St. George, Wm. Shakespeare, and Mr. Morgan


Today is a notable day in the literary calendar, being the 451st anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. It is also World Book Day, and the birthday of President James Buchanan (1791-1868), Hawaiian president Sanford B. Dole (1844-1926), Ngaio Marsh (1895-1982), and Avram Davidson  (1923-1993). Ever since “Steevens adopted that date in his 1773 edition of Shakespeare, it has been usual to assume that Shakespeare was born on St George’s day, so that England’s patron saint and the birth of the ‘national poet’ can be celebrated on the same day” (ODNB).


The four Folio editions of Shakespeare are foundation stones of English literature and booksellers have paid attention to them down the centuries. The detail above from a 1787 auction catalogue shows the sums paid for a group of Folios; only the Chronicles of Froissart and Holinshed made higher prices.  A copy of the Third Folio (1664) now sits on our shelves, with interesting provenance: J.P. Morgan bought it from Sotheran’s on a fine day in June, 1896, as part of a set of the four Folios.

Morgan Shakespeare

On the same date, as this receipt shows, Morgan bought a vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible. Perhaps a glass of sherry was enjoyed in the shop afterwards. [HWW]

Morgan Shakespeare 1

(Receipt courtesy of Sotheran’s and the Morgan Library & Museum.)

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The Rare Third Folio, J.P. Morgan Copy

Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the true Original Copies. The third Impression. And unto this Impression is added seven Plays, never before Printed in Folio. Engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout in Hind’s second state, woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials. Text printed in double columns within box-rules. Collation: A4 b6; A-Z, Aa6 BB8; Cc-Zz Aaa6; Bbb-Zzz Aaaa-Daaa6 Eeee4; a6 b4 *-****4, A-B6 C-F4 G6 = 514 leaves. Complete.  Folio (12-3/4 x 8-1/2 in.; 324 x 215 mm). London: Printed for P[hilip] C[hetwinde], 1664. Third folio edition, second issue. Full red crushed morocco, triple fillet border, spine richly gilt with gold-stamped title, gilt turn-ins, marbled endsheets, a.e.g., by F. Bedford. Finely rebacked with original spine laid down. Portrait leaf with Ben Jonson verses inlaid; long tear in title skillfully mended (affecting a few letters in list of plays and first O in imprint), with fore-margin extended; Dedication leaf [A3] signed “A2” repaired in gutter and near lower corner margin; lower margins of preliminary leaves A4, b1-6 extended, a few small stains on leaves Dd5 and Ee3; occasional leaves heavily inked. A choice copy with excellent provenance. Provenance: J. Pierpont Morgan, with his gilt-stamped red leather armorial bookplate (flyleaf verso with pencilled shelfmark “W 11 A copy 3” at top and “dupe PML CR” at bottom corner; shelfmark 5130 on verso of title). Greg III, p. 1118-1119; Pforzheimer 908 ; Wing S-2914.

Third folio edition, second enlarged issue, of Shakespeare’s plays, generally regarded as the rarest of the seventeenth-century folio editions.

An unknown number of copies is thought to have been destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666. The Third Folio is a reprint of the second edition (1632), but this second issue contains seven additional plays; of which only Pericles Prince of Tyre is now considered to be the work of Shakespeare. In the first issue, the portrait was printed on the title page and the verses “To the Reader” appeared opposite on the verso of the first leaf. For this second issue, the first two leaves were cancelled and replaced by a conjugate pair, with the portrait printed above the Jonson verses on the first leaf, facing the title page now listing the seven plays (printed by Roger Daniel on eleven supplementary quires): Pericles Price of Tyre, The London Prodigall, The History of Thomas Ld. Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle Lord Cobham, The Puritan Widow, A York-shire Tragedy, The Tragedy of Locrine.

Item #267889



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