Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles: John Payne Collier
"Shame on the
perpetrator of that foul libel on the pure genius of Shakespeare!"
A Complete View of the Shakespere Controversy, London, 1861
In 1852 John Payne
Collier, a respected Renaissance scholar, announced his discovery
of an important Second Folio of Shakespeare's plays. This volume
contained thousands of seventeenth-century manuscript corrections
and improvements which purportedly derived from early manuscript
copies of the plays. The unknown emender was dubbed "the Old
Corrector," and the volume became known as the "Perkins
Folio" based on an early ownership inscription. Collier's decision
to include the emendations in a new edition of Shakespeare created
an uproar. Alarmed by Collier's attempts to alter the hallowed words
of the Bard, sceptics suggested that Collier himself was the Old
Title page from Ingleby's
Complete View of the Shakspere Controversy, 1861 ©
Clement Mansfield Ingleby
A Complete View of the Shakspere Controversy
London: Nattali and Bond, 1861
The book on the left is Ingleby's
personal copy of his 350-page attack on the genuineness of the Old Corrector's
alterations to the Perkins Folio. The volume also charges Collier with
forging emendations in a First Folio at Bridgewater House and tampering
with manuscripts there and at Dulwich College and the State Paper Office.
Ingleby's meticulous chronology and exhaustive evidence failed to elicit
a confession from Collier, although it did effectively put the controversy
Collier's forgeries extended
far beyond the Perkins Folio. He forged letters and other documents, and
inserted forged verses, inscriptions, lists, and autographs in genuine
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscripts and printed books. Some
of these forgeries were included in his edition of the Stationers'
Company Registers and in his History of English Dramatic Poetry.
The full extent of his forgeries is unknownthe authenticity of many
books and manuscripts owned or studied by Collier has been permanently
compromised as a result of his known deceptions.
Commonplace book in two hands, ca. 16301650, with Collier forgeries,
eighty-three ballads in the blank leaves of this commonplace book. They
are interspersed among genuine seventeenth-century literary, theological,
and medical extracts. It was not until 1971 that a Folger curator matched
the handwriting to that of the "Old Corrector." William Chappell
unwittingly included some of the ballads in Popular Music of the
Olden Time (London, 1859).
Song," a17th-century ballad forged by Collier ©
Collier lived until the age
of ninety-three. In the last decade of his life he took stock of his career
in an assortment of printed and private accounts. An Old Man's Diary
was printed for friends, while the intended readership of his unpublished
autobiography and journals is less certain. Although he continued to assert
his innocence, a number of entries in the autobiography and journal hint
at his conflicted sense of shame and pride.
the emendations be forgeries how the inventor of them, if alive,
must laugh...they now form an essential part of every new edition
am such a despicable offender I am ashamed of almost every act of
Pages from J. Payne
Collier's journal as an old man ©
John Payne Collier (17891883)
Unpublished journal (manuscript)
November 7, 1872 to December 11, 1882
The twelve surviving volumes
of Collier's journal from this period record his experiences, reading,
and memories as an old man. Many of the dated entries express his regrets:
that none of his children or twenty-three grandchildren "care a straw
about any of the points that interest me," that he burned all of
his letters "and very very sorry I now am," and that his Poet's
Pilgrimage, a Spenserian allegory written in 1822, was unworthy. In
the page on the left he signs himself "J. Payne Collier Nearly blind"
and confesses in a shaky scrawl, "My repentance is bitter and sincere."
Fakes, Forgeries &
Facsimiles Exhibition Highlights
Can you spot the fake? | Original copies | Facsimile "witchery" | Famous owners? | False imprints | The Headless Horseman | William Henry Ireland | John Payne Collier | Shakespeare's Mulberry Tree |
Exhibition Intro | Visiting
This page updated January 26, 2004