"THYS BOKE IS MYNE"
on exhibit November 13, 2002 through March 1, 2003
Reconstructing the contents
of a writer's library often reveals source material behind famous works.
Authorial inscriptions in books may tell us about personal relationships
and document variations in handwriting or signatures. Annotations may
also record reactions to the competition, reflect prejudices, or show
an author being difficult or vulnerable - in short, human. Leon Edel,
the biographer of Henry James, attached enormous importance to presentation
and inscribed copies, and looked to them for clues about relationships,
meetings and dates. At the Folger scholars have recently discovered books
owned and annotated by Edmund Spenser and George Eliot, thrilling finds
for the Library.
Dryden's signature on title page of Wing B312 c. 2
portrait of Dryden (Art Vault M14) ©
Francis Bacon. Of the advancement and proficiencie of learning
for Thomas Williams, 1674.
Dryden's copy of the Advancement of Learning, signed and dated 1677,
came to the Folger in 1939 as part of the Percy J. Dobell collection, perhaps
the finest Dryden collections ever assembled. Dobell's manuscript catalog,
"Books from Dryden's Library" (1939) shows the entry for Advancement
of Learning and documents Dobell as a former owner of this famous work.
The miniature portrait of Dryden also came from Dobell. The drawing, by
Jonathan Richardson (1665-1745) after a painting by Sir Godfrey Kneller
(1697), depicts the former poet laureate without wig or finery, towards
the end of his life.
Robert Moor. Diarium historicopoeticum. Oxford, Joseph Barnes, 1595.
Donne's books are easy to recognize because he made a practice of writing
his name with a terminal flourish on the lower right corner of the title
page and often added a motto at the top, Per Rachel ho seruito, &
non per Lea, from Petrarch (Canz. Xix, 7.1). Such distinctive
markings help to establish authorship of unsigned works and offer the evidence
needed to confirm provenance.
Jonson (1573?-1637) and John Selden (1584-1654)
John Selden. ...de dIs Syris Syntagmata II. London, William Stansby,
John Selden and Ben Jonson developed an early and lasting, if unlikely,
friendship. Learned and industrious, Selden spent a lifetime combining
legal and oriental studies. Along the way, he amassed an incomparable
library of 8,000 volumes. The first of Selden's oriental studies, De
diis Syris - a treatise that won him fame throughout Europe - is inscribed
to the poet and playwright, Ben Jonson, presumably sometime after 1623,
the year a fire destroyed Jonson's library. Jonson wrote his name, Sui
Ben: Jonson Liber, and motto, Tanquam Explorator (from Seneca),
on the title page. It was a common practice in the early modern period
to add one's Latin motto to a favorite volume. Jonson, Donne, Robert Dudley,
John Evelyn, Thomas Knyvett, and Sir Walter Raleigh were among those to
display their learning in this way, leaving us evidence of ownership.
of Jonson (Art Vault FPM 15) ©
on title page of STC 22167.2 ©
John Marston. The Works
by J.O. Halliwell. London,
John Russell Smith, 1856.
The Folger collection includes a number of volumes from the library of
Anthony Trollope, all carefully book plated and annotated. Trollope read
widely in early modern drama and his collection included the complete
works of Beaumont and Fletcher, Thomas Dekker, John Ford, Robert Greene,
Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, among others. His habit was to tick
off plays he'd read in the table of contents, then follow his readings
with a cranky assessment. Trollope didn't comment; he passed judgment,
and did so in the finality of ink. Of Marston's comedy, What You Will,
"What you will" is a good comedy - with some few fun lines -
humour, but terribly confused, loaded with unnecessary characters, and
almost unintelligible in its language
With thanks to
Randall K. Burkett,
Special Collections, Emory University
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
Langston Hughes. Shakespeare in Harlem. New York, Alfred Knopf,
We just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Langston Hughes,
whose poetry stretched from the Harlem Renaissance to the civil rights
movement. He's been called "a master of black American modernism,"
and Hughes was the first African-American to make a living as a creative
writer through his plays, novels, short stories, essays, translations,
journalism, children's books and opera librettos.
This signed first edition of Shakespeare in Harlem is inscribed
by Hughes across the cover.
The dice have
thrown a deuce.
The song's an old familiar tune:
What's the use?
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This page updated March 10, 2003