Collection size

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This article establishes rough estimates of the size of the Folger Shakespeare Library's entire collection.

Estimates of how many items reside in the Folger collection vary widely, and generally do not say where the numbers came from. This article attempts to collate all information to date and will be subject to updates. Our own estimate was prompted by a document that said the library has exactly "60,093 manuscripts" — someone took the "60,000" rough estimate and added the exact count of the previous year's acquisitions to it.

Estimates:

  • Printed books: approx. 260,000 total (includes open stacks books)
    • approx. 13,700 STC titles (that is, examples of 42% of all known STCs);[1] many are held in multiple copies, making a grand total of about 18,000 copies (Sept. 2016: 13,631 unsuppressed bibliographic records for material with location STC vault published before 1641 with in scope languages and places of publication)[2]
    • approx. 29,000 copies of Wing titles (June 2014: 28,697 unsuppressed holdings records for vault material with "Wing" and not "Zwingli" in the Bibliographic Citation field; doesn't count material with "not in Wing" notes or material described only on cards or accession slips, so rounded up to 29,000 for this estimate).
    • approx. 20,000 copies of 18th-century English titles (June 2014: 19,190 unsuppressed holdings records for vault printed books, printed music, and printed cartographic material with "English" as primary language and first date from 1701 and 1800 inclusive; does not include material described only on cards or accession slips; does not include serials that began before 1701)
    • approx. 90,000 vault titles in Hamnet (Sept. 2016: 89,933 unsuppressed bibliographic records for vault material with material type "[non-manuscript] language material"); does not include large backlog of material described only on cards or accession slips
    • approx. 103,000 open stacks books and periodicals (December 2017: 103,014 unsuppressed holdings records for open-stacks locations)
  • Manuscripts: approx. 60,000 (December 2017: this seems low, since there are 50,488 items accounted for in current manuscript finding aids. See "Discussion" page for details)
  • Graphic materials: 90,000 (prints, drawings, photographs, paintings)
    • 23,067 holdings records in Hamnet (many of which represent multiple call numbers in one holding)
    • "approx. 66,809 items" in backlog estimate
    • approx. 200 paintings (Pressly catalog has 202 entries: some are miniatures not paintings; only a handful of paintings have been acquired since the Pressly catalog was made)
  • Playbills: approx. 250,000 (based on collections of playbills purchased by the Folgers; random sample from playbill card file supports this high a number)
  • Microfilm: approx. 60,000 titles (December 2017: 60,210 unsuppressed holdings records with location "Microfilm Collection," so this will be a mix of item titles (e.g., 12 books on one reel counts as "12") and collection titles (e.g., 100 reels containing thousands and thousands of playbills from the Harvard Theatre Collection counts as "1")
  • Scanned primary source material acquired by purchase (not subscription-only): totals to come (e.g. Nichols Collection contains approximately 580 titles, so would be counted as "580" in this scheme)


Notes

  1. Based on a total of approx. 33,000 individual STCs (which, for example, counts the three editions of Merchant of Venice as three separate STCs). Total number of STCs taken from Farmer and Lesser, "What is Print Popularity? A Map of the Elizabethan Book Trade" in Emma Smith, ed The Elizabethan Top Ten: Defining Print Popularity in Early Modern England
  2. Cataloging Department records from the end of the 1955 to 1975 STC card cataloging project say "60% of the total number listed in the STC." The discrepancy is presumably because the STC 2nd ed. (which added a significant number of items) had not yet come out, but we don't know what number they were using as a total in the first place.