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Folger Treasures

Some of our favorite things from the Folger collection

Find here a rich collection of books, maps, objects, and paintings from the Folger collection. 


Not only is the Folger the largest Shakespeare collection in the world, it's also one of the world's three great libraries for studying early modern Europe (1450–1700).



Lute, from the workshop of Michielle Harton, ca. 1598.

A Lute and John Dowland's Music

The lute at left was made in Padua, Italy in 1598.


Does this instrument resemble ones that you see played by musicians today?

The Folger Consort plays music from Shakespeare's time, using old instruments such as the lute.


Listen to the group play a piece of music from Shakespeare's day . * 


It's called Half Hannikin, an English dance.


Which sound do you think is made by the lute?


The other instruments in this piece are the recorder, renaissance violin, viol, and renaissance guitar.

*You'll need RealOne to hear the music.
Click here to download it now.


The song at right was written by John Dowland, a lutenist.


Click on the sheet of music to see a full-sized image of the piece and perhaps sing it yourself.

Notice how the music is written around the pages. This is so that four musicians could play from the same book. Books were expensive in Shakespeare's day.



October by Thomas Trevelyon

Click on the image at left to see the full-sized book page.

It is believed that Thomas Trevelyon created this book for his family, as you might make a scrapbook or photo album for yours. Trevelyon wrote the text and drew the pictures himself.

A book of this type is known as a miscellany, because it gathers together information of various types. Trevelyon's book includes pages for each month of the year, images of the kings and queens of England and Scotland, diagrams of the planets, and much more. There are 580 pages in all.

If you were to create a page to describe the month of October, what would you include?


Visscher's View of London

This is a detail of a view of London created by the engraver Claes Visscher around 1616. Although the image may not be a true representation (the way photographs are today), it still provides a wonderful glimpse into Shakespeare's London.

Can you find The Globe?


The outdoor theatres where Shakespeare's plays were performed were located along the south side of the River Thames, beyond city rule.

What do you find interesting about this image?


Can you guess how the people lived in seventeenth-century London?


Notice all of the small boats on the river. These boats were like our taxicabs today, carrying people to and from different places in the city.


Do you see the stairways along the north side of the river?


These stairs led to the homes of London's great families.


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