Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles banner

The fabrication and reproduction of documents has a long and dubious history from antiquity to the present day. The boundary between "genuine" and "false" is murky at best, often hinging on the intention of the creator or duplicator, the historical moment in which an item is being considered, or the level of restoration it has undergone.

This exhibition showcases a wide range of fakes, forgeries, and facsimiles in the collection of the Folger Shakespeare Library. It explores the technology and the legitimate and illegitimate uses of these items, and illustrates the rise and fall of two of the most notorious Shakespeare forgers, William Henry Ireland and John Payne Collier.

While technology for authentication has improved, so have the techniques for forgery and other forms of reproduction. Thus, the question of "originality" will continue to intrigue, frustrate, and delight us.

Heather Wolfe, Curator of Manuscripts
Erin Blake, Curator of Art
Rachel Doggett, Curator of Books

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 |

Visiting the Folger


Major support for Folger exhibitions comes from The Winton and Carolyn Blount Exhibition Fund

This page updated January 26, 2004