The Folger Shakespeare Library is filled with Elizabethan architectural motifs, including many references to Shakespeare and his works. A small number of these elements are directly connected to the First Folio of Shakespeare, which is at the heart of the Folger collection; the Folger Shakespeare Library includes 82 First Folios, the largest collection in the world.
The inscriptions on the building’s exterior and interior walls include two passages from the First Folio's preliminary pages as well as lines from Shakespeare's plays. Henry Folger asked that the lines from Shakespeare that he selected for the exterior Folger inscriptions be based on the First Folio spelling, rather than written in modern English.
A Monument to Shakespeare: The Architecture of the Folger Shakespeare Library (Apr 13, 2019 – Jan 5, 2020)
Several of the key figures connected to creating the First Folio are also honored in the stained-glass windows of the historic Reading Room. The windows include the names of Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminge and Henry Condell, who assembled the plays for the First Folio; playwright Ben Jonson, who wrote two poems for the First Folio; publisher Edward Blount, who led the syndicate that financed the First Folio; printer William Jaggard, who also participated in the syndicate with Blount; and Isaac Jaggard, William's son, who finished the First Folio after William Jaggard died.
The stained-glass windows also include the names and heraldic coats of arms for the two noble brothers to whom the First Folio is dedicated: William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, and Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, who became the fourth Earl of Pembroke.
This stained-glass window honors publisher Edward Blount, who is named on the First Folio's title page. He and William Jaggard headed a syndicate that invested in the First Folio's publication. Blount then sold the First Folio in his shop to book buyers and also sold it to other book dealers.
Ben Jonson wrote two poems for the First Folio. Henry Folger selected this text from Jonson's longer poem for one of the inscriptions on the front, north wall of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Jonson is written with an I (as Ionson), reflecting the style of 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.
Isaac Jaggard, whose name is shown here toward the bottom of the stained-glass window, was the son of printer William Jaggard. He took over his father's print shop when William Jaggard died and completed the First Folio. His name is on the title page with publisher Edward Blount.
Henry Folger chose these lines for the Folger Shakespeare Library's north wall from the First Folio's preface, "For the Great Variety of Readers." It was written by John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare's fellow actors, who assembled the plays for the First Folio.
His wit can no more lie hid,
Then it could be lost.
Reade him, therefore: and againe, and againe.
—John Heminge. Henrie Condell
This stained-glass window is for William Jaggard, whose print shop produced the First Folio. He joined with Edward Blount in the syndicate that published the First Folio, but died before his shop finished printing the book.
A marble statue of Puck, now inside the Folger, has been replaced outdoors by this metal replica. Facing the US Capitol, the playful figure is accompanied by Puck's line, as written in the First Folio:
Lord, what fooles these mortals be!
—A Midsommer Nights Dreame
Another inscription by Shakespeare appears indoors—a line from Henry VIII that welcomes visitors to the Folger Shakespeare Library.
I shower a welcome on ye; welcome all.