The Folgers as Collectors: Building an Institution

By 1928 Mr. Folger had decided to locate the collection permanently in Washington.

Informing Herbert Putnam, Librarian of Congress, of his decision, he termed the collection -- with both uncharacteristic exuberance and justifiable pride -- a "library of Shakespeariana finer than anything that has ever been acquired."

Putnam thrilled to the prospect, "not merely for the National Capital, but for the cultural interests of this country." Putnam, who aspired to make Washington a center of scholarship, hailed the news of Folger's plans and subsequently secured a Congressional resolution that secured the land for Folger's use.

Mr. Folger thought through how his library would be used when it was installed in its new building and expressed his thoughts to those charged with realizing his ideas. "Our enterprise is first of all a Library, not a Museum. Most of our items are interesting because they are Shakespearian rather than artistic."

Meanwhile, he provided his architectural designer the inscriptions to be placed on the building: "the spelling and punctuation should be followed exactly."

" ... we suggest, for the three panels of the East Captiol Street front, beginning at the East Third Street end,

This therefore is the praise of Shakespeare,
that his drama is the mirrour of life.

Samuel Johnson

His wit can no more lie hid, than it could be
lost. Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe.

John Heminge
Henrie Condell

Thou art a moniment, without a tombe,
and art aliue still, while thy booke doth liue,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.


For the East Second Street end,

For wisdomes sake, a word that all men loue.

Loue's Labour's Lost

We favor no inscription on the East Third Street end."


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 | Mrs. Folger's Role |

This page updated September 6, 2002