The Folgers as Collectors: Mrs. Folger's Role

Mr. Folger formally recorded in his will the fact that the Folgers' collecting was not only a shared passion but in practice a joint undertaking. "My wife," the document reads, "has from the beginning aided me greatly with her advice and counsel."

Mrs. Folger acted as a Shakespearean in her own right, earning early in her married life a master's degree by writing a thesis on the text of Shakespeare and occasionally thereafter delivering papers on Shakespearean topics.

Folger Painting, FPb58, ©

When Mrs. Folger appealed to the eminent editor Horace Howard Furness for advice on researching a thesis on the text of Shakespeare, he complained of being too busy to "set forth any detailed course of study." Then, inspired by the commonality of their interests, he proceeded to recommend an extensive bibliography. Furness was particularly pleased by the fact that his correspondent's studies were a shared undertaking with her husband.

Congratulating Mrs. Folger on the completion of her studies, Furness commented: "The picture you draw of working with your husband moves me deeply." He invited them to visit: "It will give me keen pleasure to welcome you both at any time."

In the Frank O. Salisbury portrait above, Mrs. Folger wears the hood of the M.A. that she earned from Vassar College in 1896 for her thesis on "The True Text of Shakespeare." The fan she holds, decorated with a scene from Cymbeline, is owned by the Library. This portrait, and its companion painting of Mr. Folger, normally preside over the Folger Reading Room. Both portraits are on display in A Shared Passion, as is Mrs. Folger's thesis and her correspondence with Furness. Throughout the exhibition are detailed notes made in Mrs. Folger's hand, analyzing purchases like their first extensive acquisition, the Warwick Castle Shakespeare Library, and catalogue records of the collection. As Mr. A. G. Welsh, Folger's longtime secretary wrote retrospectively in 1930, "There has been no Librarian, nor a staff of any kind. With Mrs. Folger's and my help we have gotten through."

Other Exhibition Highlights

Rare Books: | The Shakespeare Folios | The Titus Andronicus Quarto |

Paintings and Art Objects: | Fuseli's Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head | Thomas Parr's John Philip Kemble as 'Hamlet' | Thomas Nast's Immortal Light |

The Folgers as Collectors: | Dealers and Dealing | The Influence of Emerson | Building an Institution |

Visiting the Exhibition | Related Publication


This page updated August 29, 2002