Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
Published by: Johns Hopkins University Press
Imprint: John Hopkins University
Sales Date: 2023-10-03
Published: October 2023
Imprint: John Hopkins University
Page Count: 264 Pages
Illustrations: 32 halftones
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
264 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.60 in, 32 halftones
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The first biography of Henry and Emily Folger, who acquired the largest and finest collection of Shakespeare in the world.
In Collecting Shakespeare, Stephen H. Grant recounts the American success story of Henry and Emily Folger. Shortly after marrying in 1885, the Folgers started buying, cataloging, and storing all manner of items about Shakespeare and his era. Emily earned a master's degree in Shakespeare studies. The frugal couple worked passionately as a tight-knit team during the Gilded Age, financing their hobby with the fortune Henry earned as president of Standard Oil Company of New York, where he was a trusted associate of John D. Rockefeller Sr.
While a number of American universities offered to house the collection, the Folgers wanted to give it to the American people. Afraid the price of antiquarian books would soar if their names were revealed, they secretly acquired prime real estate on Capitol Hill near the Library of Congress. They commissioned the design and construction of an elegant building with a reading room, public exhibition hall, and the Elizabethan Theatre. The Folger Shakespeare Library was dedicated on the Bard's birthday on April 23, 1932.
The library houses 82 First Folios, 277,000 books, and 60,000 manuscripts. It welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and provides professors, scholars, graduate students, and researchers from around the world with access to the collections. It is also a vibrant center in Washington, DC, for cultural programs, including theater, concerts, lectures, and poetry readings. With unprecedented access to the primary sources within the Folger vault, Grant draws on interviews with surviving Folger relatives and visits to 35 related archives in the United States and in Britain to create a portrait of the remarkable couple who ensured that Shakespeare would have a beautiful home in America.
1. Well Read in Poetry, Fair in Knowledge: Henry and Emily Form a Team
2. Thou Lovest Me, My Name Is Will: Smitten by Shakespeare
3. Wise, Circumspect, and Trusted: Five Decades at Standard Oil
4. Leading on to Fortune: Henry Invests to Buy the Bard
5. The Hunt Is Up, the Fields Are Fragrant: Building a Collection
6. Whole Volumes in Folio: The Ultimate Prize for Collectors
7. What News on the Rialto: Maneuvers in the Rare Book Market
8. Hotspur and Hal: Two Henrys Compete
9. A Monument to Gentle Verse: Designing a Treasure House
10. Dear, Blessed Plot of Land: The Folgers' Gift to America
Epilogue: Praise in the Eyes of Posterity: The Folger after the Folgers
Appendix: Directors of the Folger Shakespeare Library
"Grant provides not just a biography of the 'onlie begetters' of this astonishing library, but also an account of the worlds in which the Folgers lived. The result is a superlative book... Crisply written and packed with facts and anecdotes."Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"This thoroughly researched and accessibly written book is first of all a fascinating biography of how a man and his wife devoted their lives to gathering the world's largest collection of the original folios of William Shakespeare, plus a range of literature from as early as 1500. It is also a meditation on why some museums endure and thrive, while others lapse into confusion and decay."James Srodes, Washington Times
"This first biography of Emily Jordan Folger and Henry C. Folger... taps hitherto neglected resources to trace their joint obsession with collecting Shakespeare."
"Grant's text is indeed well-researched and written, in a snappish and easily-readable style, even though there are many details."Jeffery Moser, Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature
"While Collecting Shakespeare is biography intertwined with technicalities of antiquarian book and artifact collecting, it undoubtedly belongs on the Shakespeare lover's bookshelf."Felicia Hardison Londre, Theatre Journal
"Stephen H. Grant tells the story of the Folgers' joint obsession clearly and efficiently; the illustrations he reproduces are particularly engaging... Shakespeareans, book collectors and all who have worked at the Library and who love and admire it will enjoy Collecting Shakespeare."H.R. Woudhuysen, Times Literary Supplement
"An engrossing read... Grant has written an illuminating book that artfully places Henry and Emily Folger in their own time while showing how they helped to shape the scholarship of ours."
"Stephen H. Grant uses primary sources from within the Folger Library vault, interviews with the Folger family, and visits to nearly three dozen archives to craft a compelling narrative... This biography could be read as a perfect case study of how a cultural institution in 20th century America was conceived, created, and accomplished. It will delight students of Washington’s early 20th century history and readers who are seeking background on the impact of the Folger Shakespeare Library."
"... A good read..."