The World's Sole Surviving Copy of the Titus Andronicus Quarto (1594)

"Cable immediately two thousand pounds."

Thus the climax, if not the conclusion, of the quickest of all possible negotiations for the purchase of the first Quarto (1594) of the earliest of Shakespeare's tragedies, Titus Andronicus -- no other copy of which is known.

On January 11, 1905, news reached London that a copy of the book had surfaced in Sweden in the possession, strangely, of a post-office clerk. Up to that time the very existence of a copy of the book had been doubted.

The Sotheran firm of London booksellers, having successfully negotiated for Mr. Folger the purchase of the Vincent Folio, felt confident about representing him in the purchase of the Titus Quarto and cabled Folger accordingly.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
The Most Lamentable Romaine Tragedie of Titus Andronicus
London, Printed by John Danter & Sold by Edward White and Thomas Millington,1594
Folger STC 22328, title page, ©

Meanwhile though, Folger had seen notice of the book in New York and had cabled Sotheran to immediately send a representative to Sweden to negotiate the purchase. The firm dispatched their chief buyer overnight to Sweden and cabled Folger: "What utmost offer will you make?"

As Folger recalled later: "That was a poser for an enthusiast, whose means did not match his interest. It took three hours of tramping over city streets to clarify a bewildered mind sufficiently to cable the answer, "Two Thousand Pounds." Sotheran replied: "Representative in Sweden may need cash tomorrow ... doubtful two thousand enough." Then, the next day, came the word: "Bought. Cable immediately two thousand pounds." Folger complied and the next day received confirmation: "Cash received and telegraphed. Will post quarto when received."

The negotiations had been concluded in ten days. On February 16 the book duly arrived in New York. The success of the negotiations was due as much to Sotheran's initiative as to Folger's decisiveness.

Other Exhibition Highlights

Rare Books: | The Shakespeare Folios |

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 | Building an Institution |

Visiting the Exhibition | Related Publication



This page updated October 11, 2002