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Shakespeare & Beyond

Johnny Cash's Shakespeare

Johnny Cash performing
Johnny Cash performing

Johnny Cash performing

Johnny Cash. Photo: Warren K. Leffler, September 29, 1977.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, LC-U9-35188-B- 22A [P&P].

A rotating selection of items from The James L. Harner Collection of Miniature Books Pertaining to Shakespeare is on display in the Folger’s Founders’ Room through 2019.

Among the Folger’s smallest treasures are the wee books of the James L. Harner Collection of Miniature Books Pertaining to Shakespeare. The smallest book in Harner’s collection is a 14 millimeter printing of act IV, scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice. The collection also includes this miniature set of Shakespeare’s plays that belonged to country singer Johnny Cash.

The set came to the Harner collection from Cash’s assistant Peggy Knight, who worked for the Cash family for 33 years. On a certificate of authenticity, Knight wrote:

This set of miniature books was owned by Johnny Cash for as long as I, Peggy Knight, can remember. I do not know where John originally came by the books but John had such a wide variety of interest in things that you never knew what he would come home with in their travels… John passed these on to me a few years before he passed away. John & June were very giving people and often gave staff members personal mementos and items through the years.


I was interested to see that Jim Harner’s collection ended up at The Folger, which of course is absolutely the appropriate place for it. Jim was a member of the Miniature Book Society, and I met him a couple of times at the MBS Conclaves. I think he had a website for his collection, with photos of all the books.

Jan — August 7, 2019

On many and diverse occasions am,
I queried ‘bout my raiments and their hue,
A dark and somb’r a tone’s my uniform.
I’ve reasons for these outfits that I don.
For penniless and trampled hard upon,
Lacking hope and nourishment alike,
For he who once offended with a crime,
And if he sees the sunshine still ‘tis striped.
For those who in their age’d, wretched state,
Alone remain, alone expect to stay.
O drink and drug and recklessness doth cost,
For mourning am I clad for thousands lost.
I would that love will push the darkness back.
‘Till things are brighter, I’m the Man in Black.

Seth Blum — September 3, 2019