Give the gift of books from JHU Press!

The JHU Press publishes beautiful, influential, award-wining books on a variety of subjects. From a history of the Folger Shakespeare Library to a full-color celebration of Amish quilts to an insider’s look at the Large Hardon Collider, books from JHUP make terrific gifts for series readers. For reviews and more information or to place an order, click on the titles below. To receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post, enter code HDPD at checkout or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487. Happy holidays from JHUP!

Renegade Amish: Beard Cutting, Hate Crimes, and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers
Donald B. Kraybill

“Renegade Amish… provides an insider’s perspective into how a small community of Amish people, nurtured in a religious tradition of nonviolence and forgiveness, transformed into a culture of revenge and retaliation.”— Publishers Weekly

“For the dimwitted habitues of comments threads, it was the news item that launched a thousand lame puns. But the case of the Bergholz Barbers is funny only as long as it remains a sound bite. Donald B. Kraybill’s new book, Renegade Amish: Bear Cutting, Hate Crimes and the Trial of the Bergholz Barbers, digs deep into a story that, for all its seeming quaintness, has the power to both rock the underpinnings of hate crime legislation and to break the human heart.”— Laura Miller, Salon

The Large Hadron Collider: The Extraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind
Don Lincoln

“Lincoln’s tales of the LHC . . . offer readers fresh insight into some of the most significant research in modern physics.”— Publishers Weekly

“Laypersons interested in the building blocks of the universe and/or the newsworthy LHC will learn a lot from this work and enjoy the process.”— Library Journal

“Physics blends with some amazing stories of the Higgs boson and other details in a powerful scientific survey packed with insights that are both scientifically detailed and widely accessible to general-interest readers.”— California Bookwatch

Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger
Stephen H. Grant

“Grant provides not just a biography of the ‘onlie begetters’ of this astonishing library, but also an account of the worlds in which the Folgers lived. The result is a superlative book. . .  Crisply written and packed with facts and anecdotes.”— Michael Dirda, Washington Post

“This book will fill a major gap in our understanding of how one of America’s most influential institutions came to be, and it will be welcomed by what the 1623 Folio describes as a ‘great Variety of Readers.’ c— John F. Andrews, President, The Shakespeare Guild

Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities
Richard Striner and Melissa Blair

Demonstrating how an international design movement found its way into ordinary places, this beautiful book will appeal to architectural historians, as well as regional residents interested in developing a greater appreciation of Art Deco architecture in the mid-Atlantic region.

“This is an important book.”— Richard Guy Wilson, University of Virginia

Arthur Ashe: Tennis and Justice in the Civil Rights Era
Eric Allen Hall

“A strong book on an outstanding topic, it serves as a reminder that Ashe’s tragic death has to some extent eclipsed his life’s work on behalf of racial equality.”— Wall Street Journal

“A portrait of Arthur Ashe that shows the fullness of his character—his broad interests, his impressive talents, and his missteps.”—  New Books in Sports

Amish Quilts:Crafting an American Icon
Janneken Smucker

“The gap between what artisans intend and what dealers and owners come to believe is entertainingly conveyed in this study by the textiles historian Janneken Smucker . . . The book is timely since the history of folk art collection is under scrutiny.”—New York Times

“Just as people who buy the New Yorker for its cartoons feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth without reading beyond the punch lines, readers may take this up for the pictures alone: they are sumptuous . . .  [Smucker] writes appealingly and clearly, always defining quilt jargon and explaining cultural mores as she tells of the seemingly humble Amish quilts and the people who have loved them.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Night Guard at the Wilberforce Hotel
poems by Daniel Anderson

“Daniel Anderson’s fine new poems are plain spoken, and yet their outwardness turns subtly inward as we read and endows each subject with depth and discovery.”— Richard Wilbur

“The finely rendered voice in these poems is one of wisdom and vulnerability, hard–earned resolve, and steadfast wonder. Anderson’s attention—a ‘supple, taut, and silken net’—suspends between seemingly opposite and equally forceful gravities, one that belongs to ‘a dull, protracted age / Of worry, ambiguity, and doubt,’ and the other to a pure desire ‘that certain days—this one— / may never end.’ The result is transfiguring. Anderson is in firm possession of the rare ability to make ‘our exhausted, ruthless world / seem limitless once more.’ I am supremely grateful for The Night Guard at the Wilberforce Hotel.”— Claudia Emerson

Generic:The Unbranding of Modern Medicine
Jeremy A. Greene

“Greene turns the concept of generic as ‘ho-hum’ on its head with this jam-packed survey of the effects culture, medicine, and politics have exerted on today’s ubiquitous generic drugs for the last 50 years.”— Publishers Weekly

“Jeremy Greene’s Generic: The Unbranding of Modern Medicine fascinates because the very meaning of the key term ‘generic’ is so unstable. Every time the reader thinks they have a handle on its dimensions, another four open up.”— Joseph Dumit, Somatosphere

Rock Star: The Making of Musical Icons from Elvis to Springsteen
David R. Shumway

“[Kurt Cobain] marked something like the end point of rock stardom, the point when even actual rock stars rejected the role… Which may be fortunate, since it seems to be disappearing anyway, as Shumway argues in this smart, provocative, and emotionally charged book. I’d hate for that to be true, but in the worlds of media and culture we’re in the grips of changes as profound as any since the invention of the printing press. In that enormous context, the loss of rock stardom may seem trivial. But, as the old prerock era Gershwin song says, not for me.”— from the foreword by Anthony DeCurtis

Improving Your Memory book cover imageImproving Your Memory: How to Remember What You’re Starting to Forget
fourth edition
Janet Fogler and Lynn Stern

“The finest handbook we’ve seen on the subject.”— AARP Magazine

“”A good handbook on memory improvement… The best way to deal with mild memory loss is the use of memory aids and a good sense of humor.”— Creative Retirement

The Empire of the Dead
Stories by Tracy Daugherty

“In this new collection, Tracy Daugherty is the maestro of middle age, and his recurrent character, Bern, is an everyman of modern times. Daugherty writes with great skill, empathy and humor of Bern’s travails and longings. The Empire of the Dead is a superb book of stories that will burnish Daugherty’s already formidable reputation as a contemporary master of short fiction.”— Greg Johnson, author of Women I’ve Known: New and Selected Stories

Doctors Without Borders: Humanitarian Quests, Impossible Dreams of Médecins Sans Frontières
Renée C. Fox

“Carefully researched and delightfully written, Doctors Without Borders establishes a new bar for those who would cover Médecins Sans Frontières in the future. This book will take its due place as one of the most comprehensive works on MSF.”— Science

“A commendably reflective work of sociology that, more importantly, tells a remarkable history of care.”— Publishers Weekly

Maryland in Black and White: Documentary Photography from the Great Depression and World War II
Constance B. Schulz

“When I reflect on the grimness of the Depression and World War II, I naturally think in terms of the dramatic qualities of black and white photography. Among the images Schulz includes here, even a seemingly routine photo of a Hagerstown railroad station has a certain wonderful, almost Edward Hopperesque, quality to it.”— from the Foreword by Frederick N. Rasmussen


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Give the gift of books: HISTORY

The JHU Press has an award-wining list in history, with acclaimed books on Lincoln and the Civil War, a fascinating account of the linothorax (the linen armor of the ancient world), and a new family-friendly guide to historic travel in the Mid-Atlantic. Read more about them or place an order by clicking on the titles below. To receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post, enter code HDPD at checkout or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487. Happy holidays from JHUP!

“An engaging, conversational, and meticulously researched study of The Star-Spangled Banner over its 200-year history. Historians will find great insight into the importance of music as a tool for historical inquiry; musicologists will welcome a serious study of song; and general readers will gain a larger understanding of the way humans use national symbols to construct and reinforce identity.”— Susan Key, Star-Spangled Music Foundation

“Ferris’s fascinating account is basically the biography of a song, one that originated in the Baltimore harbor, became a popular and patriotic favorite, and fended off challenges from the likes of America the Beautiful . . . Ferris gets extra credit for including thoughtful analysis of bold renditions by the likes of José Feliciano, Jimi Hendrix, and Marvin Gaye.”— John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine

 Abraham Lincoln: A Life
Michael Burlingame
Hardcover boxed set

Volume 1 in paperback
Volume 2 in paperback 

“This book supplants [Carl] Sandburg and supersedes all other biographies. Future Lincoln books cannot be written without it, and from no other book can a general reader learn so much about Abraham Lincoln. It is the essential title for the bicentennial.”— Publishers Weekly

“A complete view of Lincoln’s life . . . thorough.”— U.S. News & World Report

“A monumental boxed effort that weighs in at 10 pounds . . . The result is a picture of Lincoln from all sides, in a style that is relentless but not daunting.”— Bloomberg News

“A magisterial enterprise.”— William Safire, The New York Times

 Ronald S. Coddington’s Faces of the Civil War trilogy:

Faces of the Civil War: An Album of Union Soldiers and Their Stories

“A tour de force. The cartes de visite of soldiers proudly posed in their uniforms and the narratives of their lives, drawn from the veterans’ service and pension records, enable the reader to better understand the grim realities that confronted Civil War soldiers and sailors on the battlefield, in camp, on the march, at the hospital, and also on the home front.”— Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, National Park Service

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor: Unraveling the Linothorax Mystery
Gregory S. Aldrete, Scott Bartell, and Alicia Aldrete

“Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is a model example of the benefits that can come from creative engagement with historical re-enactors.”— Times Literary Supplement

Reconstructing Ancient Linen Body Armor is essential for anyone interested in ancient warfare and/or experimental archaeology, from academic to layman, and is a defining and valuable contribution to our understanding of the ancient world.”— Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Living Hell: The Dark Side of the Civil War
Michael C. C. Adams

“Provides a vital gut-wrenching counterpoint to the Civil War’s glamorization in America’s collective memory, a perspective as important to understanding the war as any political history or general’s biography. Living Hell will appeal to lovers of military history while being accessible enough for general readers. Those with the fortitude to endure its darkest moments will find it fascinating.”— Shelf Awareness

Travels through American History in the Mid-Atlantic: A Guide for All Ages
Charles W. Mitchell
with maps by Elizabeth Church Mitchell

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The stranding of so many Kemp’s ridley turtles in Massachusetts is both good news and bad news

An expert’s perspective: James R. Spotila

In recent weeks, sea turtles have been stranding in historic numbers along the beaches of Cape Cod. A recent article in the New York Times tells the story of heroic volunteer efforts to rescue the stranded turtles, and it highlights the uncertainties (and the hunches) as the scientific community tries to understand what’s happening. We asked JHU Press author James R. Spotila, a world-renowned expert on sea turtles, for his perspective on the strandings. We were particularly curious about why so many young Kemp’s ridleys have been found.

“The stranding of so many Kemp’s ridley turtles in Massachusetts,” Jim explains, “is both good news and bad news. The good news is that there are a lot of juvenile Kemp’s ridleys from conservation efforts in Mexico for many years. The bad news is that the loss of so many turtles due to cold stunning threatens the supply of juvenile animals that could replace all those turtles killed in the Deep Water Horizon Gulf oil spill suggests that there may be new and/or increasing problems with ocean warming and currents that are affecting the turtles that spent their summer vacation off Cape Cod.”

For additional perspective, we offer this excerpt from Jim’s most recent book, Saving Sea Turtles: Extraordinary Stories from the Battle against Extinction:

Each year the International Sea Turtle Society brings together scientists and conservationists to discuss the latest information on sea turtles and to develop plans to restore their numbers.

Yet with all the dramatic and often heroic efforts, sea turtles still hang close to the edge of extinction. Without these efforts there is little doubt that things would be much worse. Kemp’s ridleys would certainly have gone extinct. There would not be any green turtles in the Caribbean. Most other sea turtle populations would be gone, or at least reduced. There would certainly not have been the recoveries we have witnessed in some areas, such as population growth at Tortuguero in Costa Rica and the increases on Ascension Island. There are reasons for celebration. The year 2000 came and went, and the world had the same number of sea turtle species as it had in 1900. There were, to be sure, many fewer turtles in the interceding 100 years (we had lost perhaps 90% in terms of overall numbers in that 100-year span). Sea turtles are a shadow of their former populations in most of the world. That is a sad fact of life. Still, we have the seven species, still alive in the wild and still good candidates for recovery. . .

Sea turtles need a constituency where they live. Arguably the most effective long-term efforts have been to teach children to love sea turtles. When they grow up, they will become advocates for the turtles.

What is your part in this unfinished play? You can walk the beach. You can volunteer locally or internationally. You can get lights turned out on nesting beaches. You can keep that hotel from going up on the turtle beach. You can join local, national, or international organizations that work to save turtles. Ed Drane helped save sea turtles in South Carolina, Georgita Ruiz saved olive ridleys and green turtles in Mexico, and Randall Arauz saved them in Costa Rica. They are not superhuman. In fact, they are ordinary people who just did what they could to make the world a better place. Dream of an ocean where turtles will swim free of longlines and gill nets and come ashore to nest on dark beaches without poachers. I believe that, despite all of the problems and all of the threats, we will save the world’s sea turtles. We will do it one beach at a time, one turtle at a time, and one person at a time. You need to be that person. Come join us.

James R. Spotila is a professor of biology and the Betz Chair Professor of Environmental Science at Drexel University. He is one of the world’s leading sea turtle researchers and conservationists and the author of the award-winning books Saving Sea Turtles: Extraordinary Stories from the Battle against Extinction and Sea Turtles: A Complete Guide to Their Biology, Behavior, and Conservation, both published by Johns Hopkins.




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Happy birthday, Jane Austen!

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, in Steventon, Hampshire, England. Today, on her 239th birthday, Austen’s life and work continue to attract enormous world-wide interest. In 2016, the Folger Shakespeare Library will host an exhibition called Will & Jane: Shakespeare, Austen, and the Cult of Celebrity, exploring how these writers became literary superheroes. The exhibition will be co-curated by JHU Press authors Janine Barchas (Matters of Fact in Jane Austen: History, Location, and Celebrity) and Kristina Straub (Domestic Affairs: Intimacy, Eroticism, and Violence between Servants and Masters in Eighteenth-Century Britain).  Congratulations, Janine and Kristina: we’ll see you at the Folger!  For now: Happy birthday, Jane!

“Will & Jane” artwork by Amanda Vela 



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Treat yourself this holiday season: subscribe to a JHUP JOURNAL!

 By Janet Gilbert, JHUP Journals Staff

After two hours at the mall, my feet are burning in my pointy work shoes. I hoist my packages up the first set of ten and the second set of five steps to my front door, and toss the bags of gifts in the foyer. I’ll wrap them tomorrow. Because now it’s time for a cup of hot cocoa by my garish tree replete with homemade egg-carton and coffee-scoop ornaments—and the latest issue of The Hopkins Review.

ITHR_7.2_rgb like to treat myself. And to me, this particular journal from our catalog of more than 80 provides slow-down-and-reflect moments in a hurry-up-and-do-something world. It’s a gift I enjoy all year, but appreciate most at this time when I have so many extra-festive elfish tasks.

Why not treat yourself to a subscription to an academic journal this year? It may be the smartest gift you give yourself: time to consider a different perspective, time to think. As a graduate student in the Hopkins Writing program, my natural inclination would be to pick up the Sewanee Review, one of the most storied literary quarterlies in the United States. But wait, Studies in American Fiction offers a tasty smorgasbord of writers from a range of historical periods, and Callaloo serves up the very best original work by writers and visual artists of African descent worldwide. Callaloo Art, the new fifth issue devoted to visual art and culture of the African Diaspora, is simply an inspirational and lush read.

CAL_37.2_rgbEnough about me. If you are a historian, don’t you deserve Reviews in American History? It’s one journal that throws a window wide open on all areas of American history: culture, gender, law, politics, the military, and more.

If you are a health professional, you might have to sit down to make your pick: Bulletin of the History of Medicine will inform your work by providing a social, cultural, and scientific context for all kinds of medical practices and procedures. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved will spark your advocacy, and Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics will provide you with first-person patient and practitioner narratives that will do more than inform you—they will move you.

DPH_3.1_rgbLest you think we’ve forgotten you, person-keenly-interested-in-all-things-French-and-medieval, we have the perfect gift: Digital Philology. With an electronic subscription, you can sit in your living room with your laptop and transport yourself effortlessly and immediately to the library of the Universidade de Coimbra in Portugal to study a little-known manuscript from the thirteenth century.

My point is, take a vigorous, year-long intellectual adventure from the seat of your most comfortable armchair. From African American Review (African American literature, theatre, film, poetry and culture) to Feminist Formations (feminist, gender, and sexuality studies) to Victorian Periodicals Review (editorial and publishing history of Victorian periodicals), we’ve got an academic journal for you.

Why not feed your intellect and restore your soul this season by giving yourself a subscription?

Best of all, you don’t have to trek to the mall. Just click on the titles below or browse our entire collection.

African American Review
Bulletin of the History of Medicine
Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures

Feminist Formations
Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved

Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics: A Journal of Qualitative Research
Reviews in American History


Studies in American Fiction
The Sewanee Review

The Hopkins Review
Victorian Periodicals Review

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Give the gift of books: NATURE

The JHU Press has a beautiful selection of books on the natural world, from the amazing new edition of Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America, to our popular Animal Answer Guide series, to family-friendly guide books, to handsomely illustrated volumes on owls, polar bears, and mountain gorillas. Read more or place an order by clicking on the titles below. To receive a 30% discount on all books featured in this blog post, enter code HDPD at checkout or mention this code when calling in your order at 1-800-537-5487. Happy holidays from JHUP!

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America
revised and updated, 2-vol. set
Guy Baldassarre
A Wildlife Management Institute Book

“Creating a brand-new version of such a timeless and previously revised classic is a risky venture indeed, but nobody could be better suited for this monumental task than Guy Baldassarre. He has created a stunning new classic, at once magnificent in its visual appeal and truly comprehensive in its scientific breadth and depth. Hats off to Guy for dedicating himself to this project with such obvious passion, patience, and skill. This book absolutely belongs on the shelf or coffee table of anyone who has ever marveled at waterfowl, whether through their binoculars or from inside the duck blind.”—John W. Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

“Whether you’re a duck hunter, a decoy collector, or just enamored with the world of waterfowl, Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America is the ultimate reference . . . Destined to become a go-to source for this generation of enthusiasts and the next.”—Garden & Gun


Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide
Gene Helfman and George H. Burgess

“Whether you fear sharks or just have a curiosity about them, Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide will home school you about these fascinating creatures that have been around for millions of years. . . Get a copy, you’ll be glad you did.”—Skip Clement, Fly Life

“I most highly encourage that all interested not only purchase and read Sharks: The Animal Answer Guide themselves but that additional consideration be given to presenting a copy as a gift to anyone with an interest in sharks… Ignorance and error are indeed a darkness of the mind for which the easiest correction is the introduction of light. To that end, this book veritably glows.”—John E. Riutta, The Well-read Naturalist

Penguins: The Animal Answer Guide
Gerald L. Kooyman and Wayne Lynch

“As a penguin biologist, I was surprised how much I learned reading Penguins that I had not already known. For penguin enthusiasts, Penguins: The Animal Answer Guide is a must read that will, thanks to Lynch’s spectacular photographs, be thoroughly thumbed through by the whole family. Likewise, this book should be required reading for those doing penguin outreach or informal education.”—Heather J. Lynch, Quarterly Review of Biology

“The writing is crisp and often witty and entertaining. These characteristics make it appealing to professional ornithologists as well as enthusiastic children—it would be great bedtime reading for any penguin lover. . . Highly recommended.”—Choice

Polar Bears: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior
Text by Andrew E. Derocher
Photographs by Wayne Lynch

“A book which would grace any coffee table, but equally one which should be in the library of every zoo and scientific institution which has an interest in polar bears, Arctic biodiversity or the possible effects of global warming. For every curator, animal manager, veterinarian and zoo architect it should be mandatory reading . . . Global warming, with or without mankind’s help, may cause the polar bear to become extinct and this book may be the best record we have to remember it by.”—Richard Perron, International Zoo News

A Year across Maryland: A Week-by-Week Guide to Discovering Nature in the Chesapeake Region
Bryan MacKay

“This is a delightful book packed with information on a diversity of organisms with explicit instructions on how to enjoy marvelous creatures virtually every day of the year. MacKay’s passion for natural history is palpable.”—Lytton John Musselman, author of Plants of the Chesapeake Bay: A Guide to Wildflowers, Grasses, Aquatic Vegetation, Trees, Shrubs, and Other Flora

“Whether you want to see Snow Geese and Trumpeter Swans pausing in their northward migration each March, or the mating ‘jubilee’ of polychaete worms during the new moon in May, A Year across Maryland offers valuable advice for the spontaneous adventurer and the serious planner alike.”—Northeastern Naturalist

Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution
Theodore W. Pietsch

Trees of Life commemorates the tree as a visual representation of life; science buffs will revel in this dazzling forest of transformation.”—Jen Forbus, Shelf Awareness

Trees of Life is a beautiful book, and the diversity of beautiful images within its pages should be of interest to historians of science, biologists, folks working at the intersection of science and art, and, honestly, anyone with a genuine interest in science and the study of the natural world. This is a taxonomy of trees of life, if you will.”—Michael Barton, Dispersal of Darwin

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C.
Howard Youth
illustrated by Mark A. Klingler, photographs by Robert E. Mumford, Jr.
foreword by Kirk Johnson

“Downtown sightings of such wild creatures as snowy owls, peregrine falcons, and vultures may generate media attention, but after persusing Howard Youth’s Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C., I don’t find these episodes as outlandish as the headlines might suggest . . . The guide represents a considerable documentation of the species that share our corner of the world.”—Adrian Higgins, Washington Post

“The book is simply an amazingly informative work of art.”—Chris Knauss, The Star Democrat

Mountain Gorillas: Biology, Conservation, and Coexistence
Gene Eckhart and Annette Lanjouw

“Every visit I ever had with mountain gorillas ended in tears. My emotions exploded as I drove away with my back to the silhouette of the Virunga volcanoes. I was always given more by the gorillas, the trackers, and researchers than I could ever find a way to give back with my photographs. Gene Eckhart and Annette Lanjouw’s new book brings me home again, reminding us all of the world treasure that exists so tenuously in this one spot on our fragile planet.”—Michael “Nick” Nichols, National Geographic Magazine


Owls of the United States and Canada: A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Behavior
Wayne Lynch

“Beautiful, readable, and affordable. So if you plan to give it as a gift, I suggest you buy a copy for yourself as well.”—Whit Gibbons, Tuscaloosa News

“This book is a pleasure to read whether you’re a diehard owl enthusiast or a casual admirer. You’ll find yourself wanting to leave this book somewhere conspicuous, so you can show the images off to friends, family, and unwary passersby.”—Jim Cirigliano, Bird Watcher’s Digest


The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants: Easy to Pick, Easy to Prepare
Lytton John Musselman and Harold J. Wiggins

“Dr. Musselman is a passionate botanist. Walking among plant life makes him very happy, which means he is happy most of the time, except when riding in a car stuck in a long tunnel. He will stop people on the street to tell them some great news from the plant world.”—Garrison Keillor

“The book is witty and full of commonsense. It is a jolly good read for anyone.”—Jane Manaster, Portland Book Review

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Henry Folger never knew of the First Folio that surfaced in France this year

Guest post by Stephen H. Grant

In forty years of book collecting, Henry Clay Folger managed to collect eighty-two of the 800 or so First Folios containing thirty-six Shakespeare plays compiled by two of the Bard’s actor friends, John Heminge and Henry Condell, and printed in 1623. They form the gemstone of the private research institution, the Folger Shakespeare Library, on Capitol Hill. When individual Shakespeare plays were first printed, they appeared in a small “quarto” format. A “folio” page is twice the size of a quarto page, over a foot high and about nine inches wide. The compilation that appeared seven years after Shakespeare’s death is the sole source for half of Shakespeare’s dramatic production. Eighteen plays (including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, and As You Like It) had never been printed before and would probably be unknown today without this early work. Henry Folger called the First Folio “the greatest contribution ever made to the world’s secular literature.” His wife, Emily Jordan Folger, referred to the volume as “the cornerstone of the Shakespeare Library.” Amherst-educated Henry and Vassar-educated Emily were a childless couple from the Gilded Age. Together they collected 92,000 books about Shakespeare and his times, an average of six books every day.

Title page of Shakespeare's First Folio, published in 1623, with the familiar portrait by Droeshout. The Folger Library possesses eighty-two copies of the First Folio, all different in some respects.  Image from Collecting Shakespeare, used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623, with the familiar portrait by Droeshout. The Folger Library possesses eighty-two copies of the First Folio, all different in some respects. Image from Collecting Shakespeare, used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library.

A vanished First Folio is rediscovered on average once a decade. The Folgers were not aware of the First Folio that resurfaced in the northern France town of Saint-Omer in September 2014. For 200 years, it had been misshelved among antiquarian books from the eighteenth century. The Saint-Omer copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio is incomplete and damaged. Thirty pages are missing, including the title page with the iconic engraving of the high-browed Bard and the entire play Two Gentlemen of Verona. However, when an exhibit on Anglo-Saxon authors opens in the Saint-Omer public library in 2015, this item will be its centerpiece. It is bound to attract hoards of both tourists and scholars.

It is too early to evaluate the import of this recent find. It will take months or years for scholars to minutely examine all its pages to discover the secrets that lie within. One thing is immediately clear: this copy shows signs of significant wear and use. Not only are the pages worn, but the margins contain handwritten annotations. Certain antiquarian book collectors—such as J. P. Morgan or Henry E. Huntington, who competed with Folger for the same items—would have declined to acquire the volume as it was not complete or pristine. Folger would have aggressively sought to purchase the item. He was persuaded that a well-used First Folio would yield important clues for scholars. It was for study, not for show.

Possibly one major feature in the Saint-Omer copy is related to religious beliefs. Saint-Omer lies only eighty miles across the English Channel from Dover. During Queen Elizabeth’s reign, an English Jesuit in the late sixteenth century founded a college in Saint-Omer. The college provided a haven for British Catholics persecuted in Protestant Elizabethan England who fled across the Strait of Dover.

In the Middle Ages, Saint-Omer had been one of the forty most important European cities, boasting the fourth largest library. It contained a Gutenberg Bible, much rarer than a Shakespeare First Folio. There are now 233 known First Folios and about fifty original Gutenberg Bibles in the world. It is significant that the other Shakespeare First Folio in France is in Paris, and the other two Gutenberg Bibles in France are also in Paris. With the 2014 find, Saint-Omer has made a huge bound in celebrity reminiscent of its heyday 500 years ago. One small village in the Pas de Calais houses the two most famous secular and sacred volumes in the universe. Although the newly discovered First Folio already has a preliminary value of $4 million put on it, the library director has announced it constitutes a national treasure and is not for sale.

grant.collectingStephen H. Grant is the author of Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folgerpublished by Johns Hopkins. He is a senior fellow at the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and the author of Peter Strickland: New London Shipmaster, Boston Merchant, First Consul to Senegal.


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