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Shakespeare & Beyond

A very special Christmas gift

PR2752 1875k Sh.Col.
PR2752 1875k Sh.Col.

Folger Finds delivers delightful and insightful moments with the Folger collection. Sarah Hovde, a cataloger at the Folger Shakespeare Library, shares the story behind a book that belonged to the library’s founder.

Many of us have probably given or received books for Christmas. Sometimes we’ve inscribed the book with a personal message, or have added a bookplate to show our ownership. These traces of ownership are referred to in the library world as “provenance,” and they’re especially important to the rare book community. At the Folger, we carefully record the information we can determine about former owners, gift-givers, and the traces they leave behind in a book—bookplates, signatures, or even letters or photographs—to help scholars study both the books and their people.

Sometimes the provenance is what makes a book special, even though the book is not that special in itself.