Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles: Famous owners?
"A volume of
the very slightest consequence may be transformed into an object
of precious regard just by a bit of writing on one of its leaves."
William Harris Arnold,
Ventures in Book Collecting, New York, 1923
Any volume may become
a treasured object if it contains the autograph of a famous person.
Imagine the appeal of an early edition of Shakespeare signed by
another seventeenth-century poet, the thrill of reading President
John Adams's own copy of Shakespeare, discovering a Shakespeare
play signed by William Penn, or, most thrilling of all, owning a
Bible signed by the Bard himself. Profit certainly motivates many
forgers, but so too does the desire to fool unsuspecting collectors.
Henry Clay Folger was fooled on some occasions and on others knowingly
took a chance on inscriptions or annotations that might, or might
not, be what they seemed.
a Shakespeare Second Folio with the signatures "W. Davenant,"
"John Dryden," and "Augustine Davenant" ©
A Fragment from Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories,
London: by Tho. Cotes..., 1632
These signatures present
us with some intriguing puzzles. They are probably forgeries. "W
Davenant" was a poet and playwright who was a contemporary
of John Dryden, and with whom Dryden adapted Shakespeare's The
Tempest in 1667. In 1651, D'Avenant was a prisoner in The Tower
awaiting possible execution for treason against the Commonwealth.
It is unclear why he would have signed his name on the last leaf
of Henry VI, Part 1, or why Dryden would have signed the
leaf twelve years later. Was Augustine D'Avenant Sir William's son?
If so, he was about ten years old in 1675. Why would someone forge
Plays and poems... First American edition
Philadelphia: Bioren and Madan, 179596
a book dealer in New York sent Mr. Folger an eight-volume set
of Shakespeare, writing, "Although you may have this set
now I thought my set would appeal to you on account of its association
interest. It was in the Library of President John Adams, each
volume bearing his bookplate." In fact, the bookplates were
altered, as you can see if you move the cursor over the image
on the right. The perpetrator missed volume 3, where the apostrophe
in "Adam's" remains. Someone named John Adam once owned
these books, not President John Adams.
supposedly belonging toPresident John Adams ©
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