Hotspur and Hal: Two Henrys Compete
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Although far more cordial than the military rivalry of Shakespeare’s Hot- spur and Hal, the bibliographic duels Henry Folger and Henry Huntington intensely fought were not on the battlefield but in auction bids, and not for a crown but for the plays of the very man who created the “Harry vs. Harry” of I Henry IV...
Chapter Nine: A Monument to Gentle Verse: Designing a Treasure House
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Henry Folger acquired the property for his Shakespeare Library through patience, secrecy, and subterfuge. One secret was that he considered other sites than the nation’s capital. Among miscellaneous notes in Folger’s hand is an undated alphabetical list of possible sites, surprisingly diverse in character and geography...
Chapter Ten: Dear, Blessed Plot of Land: The Folgers’ Gift to America
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After the cornerstone of his library had been laid in May 1930, Henry Folger entered St. John’s Hospital in Brooklyn for a routine operation under local anesthetic for an enlarged prostate. During convalescence, into the first week of June, Folger worked from his hospital bed. He dictated instructions about library...
Epilogue Praise in the Eyes of Posterity: The Folger after the Folgers
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Folger library doors officially opened for readers on January 2, 1933. Prior to that date, the library allowed a few individuals to consult specific works. The first recorded early bird, in September 1932, did not travel far. Herbert Putnam sent young Oliver Strunk of the Music Division at the Library of Congress across...
Appendix: Directors of the Folger Shakespeare Library
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About the Author
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Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 32 halftones
Publication Year: 2014