The Folger's large collection of printed books includes about 256,000 volumes, among them 116,000 rare books. These works focus on all aspects of British and European literary, cultural, political, religious, and social history from the fifteenth through the eighteenth centuries, with particular strength in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The book collection also encompasses an unusual holding of some 250,000 printed playbills, primarily from the nineteenth century, offering an invaluable resource for research into British and American stage history. Goran Proot is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Books at the Folger.
Unlike most collectors of their day, Henry and Emily Folger liked to acquire rare books that included markings, or annotations, by previous owners and readers. Today, such marginalia and inscriptions are of great interest to scholars. The exhibitions The Reader Revealed and Thys Boke Is Myne drew on such marked Folger texts to explore the connection between books and their readers or owners.
Other Folger exhibitions highlighting aspects of the book collection have included Fine and Historic Bookbindings, The First Folio of Shakespeare, Yesterday's News, which included many seventeenth-century newsbooks, and The Festive Renaissance, a display of the library's large holding of Renaissance "festival books," many donated by Mrs. H. Dunscombe Colt.
To learn more about the Folger's diverse book holdings, consult the list of topics in the navigation bar at left.