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Today it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It is the book that rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. The Millionaire and the Bard tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book becameToday it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It is the book that rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. The Millionaire and the Bard tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession.When Shakespeare died in 1616 half of his plays died with him. No one—not even their author—believed that his writings would last, that he was a genius, or that future generations would celebrate him as the greatest author in the history of the English language. By the time of his death his plays were rarely performed, eighteen of them had never been published, and the rest existed only in bastardized forms that did not stay true to his original language.Seven years later, in 1623, Shakespeare’s business partners, companions, and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell, gathered copies of the plays and manuscripts, edited and published thirty-six of them. This massive book, the First Folio, was intended as a memorial to their deceased friend. They could not have known that it would become one of the most important books ever published in the English language, nor that it would become a fetish object for collectors. The Millionaire and the Bard is a literary detective story, the tale of two mysterious men—a brilliant author and his obsessive collector—separated by space and time. It is a tale of two cities—Elizabethan and Jacobean London and Gilded Age New York. It is a chronicle of two worlds—of art and commerce—that unfolded an ocean and three centuries apart. And it is the thrilling tale of the luminous book that saved the name of William Shakespeare “to the last syllable of recorded time.” -...

Title : The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio
Author :
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ISBN : 9781439118238
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 368 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio Reviews

  • Angela M
    2018-11-20 09:54

    3.5 starsYou probably need to love the work of Shakespeare to be interested in how his plays came to be published and how some of the first folio publications came to be a part of the famous Folger collection and museum in Washington, DC. My love of Shakespeare was born many years ago when as a college student and English major , I took the prerequisite courses of Shakespeare's Tragedies and Comedies. I have not read these plays in many years but have since then, of course , have known the tremendous impact and influence of Shakespeare in literary history . Once when on a business trip to England, I managed to take an extra day to make the trip to Stratford on Avon and for me it was a memorable literary pilgrimage to see the place where he was born , lived his later years , and died . I'm digressing, but my point is , I am one of the readers that appreciated this book .The earlier chapters are devoted to Shakespeare's life and the author comments how so little is actually known about him . What was fascinating to me in this section was how his work first came to be published. If it weren't for John Heminges and Henry Condell , who in 1620 decided to publish Shakespeare's complete works , who knows how much or how little we would have known about Shakespeare or whether we would have had the plays to read and see and love. The world owes a lot to these men who had the foresight to recognize the genius and importance of the plays . Subsequent chapters deal with the story of Henry Folger whose book collecting hobby turned into an obsession to buy as many copies of the First Folio as he could . Never had hoarding of "manuscripts, artworks , and memorabilia " reaped such a brilliant collection and fame for the collector. We of course owe a great to Folger . It was not what I would call a gripping read but I certainly found it worthwhile to read . Thanks to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley .

  • happy
    2018-12-04 02:40

    In this narrative, Ms. Mays not only looks at Henry Folger’s obsession, but at how the First Folio came to be and the men who compiled and published it. The first hundred pages or so of the narrative is a look at how First Folio, the first collection of all of Shakespeare’s works, came to be and a brief look at Shakespeare’s life and work. The two men who assembled and edited the First Folio were both actors who had been members of the King’s Men (Shakespeare Theater Company) while Shakespeare was still active in that company. Ms. Mays briefly goes into whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote what is attributed to him and comes down firmly in the side that Shakespeare is Shakespeare. While discussing the assembling and editing of the Folio, the author also gives the reader a lesson in the art of 17th century printing and publishing, including the difference between a folio and a quarto - two terms that often come up in conjunction of early copies of Shakespeare's plays. She also gives an opinion on why his plays were not published before his death – it has to do with 17th century copy write law or more accurately the lack thereof.Once the Folio is published, the author then switches to story of Henry Folger – a self-made man who through talent, hard work and probably a little bit of luck rose through the ranks of Standard Oil to eventually become President of Standard Oil of New York and amass medium sized fortune, about $14 million at the time of his death. Folger was born into the wrong branch of the Folger family – his uncle founded the Folger Coffee Company, but his father was not so fortunate – he went bankrupt while Henry was in college. Henry was only able to complete college due to some wealthy friends that funded his last two years at Amherst College.As wealthy men of that time go, late 1800s – early 1900s, Folger lived a relatively modest lifestyle. He didn’t build a mansion, in fact lived in the same rented home in Brooklynn until his retirement. It seems his only extravagance was his collecting of all things Shakespeare. He wasn’t just collecting Shakespeareana, but he and his wife were a bit of Shakespearean scholars themselves.In telling the tale of his collecting, the author also looks at the situation in Britain that allowed many wealthy American collectors to scoop up some of the most important of Britain’s cultural treasures and the British Presses reaction to it. The great private libraries were being sold off and the wealthy of Britain didn’t seem to care enough to buy their contents and allowed collectors like the Folgers to purchase some of the greatest examples of British literature. In talking about his methods of collecting, Ms. Mays goes to great length to describe his attempts as secrecy when purchasing items. In his collecting career, he twice set a record for the most money spent to purchase a book – once for a First Folio that could be traced to its original owner and once for what is known as the False Folio – a collection of 9 Shakespeare plays that was printed three years before the First Folio came to be. Another jewel in his collection is the only known copy of the 1594 quatro of "Titus Andronicus". This is the first known publication of one of Shakespeare's plays. The size of the Folgers home prevented them from displaying the whole collection, so they had it stored in warehouses all over New York City. Their collection eventually grew to over 70 First Folios out of 750 printed and enough other materials to fill a library. This is exactly what the Folgers decided to do upon his retirement from SOCNYThe founding of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. and what it took to get it built is covered in the last quarter of the narrative. This is also a fascinating story of politics and how money talks. The Folgers picked out the site for the library across the street from the Library of Congress (LoC). Before construction could begin however, the Librarian of Congress tried to have their site condemned to enable to expansion of the LoC. The Folgers used every available tool at their disposal to get the Librarian to change his mind and were successful. The Folger Shakespeare Library is the result.I feel this is a must read for any Shakespeare fan – a solid 4 star read

  • Chris
    2018-11-11 05:39

    Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley My first introduction to the Folgers came in high school when the Shakespeare we read was from the Folgers’s Library Edition. Eventually, I made my pilgrimage to the library. If you are a Shakespeare fan, the trip is worth it, despite the small size of the place. (And it’s a relative term; the nearby museums are much bigger). Lately the last two times I’ve been there have been early, right after opening, so quiet, and the volunteers gave me very wonderful one on one tours. Andrea Mays’ excellent book traces the Folgers, both Henry and his wife Emily, obsession with Shakespeare and the building of their museum/library as well as what is in essence, their own mausoleum. In all honesty, I should tell you that even before leaving the chapters on Shakespeare himself, I loved this book simply for two reasons. The first is that Mays keeps off the topic of Shakespeare’s marriage. Mays simply tells you who he married. The second is the absolute awesome way she dismisses the anti-Stratfordians. After which, I put up my feet ready to follow her anyway. Of course, you might simply surrender to the book after the line, “If the Bible is the book of God, then Shakespeare is the book of man on earth” (Loc 106). The book is more than a biography of the Folgers and the obsession that drove them for years. Mays does trace the printing of the first folio, and in fact, this section makes for some of the most engrossing reading, as well as the most humorous, reading in the book. The biography of Shakespeare that precedes this is brief, long enough to give those unfair with Shakespeare’s life enough information without borrowing the majority of readers who no doubt know the information already. The bulk of the book is about Henry and Emily Folger, in particular Henry, and the development of their collection and foundation of the library. Emily does get less of the lime light than her husband for it was his work (and legally his money) that allowed them to pursue their interest, but Mays does shine the light on her, in particular to the end of the book. It is impossible after reading this book to see the couple as anything less than a full partnership in the collection, leading one to one wonder why the title isn’t the Millionaires and the Bard. Mays goes into some detail about how Folger amassed his fortune, but she doesn’t go overboard, and more room is given over to the acquiring of the collection, including a brief tour of the terms that the Folgers themselves had to learn in purist of their quest. Along the way, Mays looks at Folger’s relationship to his sellers/dealers. At no point is the book ever dull, and both Emily and Henry come across not as fan boys but as dedicated and educated Shakespeareans. The book is carefully endnoted and sourced. It is a must read for a Shakespeare lover.

  • Nancy
    2018-11-30 06:47

    It was 11:00 pm and I was sitting up in bed reading, unable to put the book down, biting my fingernails in anxiety.I was not reading a thriller. No character was in a life or death situation.I had to laugh at myself. I was reading to see if Henry Folger's quest to purchase a rare Shakespeare First Folio was successful.The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio by Andrea Mays was an informative and interesting read. Mays "tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession."In Shakespeare's day plays were not published. The theater was about as well respected as network television is today. Paper was expensive and publishing was a long process. Plays were not 'set in stone' but adapted and altered and improved constantly. Without legal protection of intellectual rights a theater troupe's repertoire was jealously protected. Actors were given their lines, but no complete script circulated.Shakespeare wrote plays for twenty years then returned to Stratford where he died in 1616. It was seven years after his death that his business partners in the theater, John Hemings and Henry Condell, gathered all of his work to publish thirty six plays--the First Folio. The book took years to print, one page at a time, 750 copies, and took nine years to sell out.With each new publication of the Folios changes were made. Plays were added that were not by the Bard. Older folios were discarded, replaced by the new. The books ended up in personal libraries across Britain, often forgotten or unidentified.One of the Gilded Age's nouveau riche industrialists was William Clay Folger, who worked with Standard Oil. He didn't make unlimited money like his employer John D. Rockerfeller. Folger and his wife Emily agreed in their early marriage to live frugally, keep their lives private, and to spend all their money on Henry's dream of building a world-class collection of Shakespeareana. Mays chronicles Folger's life long quest for all things Shakespeare with particular consideration on his First Folio acquisitions. He ended up with a third of the surviving, known First Folios. Folger was lambasted by the Brits for taking their native son's legacy out of country.The Folgers put their collection away in warehouses across New York City, unseen for years, until in 1932 the Folger Shakespeare Library was built in Washington, D.C.Mays points out that Folger is an example of hoarding 'done right'. The Folgers' ashes reside in the library along with their collection.I enjoyed reading about Shakespeare's career, how books were published, the early collecting by Folger, and the building of the library. Because he bought so many First Folios it would get tedious reading about each sale, but the lesser important Folios are quickly noted. I also found interesting the viewpoint on the Standard Oil antitrust act and Ida Tarbell's journalistic attacks--a far cry from how things were perceived in The Bully Pulpit by Goodwin from the perspective of Teddy Roosevelt and the McClure's magazine staff.I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

  • Collin
    2018-12-08 04:32

    I'm a little worried that I've teared up more reading this book than I have in any fiction I've read in probably the past two years (save the Books of Umber). This is an amazingly obsessive work. I don't know much about Shakespearean history - I've just read the plays, man, I'm working up to the scholarly stuff - and you have to be so careful about trusting sources you don't know much about. But the fact that the Folger Shakespeare Library has this book prominently displayed on their website makes me more comfortable taking Mays at her word. That, and she seems to be the protege of some pretty big Shakespeareans. I trust you, Mays, though your authorial bias comes in pretty strong in a few points.But she loves Shakespeare! This whole book is such a LOVE LETTER to the love of Shakespeare, and as an increasingly obsessed bardolater, I'm so WEAK to this kind of rose-tinted effusion. I was brought to TEARY EYES! Because of SHAKESPEARE and how Mays is so in love with his words and his impact on the world! Look at how many caps and exclamation points I'm using! Because I'm SAD and OBSESSED and I feel like Mays is my wise older sister in bardolatry!I don't know how interesting this would be to someone who's not head over heels with Shakespeare, because even I grew a little weary at times - there are whole chapters dedicated to telegrams about Folger's pursuit of one Folio. But if you are head over heels for Shakespeare, I don't think this is one you can pass up. Maybe even if you already know some of the Folger story. (I didn't; I was an uneducated dilettante. I'm working on that now.) Mays's writing is crisp, clear, and, most importantly, enthusiastic. Gah, she just loves Shakespeare so much. She makes me love Shakespeare even more than I already did. If I die young, bury me in satin, lay me down on a bed of my Shakespeare copies.

  • Q2
    2018-12-06 08:29

    This probably isn't a book for everyone! The first quarter is all about Shakespeare--the timeline of what he wrote, when, and how he was a big ol' nobody for the longest time. Then, all because a couple of his buddies decided to publish a compendium of his work, he became more and more renowned. The rest of this book is about how, two hundred years later, Henry Folger (not the coffee one, but a relative) became a true bibliophile and antique book collector. Of course, Folger's Library still exists today (*add THAT to my bucket list!*) so he was, you know, sort of successful at amassing as much about Shakespeare as he possibly could. This book follows his acquisitions of first folios and quartos, but he also collected other ephemera about Shakespeare. I'm not going to lie, the information about who had what folio where and how much it cost sometimes got a little tiresome. Overall though, this book is totally interesting and absorbing. My favorite part remains the information about Shakespeare. I'm distraught at how little we know for sure about him and his life. I'm baffled that he wasn't more famous in his own time. I'm fascinated with facts about Elizabethan times--paper was super expensive and super rare, which is part of the reason none of his works exist in his own hand. The theater company probably used the papers again and again, both sides. Apparently a piece of the oldest Bible was found in the binding of a book from the 1700s--all because people were serious about reusing. See? Look how much I learned. ;)Review at

  • Allen Adams
    2018-12-06 07:28“What’s past is prologue.” - Act II, scene i; The TempestFew antiquarian books are as coveted as the First Folio of William Shakespeare, the 1623 publication that essentially saved the works of our most cherished playwright from becoming literary footnotes lost to the ravages of history. One could argue that it is the most valuable book in the world.In her book “The Millionaire and the Bard,” author Andrea Mays tells the tale of a wealthy American industrialist whose love for all things Shakespeare became an obsession, leading to the quietly steady amassing of the world’s preeminent collection of Shakespeariana in the earliest years of the 20th century.When Shakespeare died in 1616, many of his works died with him. In his day, few truly understood the depth and breadth of his genius. When he died, the popularity of his works was waning, and a full 18 of them had never been published. It was not until seven years later that some of Shakespeare’s friends compiled copies of his plays and manuscripts – 36 in all – in an effort to memorialize their fallen comrade.From there, it went on to be merely one of the most important English language books ever published.Collectors yearned for their own copies of the First Folio, but few had a devotion that burned as brightly as that of Henry Folger. From his college days, Folger bore a deep and abiding love for the works of Shakespeare. That love manifested in a desire to possess pieces of the Bard himself; he collected all sorts of books and playbills and what have you, but copies of the First Folio were his most yearned-for prizes.As he became one of the most prominent leaders of the massive Standard Oil Corporation, a trusted lieutenant of none other than John D. Rockefeller, Folger’s means began to catch up with his desired ends. Quietly, and with much attention given to secrecy, Henry Folger began purchasing copy after copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Condition rarely mattered as much as provenance (though when he found examples of excellence in both senses, no price was too high) – he just wanted as many First Folios as he could get.“The Millionaire and the Bard” really tells two stories. There’s the story of how the First Folio came to be and the genius whose work populated its pages. And there’s the story of one man obsessed with a need to amass that genius. From Jacobean England to early 20th century New York City, the story ranges across the centuries with dueling narratives of art and commerce and the overlap between them.Folger – whose name adorns the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. – was a captain of industry who also bore a deep admiration for the arts. Mays captures that dichotomy beautifully, painting a vivid portrait of a man whose quiet desires resulted in the world’s greatest collection of material regarding history’s greatest playwright. What sometimes surprises is the fact that the differences between businessman and collector are often too small to see. Folger’s quest is a compelling one, to be sure, and Mays gives it life.The book engages and informs in equal measure; it’s a worthwhile character study of a man whose bibliophilia utterly and irrevocably altered the literary landscape. As Polonius says in “Hamlet” – “This above all: to thine own self be true.” Henry Folger undeniably lived his life by those words.“The Millionaire and the Bard” is a must for Shakespeare fans, but anyone who loves books and the power they can hold over us will be swept up in this well-researched, well-wrought work.

  • Ted Lehmann
    2018-12-03 05:41

    Andrea Mays' The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obssessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio (Simon & Schuster, 2015, 368 pages, $27.00/12.99) takes what could be a plodding and pedestrian account of an American millionaire industrialist's quest to purchase and hoard every available period piece relating to Shakespeare, with special emphasis on assembling First Folios, turns out to be a stunning page turner. Henry Clay Folger emerges as a gentle, ethical, thoughtful friend, husband, colleague and mentor while amassing the largest privately held Shakespeare collection in the world. Born in 1857 to a middle class family with limited resources, Folger inspired enough friendship and confidence from wealthy friends that they advanced him money to attend Amherst College and later urged John D. Rockefeller to hire him soon after he completed law school at Columbia. By the time Folger died in 1932, he had amassed the largest private collection of Shakespeariana in the world and was well on his way to completing construction of the Folger Shakespeare Library on some of the most coveted real estate in Washington, D.C. The book reads like a fast-paced adventure novel in the real world of competitive collecting and the growth of mammoth American corporations during America's Golden Age.Folger, as both a business man and a collector, was noted for his discretion, his intelligence, persistence, and thoroughness. He rose through the Standard Oil ranks, becoming an intimate friend of John D. Rockefeller, who trusted him implicitly, relying on his careful analysis and thorough knowledge of the petroleum industry at every level for data-based information and decision-making. During the period of Standard Oil's breakup after the successful muck-raking campaign of Ida Tarbell, Folger was a key person in advising and working with Rockefeller to divide the corporation into, at least seemingly, independent corporations. He rose to become president and later chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New York. During most of his career, he and his wife Emily lived in rented housing, using their resources to amass their huge collection of Shakespeare related books, manuscripts, letters, paintings, sculpture, and other artifacts of the Shakespearean age. He bought his first First Folio, the definitive possession for Shakespeare collectors. By the time he died, Folger had accumulated eight-two of Shakespeare's First Folios, of which about 800 were initially printed in 1623, while only 233 known copies exist today. Read the rest of this review on my blog at and please consider ordering it through the Amazon portal there.

  • Daniel Farabaugh
    2018-11-29 06:46

    Much of this book is interesting and well written. The parts on Shakespeare and the creation of his works and the folios spread are engaging. The parts on Folger's life are also good.Three basic issues keep me from enjoying it more. First, it gets a little boring in the middle as it becomes a list of purchases. It pick up again around the creation of the library. Second, and more silly is the author's insistence that Standard Oil is unfairly tarred as having a negative legacy and that Folger's was a common man who rose to prominence. Neither of these are convincing. First Standard Oil has a justly deserved reputation for its horrible treatment of workers (Ludlow Massacre for example) and many of its business practices that have been outlawed since. Is it unabashedly awful, no but the author's Pollyanna view is off base. Secondly, Folger's grew up with advantages the common man did not. College was a possibility, he secured loans from wealthy friends to pay for it and these friends ushered him into the upper reaches of business. It does a disservice to his legacy to ignore these facts to present a contrived picture.

  • J. Bill
    2018-12-11 01:41

    A fascinating read. Folger was (is -- in the book) a fascinating character. I wish I would have learned a bit more about his personal life and not just his obsession w/ First Folios. He reminds me somewhat of Albert Barnes and his single minded quest for Impressionists (mostly Cezanne and Renoir it seems to me). I learned a great deal and found it really enjoyable.

  • Gretchen Freeman
    2018-11-20 08:43

    An outstanding example of narrative non-fiction where the story sweeps the reader into new learning about historical events. In this case, the story of Henry Folger's obsessive desire during the Gilded Age to collect Shakespeare First Folios and hundreds of thousands of Elizabethan-era documents, books, artworks and other collectibles. He and his wife Emily were determined to make their forty-year collection accessible to the public and to scholars by building and funding the renown Folger Shakespeare Library. It offers a fascinating, well-researched and compelling story about Folger's single-minded passion to acquire and preserve rare books that would otherwise have been scattered. Thanks to Henry and Emily Folger, Washington D.C. hosts the finest Shakespeare collection in the world.

  • Olivia
    2018-12-11 07:30

    All American Shakespeare lovers with an academic spirit should read this book. Mays does try to add in extra drama sometimes, but frankly, Folger is dramatic enough in his interactions with all things Shakespeare that it's not needed. The love between Emily and Henry is amazing, rivaled only by Rockefeller's love of Henry as a golfing partner. Brb crying over the digitized Titus from 1595 on the Folger's website.

  • Barbara
    2018-11-16 09:34

    Really enjoyed this book. I knew nothing about Folger or his library (though I had heard of the library and know the Folger Shakespeare editions). He was one of the Gilded Age industrialists, working for Standard Oil for many, many years, but unlike most of them, didn't collect to show off his wealth. He truly loved Shakespeare's work and the pursuit of First Folios. There was a lot here also about his wife, who was an integral part of his collecting and the building of the library. Fascinating!

  • Sarah
    2018-11-19 09:35

    I was lucky enough to see Andrea Mays speak at the Texas Book festival, and picked this up because she piqued my interest in her research. I enjoyed this - it is story ostensibly about Shakespeare and Henry Folger, but mostly about a book. This aggrandizing biography of Folger describes the life of a slightly lesser 19th/20th century oil baron and close friend of Rockefeller, who left behind a huge collection of Shakespeariana, (a word I had not read until this book) including a hoard of Shakespeare's first folios. It is this book, the first folio that provides the through line of the story from just after Shakespeare's death, when it was created, to Folger, who spent his fortune and his life chasing this book. It is to this book we owe our vision of Shakespeare - half of his plays had not been printed before this volume.Mays' reverence for Folger is apparent, as is her background in Economics. There are a few times when the lists of the first folios bought by Folger get a bit tedious, and I was saddened when she brushed off anti-semitism as "unworthy" of Folger. I also wished we got more of Henry's wife, Emily, who was his partner in life and Shakespeare collecting.Even though I have a few quibbles, this was an engaging work of non-fiction, and I'd read more of Mays' work.

  • Kenneth Iltz
    2018-12-12 04:53

    I am both a Shakespeare nut and a crazed book buyer. I buy at least three books for every one that I read. Most of the books that I buy are used or purchased at a discount. Henry Folger was in a different league. He began life penniless. He had to borrow money to complete college. Happily, he borrowed it from a classmate’s father who was an executive at Standard Oil. After graduation, Henry Folger took a job at Standard Oil and eventually became the President of Standard Oil New York. Over a period of about forty years, Henry Folger and his wife Emily assembling the world’s largest collection of First Folio editions of Shakespeare's plays. Even though he eventually accumulated a vast wealth, he scrimped to pay for his enormous Shakespeare collection. The book starts with the history of the Shakespeare folios and the important first folio compiled by Shakespeare’s contemporaries and actors in his company – John Heminges and Henry Condell. Only 750 copies were printed and most were lost. Toward the end of World War I, Henry and his wife Emily began searching for a location for their Shakespeare library. The cornerstone of the Folger Shakespeare Library was laid in 1930, but Henry Folger died before the building opened to the public. I enjoyed and recommend this book.

  • Katharine Ott
    2018-11-19 06:43

    "The Millionaire and the Bard" - written by Andrea Mays and published in 2015 by Simon & Schuster. This recounting of Henry Clay Folger's passion for all things Shakespeare was a fascinating read, prompting me to jot down many more notes than usual in my journal. The interesting details of his acquisitions were enhanced by the historical backgrounds both of Folger's era and Shakespeare's time. I learned a lot!Folger began by purchasing, for $107.50, a Fourth Folio, and "Soon, Folger found himself in the thrall of obsession." The reader of this book will emerge with a good sense of folios, quartos, and the hobby of hunting down rare books, but also Folger's career with an industrial power. "It was the success of Standard Oil that had made his great collection possible." He and his wife Emily were partners as they located, haggled for, purchased, cataloged and then warehoused hundreds of thousands of items.Author Mays has done an outstanding job of telling a well-researched story that I didn't know I needed to hear. I have put a visit to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. on my list and especially would like to see a First Folio in person. "Unwashed might be undesirable in a spouse, but it was a prized trait in a rare book."

  • Jason Paulios
    2018-12-04 09:50

    A fine overview of the history behind the Shakespeare First Folio and the founding of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Our book club read this to celebrate a First Folio visiting Iowa City and having a Shakespeare scholar available to ask questions definitely helped put this work in context. This is an economist's overview not that of a book or Shakespeare scholar! I came away knowing much more about the folio and Henry Folger's acquisitions but there was so much missing. Emily Folger gets a few mentions but was obviously a driving force in the collection and founding of the library. There's a LOT of information about the individual purchases which gets tedious, very little about historical context of purchases. World War I gets a paragraph, then transitions to more "Henry acquired three more First Folios that year" talk. 1 million people died during the Battle of the Somme, is there nothing in his or Emily's papers about their reaction to this while they buy books? It was a good book discussion. Ultimately we went away with great information but disliked the style and tone of this book.

  • Sandra
    2018-11-22 03:49

    I had a lot of trouble getting through this one. I loved the beginning discussion of how the folios were made and the early modern printing process. Full marks for that. But the rest with Folger feels less biography and more hagiography, to the point where the author seems to resent any interventions with Standard Oil because it slowed his acquisitions. I think I was also partially turned off because it celebrate how he got the Folios and then essentially hid them away for decades. He was a very methodical crazy cat lady with Shakespeare. I get loving Shakespeare (obviously, or else I'd never have picked up this book) but I don't get celebrating taking such a large percentage of Folios out of public view. (Shouldn't you share things you love, not gatekeep?)

  • Skostal
    2018-11-29 02:57

    Mays tells the story of Henry Folger’s rise from modest origins to the chairmanship of Standard Oil of New York and his obsessive quest to collect as many copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio as possible. Called miraculous and romantic, it reads like a thriller, with suspense, triumphs and defeats. His wife Emily receives equal billing in colleting and establishing the Folger Shakespeare Library. A literary detective story for the book-obsessed, at 368 pages it is perfect for escaping the too-many-people-in-one-lake-house vacation.

  • Mary
    2018-11-28 08:51

    This won't be a book for everyone but I thoroughly enjoyed learning the history of the publishing of the folios of Shakespeare's plays in the early 17th century. That is only a brief part of the book which then moves into the life of Henry Folger and his passion for collecting Shakespeariana. Along with insight into the mind of an enthusiastic collector, the book shares the genesis of the renowned Folger Shakespeare Library. A good bibliography at the end gives plenty of options for further study.

  • Stephen Bruce
    2018-12-05 01:48

    The central story—Henry Folger's hunt for First Folios—is surprisingly engaging. The writing is sometimes distractingly repetitive and the paragraphs strangely ordered, but that means that much can be skimmed through. The final chapter, on the construction of the Folger Shakespeare Library, is bittersweet. There are also several interesting digressions, including a summary of the publishing history of Shakespeare's works, and an apology for the business practices of Rockefeller and Standard Oil, which was provocative, though not really convincing to me.

  • Ryan
    2018-11-21 03:37

    Started strong with the historical information about Shakespeare and the making of the First Folio. But I never felt like I got a handle on who Folger was, or why he cared that much about collecting them. By three quarters in, the story was so dry that I quit.

  • Jess
    2018-11-11 01:47

    A clear and fascinating look at the creation of the Folger Library.

  • Joe
    2018-11-18 04:47

    A wonderfully written foray into the mind and sleuthing of businessman Henry Folger and his dogged pursuit of the First Folio.

  • Kimberly
    2018-11-22 06:41

    Great story about Henry and Emily Folger who used their money and power for the greater good.

  • Gena DeBardelaben
    2018-11-21 06:49

    eARC: NetgalleyI confess I'm no expert on Shakespeare. I just love his works. This book was so fascinating. I'm very thankful for the Folgers and the incredible gift they have given all of us.

  • Converse
    2018-12-06 06:38

    Andrea Mays, an economist at the University of California at Long Beach, describes how William Shakespeare's plays came to be published and how about 40% of the known copies of the first "official" edition ended up in a library in Washington, DC. When Shakespeare died in April 1616, it was in his home town of Stratford to which he retired in 1610 or 1611. He had not published his plays, partly because plays were viewed as ephemeral things that were meant to be seen not read, acting troupes had enough trouble with competitors stealing their material and didn't want to make it easier by having plays printed, and anyway Shakespeare didn't own the rights. The latter point had not prevented some of his plays being published individually in editions referred to as quartos from the format. My impression is that most of these quartos were pirated, but at least in one case the rights were properly paid for. Shakespeare seems to moved to London sometime in the late 1580s or early 1590s, when he was somewhere between 25 and 28 years old. He began by acting but rather quickly wrote his first play Titus Andronicus in the early 1590s (there is a sole surviving quarto from 1594). Shakespeare continued to act after he began writing, and became a shareholder in his theater troupe, known first as the Lord Chamberlain's Men and then as the King's Men. In 1596 Shakespeare's family was granted a coat of arms.The men who undertook the unprecedented and self-directed task of publishing an "official" edition of Shakespeare's plays were John Heminges and Henry Condell, who were fellow actors in the King's Men and who Shakespeare had left aside money in his will so that they might buy memorial rings. We don't know their sources for the plays, but likely guesses are 1) any manuscripts in Shakespeare's hand that had survived, 2) handwritten prompt books that contained the entire play as well as stage directions, 3) sides, that is the lines that one particular actor needed to memorize, 4) quartos, 5) their own recollections and those of their fellow actors, and 5) the "false quarto".In 1519, William Jaggard printed the "false quarto", a collection of Shakespeare's plays put out without authorization by the owners of the rights to the plays. In 1599 Jaggard had also put out an unauthorized edition of Shakespeare's poems. In both works Jaggard did something noteworthy; he included a number of plays or poems that Shakespeare didn't write.Jaggard's punishment for these misdeeds was to be selected as the printer for the first "official" edition, known as the First Folio! The term folio refers to the size of the pages (larger than quarto), and using the folio format had been previously considered unseemly for trashy literature like plays. Unlike previous pirated editions, in this case the owners of the intellectual rights were paid. In Shakespeare's time, the author sold the intellectual rights, all of them, to the acting troupe that bought the play; in Shakespeare's case the rights mainly belonged to the King's Company, though there was a bit of problem with Trolius and Cressida, whose rights were owned by the printer of the quarto, Henry Walley. The rights to Pericles couldn't be secured so that play was left out.The printing of the First Folio was complete in 1623. The printers had a certain insouciance about their product, each volume of which was a bit different, the pages numbers were out of order, proof pages might be incorporated, bits of the start of Romeo and Juliet could be missing, and more - Mays nicely spoofs this in a paragraph on page 51. In addition to the plays, the First Folio contains material referred to as preliminaries. The preliminaries include the dedication, the portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout, several poems of very variable quality celebrating Shakespeare, a table of contents, and a list of the more important actors that had performed Shakespeare's plays. Centuries later, the presence and quality of these preliminaries would become an important determinant of the price of a First Folio in the rare book trade. It was (is?) not uncommon for some copies to lack these preliminaries, or to have missing preliminaries replaced by preliminaries from another First Folio, or from the Second, Third, or Fourth Folios. The First Folio was sold unbound; the buyers would take the sheets to a bookbinder of their choice.Three more editions of Shakespeare's works were published in folio format. The Second Folio, published in 1632, was very similar to the first. The Third Folio, published in 1666, and the Fourth Folio, published in 1685, were notable for adding 7 plays wrongly attributed to Shakespeare, though at least Pericles also got included. A number of buyers of the First Folio seemed to have ditched their copies of that edition and purchased a Third or Fourth, because since these had more plays they must be better. It was only in the middle of the eighteenth century that the importance of the First Folio was recognized. This recognition came as part of a growing popularity of Shakespeare, with the actor David Garrick playing an important role in starting the modern Shakespeare "industry" with his 1769 Shakespeare Jubilee held in Stratford. This popularity continued and crossed the Atlantic to the United States, where the second part of the story takes place.Henry Clay Folger was born in Brooklyn in 1857 to Henry and Eliza Folger, who had 7 other children. Henry Sr. was a milliner supplier, and I think must have been well-off but not precisely rich. Henry Jr. went to Amherst, graduating in 1879 thanks to a loan from the family of of his friend Charles Pratt, after his father's business suffered a reverse. Having intensely disliked this bout of poverty, Henry Clay Folger went to work in Brooklyn as a clerk in the Astral Oil Company, partially owned by Pratt's father. Astral Oil was not the independent business that it appeared to be, as in 1874 it had secretly become part of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil. Folger prospered at Standard Oil, gaining positions of increasing responsibility due to his meticulous understanding of how to shave expenses in the oil industry.Folger had certainly appreciated Shakespeare since at least his college days, but not until 1889 did Folger buy his first Folio, a Fourth. A turning point in his collecting occurred in 1903 when he bought the August Vincent First Folio from Coningsby Sibthorp, a British landowner. The interest in this folio, besides its condition, is that August Vincent had been given the folio by the printer Jaggard for responding to printed attacks on Jaggard by one Raphe Brooke. Here for the first time Folger displayed a willingness to pay whatever was needed to obtain a unique example of Shakespearean material. Folger was not as wealthy as potential competitors John Pierpont Morgan or Collis and Henry Edwards Huntington, but he was much more focused on Shakespeare than they were. Folger also didn't display his books; after they took up more room than could be accommodated in his rented (!) house, he stored them in various warehouses around New York City. His wife Emily wrote and typed out thousands of cards in attempt to catalog the collection of material, and each of them became exceedingly well-informed Shakespeare scholars in the process of collecting.Besides folios and quartos, they purchased Shakespeare-related paintings and sculptures, and a huge (millions of items, I believe) collection of Shakespeare-related ephemera: programs of plays, ticket stubs, and so on.Standard Oil was broken up in 1911 as a result of a n anti-trust case that made it to the Supreme Court, a move that doesn't seem to have reduced Folger's prosperity, no matter how much he resented it ( economist Mays does a good job of resenting it on his behalf). In 1923 he had become chairman of one of the companies resulting from the breakup, Standard Oil of New York. Folger seems always to have intended to establish a library, and after some indecision regarding location in 1921 he had begun secretly purchasing 14 lots on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. In January 1928 he had purchased all of the lots, only to be faced by the possibility that the nearby Library of Congress would acquire his lots by eminent domain. By taking the Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, into his confidence and pointing out if near to one another the institutions would be complementary, Folger got the legislation altered in April 1928, averting a crisis. Earlier in 1928 Folger had announced his impending retirement from Standard Oil of New York, and had finally gotten around to buying a house.Folger did not live to see his library completed, for he suddenly died on June 11, 1930 of a pulmonary embolism after two minor surgeries. Construction had begun on his library shortly before. Emily continued with the project (indeed without her being willing to not demand repayment of some money owed to her by Henry's estate, it could not have continued) and on April 23, 1932, the library was dedicated. Although Henry's estate had taken a hit from the 1929 stock market crash, it recovered sufficiently so that as well as construction being completed an endowment was left to fund operations; the board of Amherst College are the trustees. Emily died in 1936.The Folger library is basically not open to the public and is mainly a research center. It has broadened its collection and is a repository for cultural artifacts from late sixteenth and early seventeenth century Europe. Although its endowment is healthy, prices of Folios have increased such that it has never purchased another one after Folger's death. And they are still trying to get all of Folger's original acquistions cataloged.

  • Brian Willis
    2018-11-28 03:42

    In reality, this is a popular history of Shakespeare's First Folio, the landmark collection of his plays that brought us the only known version of half of his masterpieces and which has only survived in roughly just under 300 total versions throughout the world.After 30 pages of Shakespearean biography (the weakest part of the book, much of which is oversimplified or even contentious to modern scholarship - but forgivable, as this is neither Mays's background nor her emphasis), Mays enters into the meat of her story: the production of the First Folio of 1623 (and subsequent editions) and how those volumes survived to the present day. Much of this undoubtedly should be attributed to Henry Clay Folger, an executive at Standard Oil of Rockefeller fame and family member of the famous Folger Coffee fame. The fun in this book is following a bibliophile in his obsession with purchasing rare editions of Shakespeare's work, seeing his successes and failures, and watching him realize his dream of owning over 80(!) copies of the First Folio. The last 50 pages of the book detail his efforts to build the Folger Shakespeare Library, where those volumes are preserved in D.C., at the onset of the Great Depression.A recommended read for those obsessed with rare books, book collecting, and Shakespearean textual history.

  • Kelly
    2018-11-28 02:35

    This is the story of the Folger Library told in a clipped, straightforward way. The bulk of the book consists of purchase histories—how much Folger paid for what folio and how certain sales came about. From time to time the author throws out strange assertions of libertarian and conservative economic orthodoxy (John D. Rockefeller is presented as some kind of John Galt figure), and she clearly takes the view that her subject was some kind of paragon of human virtue; all of Henry Folgers faults are “uncharacteristic,” “unworthy” of his true self, or otherwise abnormal and scarcely worth mentioning. His antagonists (in business and in collecting) are, on the other hand, portrayed as vicious, wrong-headed, dishonest, etc. In truth, the weird politics and fawning tendencies of the author grew tiresome after a while—which is too bad, because there is an engaging story underneath it all.

  • Chris
    2018-11-17 03:40

    I found this book fascinating in the way that it interwove the story of Henry Folger, who served in leadership positions with the Standard Oil Company under John D. Rockefeller, with the history of Shakespeare's writings and how they were collected and passed down through the centuries. Folger used the wealth he amassed through Standard Oil to assemble an incredible collection of Shakespearean items, which became the basis for the Folger Shakespeare Library he established (and personally funded) in Washington, D.C. The journey from Folger's first acquisition to his establishment of the library is well told in carefully researched and recounted detail.