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Henry Folger and the First Folio

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Henry Folger and the First Folio

Thou art a moniment, without a tombe,
And art alive still, while thy booke doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.
—Ben Jonson

Inscription, Folger Shakespeare Library exterior
Selected by Henry Clay Folger

Henry Clay Folger, the founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library, was the most successful collector of the Shakespeare quartos and First Folio. In addition to many quartos, he acquired 82 First Folios out of a total of 232 that survive today.

Folger also collected copies of the Second, Third, and Fourth Folios, and the 1709 edition by Nicholas Rowe, the first by an editor whose name we know. Folger acquired it and many more by Rowe's successors.

Folger's collecting career, and the vital role of his wife Emily Jordan Folger, were the focus of the library's 2002 exhibition, "A Shared Passion: Henry Clay Folger, Jr., and Emily Jordan Folger as Collectors."

In a 2011 exhibition, eleven First Folios from the Folger collection were on view, together with more than a hundred other items. A single First Folio is on permanent display at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the Great Hall.

Back ... Comparing the Texts

Adapted from Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine (editors), Folger Library Shakespeare editions. © 2005 Folger Shakespeare Library
Henry Clay Folger, Jr. Photograph, 1910


A Shared Passion

Fame, Fortune, & Theft: The First Folio

The First Folio on Display

From the Collection

The Unique Titus Quarto

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