on exhibit November 13, 2002 through March 1, 2003

Ordinary Editions Made Famous

Walt Whitman carried an inexpensive pocket edition of the sonnets on his walks. "Boneta" took her trade edition of Shakespeare to the California Gold Rush. George Eliot and Henry Lewes wrote on nearly every page of their one-volume Shakespeare, she in pencil, he in pen. Henry Clay Folger copied choice bits of bardolotry onto the blank pages of a Christmas present from his brother. Totally undistinguished nineteenth -century editions of Shakespeare become collectors' items because of their association value and the things they tell us about their owners.

George Eliot (1819-1880) and George Henry Lewes (1817-1878)

William Shakespeare. The Dramatic Works…. London, Jones and Co., 1832.

This opening from Othello shows marginal notes of George Eliot and her partner, George Henry Lewes, on facing pages. Eliot's notes are in pencil throughout the volume, Lewes's generally in ink. Eliot's most interesting notes question grammar, details that affect interpretation, and even staging possibilities. There are numerous references to other editions and editors of Shakespeare, and myriad references to other plays and authors, suggesting the breadth of the couple's reading. (This working copy was first identified by a Folger reader, Dr. Bernise Kliman, in 1997.)

While the marginalia is extremely difficult to read, it is fascinating to follow the thoughts and observations of two very attentive and knowledgeable readers. The opening to Othello III.3 shows, under maginifcation, Eliot's note, "Compare the latter part of Act 3 of Massinger's Fatal Dowry with this scene." Lewes often shows his familiarity with the history of editorial practice, as in his note:

Printed Text

But pardon me; I do not in position
Distinctly speak of her...

Lewes's Notes

C[ollier MS.].
retained by St[eevens].

Marginal notes by George Eliot

Notations on pages 954 and 955 0 in PR2752 1832g Sh. Col.

Marginal notes by George Henry Lewis

Emerson quote handwritten by Henry Clay Folger in the first Shakespeare he owned

Emerson quote in HCF's hand on flyleaf in PR2752 1875k As. Col. ©

Emerson (and Henry Clay Folger) on Shakespeare

William Shakespeare. The Dramatic Works…. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1875.

This volume is thought to be Henry Clay Folger's first copy of Shakespeare, a Christmas present from his brother in 1875, the year before he became a student at Amherst College. Although the text is unmarked, Mr. Folger filled the preliminary pages with quotations from Carlyle, Mrs. Browning, and especially Emerson, in praise of Shakespeare. While it is not clear exactly when Folger copied these lines, he selected passages that reflected his own views.

No nation has produced anything his equal. There is no quality in
the human mind, there is no class of topics, there is no region of thought,
in which he has not soared or descended, and none in which he has not
had the commanding word...His are bright and terrible eyes, which meet
the modern student in every sacred chapel of thought, in every public
enclosure. He is the King of all scholars.

Emerson: Address, Howard University

Whitman's Copy of the Sonnets

Shakespeare. The poems of William Shakespeare. Philadelphia, John Locken, 1847.

Walt Whitman's inexpensive pocket edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets, signed and well read.

Exhibition Highlights

| Writers' Books | Collectors | Markings | Signatures | Henry VIII | Actors' Books | Bindings | Manuscript Book Lists | Women Collectors | Inscriptions | 18th Century | Alexander Pope | Quiet Lives | Myne? |

Curator's Notes | Visiting the Folger