List of Notable Forgeries at the Folger

William Henry Ireland (1775-1835) and John Payne Collier (1789-1883) are two of the most well-known forgers of early modern documents. While Ireland focused almost exclusively on Shakespeare forgeries, Collier was more broad-reaching in his fakes. The Folger holds several notable forgeries by each man, along with numerous related materials. The Folger also holds a significant collection of facsimile and forged Shakespeare signatures. The Folger held a 2003 exhibition entitled Fakes, Forgeries, and Facsimiles.

William Henry Ireland

Actual Forgeries

RA775 .R4 1514 Cage: Regime[n] sanitatis en francoys. : Souuerain remede contre lepydimie. Traictie pour congnoistre les vrines. Remede tresutile pour la grosse verole.

Half leather binding with marbled paper boards and endpapers. Bookplate: Shakespeare Library, Warwick Castle. Halliwell-Phillipps copy. W. H. Ireland copy, with forged Shakespeare signature. Manuscript note on a tipped-in leaf from Thomas Caldecott to Doctor J. Sherwen. Sherwen’s autograph on recto of front free endpaper. Dealer’s descriptions attached to paste-down endpaper. Leaves are foliated in manuscript

M.b.34: Copies of autographs in the hand of William Henry Ireland [manuscript], ca. 1805.

M.b.55: Signatures of departed English & foreign potentates and eminent characters [manuscript], ca. 1833

M.a.250: Forgeries and other manuscripts of William Henry Ireland [manuscript], [18th-19th century].

A forged letter of Shakespeare and four signatures, two fictitious armorial-type documents, all probably manufactured by Ireland after his exposure. Also several original letters and memoranda by Ireland and members of his family.

S.b.118: Forgeries by William Henry Ireland of Shakespeare documents [manuscript], ca. 1805.

Probably copies of the forgeries, with a few other manuscripts, drawings, and engravings. Presented by Ireland to his wife in 1805. Mostly in Ireland’s autograph

S.b.119: Forgeries by William Henry Ireland of Shakespeare documents, or manuscript copies of the forgeries and other manuscripts [manuscript], ca. 1800.

Includes leaves from Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare, 1796, presented by Ireland to John Byng in 1799. Also a portion of a statement about the forgeries in the autograph of Dr. Samuel Parr; a draft of a letter by Samuel Ireland, June 26, 1797; W.H. Ireland’s "Anthem on the death of...Princess Charlotte," ca. 1813, and a number of engravings.

S.b.120: Autograph copy in the hand of Anna Maria Ireland of W.H. Ireland’s forgery of the tragedy of King Lear [manuscript], ca. 1796.

S.b.157: Forgeries by William Henry Ireland of documents pretended to be in Shakespeare’s hand [manuscript], ca. 1800.

Forged documents pretended to be in Shakespeare’s hand include (2) Shakespeare’s profession of faith, (6) love letter and love verses to Anne Hathaway, (7) letter to Richard Cowley the comedian, (9) receipts in connection with the Play House, (10) promissory note to John Heminge, (12) an excerpt from Vortigern, (13) excerpt from Henry II, (14) 2 pages of King Lear, (15) 1 page of Hamlet. Also signatures of other persons, a long poem said to be by Ireland’s mother [ i.e. Mrs. Freeman], and a note in the hand of Samuel Ireland.

S.b.159: Shaksperian fabrications of William Henry Ireland [manuscript], 1796.

Eleven examples of Ireland forgeries.

V.a.497-502: Early notices of Shakespeare [manuscript], compiled ca. 1860.

Volume 4 along with some print material contains 2 bills, one for funeral expenses, from the 1730s. Five transcripts in Ireland’s hand of his own forgeries of Shakespeare can be found at the end of volume 4 and the beginning of volume 5.

X.d.316: Signature of William Shakespeare forged by W.H. Ireland [manuscript], ca. 1800.

X.d.320: Forgery of signature of Anne Boleyn by W.H. Ireland [manuscript], ca. 1800.

Signed address leaf: "To her lady of Sunderland this 3 May 34." Probably forged by W.H. Ireland.

Y.d.769: Forgery sample and title pages of Vortigern [manuscript], ca. 1799.

Consists of a fragment of Vortigern in Ireland’s secretary hand and two different title pages for the work as printed for J. Barker, one with the year 1799 indicated. All three items are mounted on a single leaf

Y.d.772: Shakespeare forgery by W.H. Ireland [manuscript], 18th or 19th century.

A short passage in Ireland’s secretary hand, with the "signature" of William Shakespeare. At the bottom of the page, a note signed by John Temple: "A specimen of Ireland’s imitation of Shakspeare, given me by Wm. Upcott 1820, and who received it from W.H. Ireland himself."

Y.d.774: Forgery of letter from William Shakespeare in the secretary hand of W.H. Ireland [manuscript], 18th or 19th century.

Y.d.776: Forgeries of manuscript signatures by W.H. Ireland [manuscript], 18th or 19th century.

Examples of W.H. Ireland’s attempts at the autographs of Elizabeth I and William Shakespeare. Accompanied by envelope that is blank except for the printed address: 29 Kingsway, London W.C.2.

Y.d.777: Forgery sample in W.H. Ireland’s secretary hand [manuscript], 18th or 19th century.

Z.e.12: Vortigern and Rowena [manuscript], ca. 1796.

Forged manuscript of Shakespeare, purported to be a lost work. Interleaved with pages from printed edition of Vortigern ... 1799. Also, copies of 7 letters relating to the work Vortigern allegedly between William Shakespeare and William Holmes, given by Ireland to his father Samuel; and Tom King’s note to [Samuel] Ireland accepting an invitation to dinner, November 1777.

STC 1233 copy 1: Newes from Italy of a second Moses or, the life of Galeacius Caracciolus the noble Marquesse of Vico. : Containing the story of his admirable conuersion from popery, and his forsaking of a rich marquessedome for the Gospels sake. Written first in Italian, thence translated into latin by reuerend Beza, and for the benefit of our people put into English: and now published by W. Crashavv ...

Manuscript notes by William Henry Ireland, with his forged Shakespeare signature on t.p.; forgery of "Shakespeare’s copy".

STC 12995 copy 2: The first part of the life and raigne of King Henrie the IIII. : Extending to the end of the first yeare of his raigne. Written by I.H.

Green goatskin binding, probably owned by Samuel Ireland. Manuscript notes by William Henry Ireland with his forged Shakespeare signature on t.p. [Ireland forgery].

STC 14366 copy 3: Daemonologie : in forme of a dialogue, diuided into three books: written by the high and mightie prince, Iames by the grace of God King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, defender of the faith, &c.

Manuscript notes probably by William Henry Ireland, with his forged Shakespeare signature on t.p. [Ireland forgery].

STC 14390 copy 1: The Kings Maiesties speech, as it was deliuered by him in the vpper house of the Parliament, to the Lords spirituall and temporall, and to the knights, citizens and burgesses there assembled, on Munday the 19. day of March 1603. : being the first day of this present Parliament, and the first Parliament of his Maiesties raigne.

Manuscript notes and forged Shakespeare signature, probably of William Henry Ireland [Ireland forgery].

STC 22274 Fo.2 no.51: Second Folio

Includes (1) an engraving of the Chandos port. of Shakespeare, by John Hall, pasted to the page facing the nonce manuscript title page, above the "verses"; (2) a manuscript copy of the signature, "By me William Shakespeare" endorsed "... a Copy of the hand writing of Shakespeare to his last will--taken by W[illiam] Hutton Mar 8 1787", pasted to the recto of a front flyleaf; and (3) a manuscript passage in pseudo-secretary hand, signed "Wm Shakespeare", presumably a forgery by William Henry Ireland, tipped-in ibid.

Related Materials

Bd.w. ART Vol. a56 copy 4: A letter to George Steevens, Esq. : containing a critical examination of the papers of Shakspeare, published by Mr. Samuel Ireland : to which are added, extracts from Vortigern / by James Boaden, Esq., author of Fountainville Forest, &c.

PR2950 .A6 1796 Cage: An authentic account of the Shaksperian manuscripts, &c. / by W.H. Ireland.

PR2950 .M32 Cage: An inquiry into the authenticity of certain miscellaneous papers and legal instruments, published Dec. 24, MDCCXCV, and attributed to Shakspeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton : illustrated by fac-similes of the genuine hand-writing of that nobleman, and of Her Majesty : a new fac-simile of the hand-writing of Shakspeare, never before exhibited : and other authentick documents : in a letter addressed to the Right Hon. James, Earl of Charlemont / by Edmond Malone, Esq.

W.b.85 (30): Samuel Timmins, Arley.

Apparently regarding collecting policy at Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 'I have always objected to Ireland's forgeries & think we ought to draw a line which will exclude them' Furnival was at Stratford some weeks ago but he “behaved” so far as I know', 29 July 1887

W.a.209-210: The confessions of William-Henry Ireland : containing the particulars of his fabrication of the Shakspeare manuscripts ; together with anecdotes and opinions (hitherto unpublished) of many distinguished persons in the literary, political, and theatrical world.

Interleaved and extra-illustrated with forgeries. W.H. Ireland copy

Y.c.1265 (1): Halliwell-Phillipps, James Orchard, 1820-1889. 1 aut. let. sig. to Messrs. J. Pearson and Co., firm, book-sellers. , October 25, 1883.

It states that the most perfect and largest collection of Ireland forgeries was that sold at [William] Harrison’s sale [January 25-28, 1881]; with it is a note by A[ugustin] D[aly] that this referred to his collection of Ireland material.

Secondary Sources

Textual variants in Shakespeare’s love letter to Anne Hathaway, Heather Wolfe. The Collation. February 23, 2016.

Shakespeare’s personal library, as curated by William Henry Ireland, Heather Wolfe and Arnold Hunt. The Collation. June 17, 2013.

The boy who would be Shakespeare : a tale of forgery and folly. Doug Stewart. Da Capo Press, 2010

The great Shakespeare fraud : the strange, true story of William-Henry Ireland. Patricia Pierce. Sutton, 2004

Reforging Shakespeare : the story of a theatrical scandal. Jeffrey Kahan. Lehigh University Press, 1998

John Payne Collier

Actual Forgeries

V.b.275: Continuation of Stowe’s Survey of London [manuscript], 1658.

A transcription of this volume, entitled "Notes on London churches ..." was published in 1908 as Pt. IV, Supplement no. 2 to Harrison’s Description ... edited by F.J. Furnivall in 1877-1881. The section on the playhouses appeared in J.P. Collier’s edition of Shakespeare’s Works, 1842-1844, vol. 1, p. ccxli. It has been suggested that this manuscript may have been fabricated by Collier.

Bd.w. STC 11049, copy 1: The ffooles of the citie [manuscript], [18th or 19th century?].

Manuscript poem on sig. [par.]6v of STC 11049, copy 1. Probably a Collier forgery.

X.d.459 (1): Note on the cost of removing the playhouse in the Blackfriars [manuscript], 18th or 19th century.

Undated Collier forgery in alleged autograph of Sir G. Buc.

X.d.459 (12): Autograph letter signed from William Hunnis to unidentified recipient [manuscript], ca. 1590?

Dedicates his work on the preservation of the health of a horse to him. Probably a Collier fabrication.

V.a.339: Miscellany of Joseph Hall [manuscript], ca. 1650.

Poems on leaves 37-39, 105v-174, 176, 221-222v, 236-239 are Collier forgeries. A number were included by Collier in his edition of Extracts from the registers of the Stationers’ Company, London, Shakespeare Society, 1848-1849. see I, p. vii-viii and II, vii-x. For a discussion of this manuscript see "John Payne Collier’s great forgery", by G.E. Dawson in Studies in Bibliography, vol. 24 (1971).

Related Materials

W.a.197: The text of Shakespeare vindicated from the interpolations and corruptions advocated by John Payne Collier : esq., in his notes and emendations / by Samuel Weller Singer.

With Singer’s annotations.

Y.c.1055 (166): Autograph letter signed from John Payne Collier, Riverside, Maidenhead, to W. Wardlaw Reid, 1859 July 20

A note in a later hand reads "Shakespearean scholar and forger letter about his 1st folio with forged emendations."

Y.c.1055 (223): "The Shakespearean Forgeries." The New York Evening Post, May 5, 1860 : printed newspaper clipping, 1860 May 5

The article quotes a letter from correspondent R.B., handwritten note on clipping says R. Balmanno.

Y.d.582 (46-48): The alleged Shakespeare forgeries : three drafts]

Three drafts of the same article; of which (48) is seemingly the most final of the three, and is in a hand other than Collier's. Article describes Collier's position as "unavoidably painful and cruel." While questioning the evidence upon which Collier was assaulted, author points out Collier's past alleged mistakes such as the parliamentary reports of 1819 and the Coleridge lectures. Wants an impartial commission to review accusations.

Secondary Sources

John Payne Collier : scholarship and forgery in the nineteenth century. Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman. Yale University Press, 2004

Fortune and men’s eyes : the career of John Payne Collier. Dewey Ganzel. Oxford University Press, 1982

Shakespeare's Signature Forgeries and Facsimiles

ART Vol. d83 no. 11c: [An original tracing of the signature of Shakespeare] traced from a deed in Mr. Wallis’s hand, belonging to the Featherstonhaugh family [graphic] / [Samuel Ireland].

STC 22274 fo.2 no.58: Second Folio

Reproduction signature "William Shakespeare" (17th-cent.), slip mounted onto the recto of a front flyleaf (which flyleaf is mounted onto [superscript pi]A1 verso).

V.a.230: Archaionomia, siue, De priscis anglorum legibus libri : sermone Anglico, vetustate antiquissimo, aliquot abhinc seculis conscripti, at[que] nunc demum, magno iurisperitorum, & amantium antiquitatis omnium commodo, è tenebris in lucem vocati / Gulielmo Lambardo interprete ; regum qui has leges scripserunt nomenclationem, & quid praeterea accesserit, altera monstrabit pagina.

Imperfect: wanting D4 (map); t.p. and last leaves frayed. Provenance: contains an autograph on the title page purported to be that of William Shakespeare, cf. Giles Dawson’s article in ’English Institute Annual’, 1942. Contemporary laced-case vellum binding removed and stored separately.

W.a.156: Journal of David Garrick’s journey to France and Italy, begun at Paris, September 21, 1763 [manuscript], 1763-1764.

Extra-illustrated volume containing engravings of the places he visited, facsimiles of Shakespeare signatures, two speeches delivered at the Stratford Jubilee, 1769: After the ode and After King’s speech, and two poems: "Address to the ladies", beginning "In these strange times of party and division" [Knapp 2], and "Taste", beginning "What is this taste which ev’ry fool," in three versions. At the end is a list of books he purchased in Padua and Venice.

V.a.505-506: Shakesperian notices [manuscript], compiled ca. 1870.

(Volume 3:) title pages from several falsely attributed works of Shakespeare, including A Yorkshire tragedie (STC 22341) and The London prodigall (STC 22333); facsimiles of Shakespeare’s autograph; a couple of manuscript bills from 1683 and 1685?; leaf 9 from a Poetical miscellany, ca. 1640 (from Folger MS V.a.96); illustrations depicting various scenes from agriculture from the title page of The epitome of the whole art of husbandry, ca. 1675 (Wing B3117 or Wing B3120), with several initials and signatures on recto and verso; copy of engraving of John Lowin; illustrations from John Buwler’s The pedigree of the English Gallant (appendix of Wing B5460 or Wing B5461); illustrations of Rovers Hall, Herne’s Oak, and Shakespeare’s chair; illustration entitled "Fools’ Morris Dance"; and several sections of printed poems and plays.
(Volume 4:) illustration of an Inigo Jones costume; manuscript copies of printed works; illustration for Taming of the shrew from Rowe’s 1709 edition of Shakespeare; forgeries; facsimiles of Shakespeare’s signature; printed music, "The measures of blowing, set downe in the notes ..."; epitaphs for Ben Jonson; and several selections of printed poems and plays.

X.d.315: Signature of William Shakespeare [manuscript], [ca. 16th-17th century].

Signature, doubtless a forgery, undated. Provenance: Belonged to Llewellynn Jewitt.

Y.c.2057 (1-5): Collection of papers relating to Shakespeare’s prayer book [manuscript], 1864-1866.

Includes letters, photographs and clippings relating to the presence of two signatures in "Shakespeare’s own prayer book" and their authenticity. (1-4) are letters to Samuel Timmins from John Partridge of Wellington, Salop [i.e. Shropshire] and Walter J. Sackett, new & second-hand bookseller. (5) consists of photographs of the prayer book as well as clippings and off-prints of articles by Toulmin Smith.

Y.c.2100 (1-3): F.L. Pleadwell letters and essays regarding an alleged Shakespeare signature [manuscript], 1924.

Letters from F.L. Pleadwell to H.C. Folger and accompanying essays. (1) Typed letter signed and dated July 18, 1924, an essay entitled "The story of an autograph signature of William Shakespeare," and a retained copy of Mr. Folger’s response to Pleadwell’s inquiry, dated July 24, 1924. (2) typed letter signed, dated July 29, 1924, concerning a copy of the 4th folio. (3) 2 items, both dated August 30, 1924: autograph letter signed from F.L. Pleadwell to Folger and typescript of the corrected "An autograph signature of William Shakespeare." (1-2) on letterhead of the Bureau of Medicine & Surgery, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C., and addressed to H.C. Folger, New York City. (3) on letterhead of the Metropolitan Club, Washington, D.C.

Y.d.622 (1-2): Photographs of alleged signature of William Shakespeare, [20th century].

Similar to the signature in a Folger copy of Montaigne’s Essayes, 1603 (STC 18041, copy 4)

Y.d.623: Autograph and typescript papers of Jules Furthman [manuscript], ca. 1935-1966.

Numerous drafts of essays and at least one speech, along with miscellaneous notes, expounding his views on the influence of Montaigne’s Essayes on Shakespeare (folders 1-7). These views were prompted by annotations in a 1603 copy of the Essayes owned by him (now Folger MS V.b.327) which he believed were written at least in part by Shakespeare. One of his essays tells how he acquired the volume and what he collected, as well as documenting a lively conversation on Shakespeare among certain well-known literary figures and Hollywood celebrities of the 1930s. Also, 4 letters and a telegram to and from Furthman and Hardin Craig, 1938, a letter to J.G. McManaway, 1944, and 2 other letters, n.d., 1965 (folder 8). A large number of photographic materials: Furthman’s annotated photostats of pages from Books I and II of his annotated copy of the Essayes (V.b.327), and photographs of pages from Book III (folders 9-11); photographs of pages from a British Library copy of the Essayes (C.21e.17) (folder 12); photographs of 6 Shakespeare signatures (folders 13-14); a page (in Hand C) from "Sir Thomas More" (Harl. MS 7368) (folder 15); photographs of Furthman’s manuscript copy of "The Prince" by N. Machiavelli, translated from the Latin version by Sylvester Telius, ca. 1600 (lacks f.1r) (folder 16); photographs of a letter of Edward, earl of Oxford to [Lord Burghley] with part of the postscript of Oct. 30, 1584], (Lans. 42, no. 39); "The platt of The Secound parte of the Seven Deadlie sinns"; and a manuscript concerning a marriage portion (folder 17).

Y.d.831: The Shakspere autographs / Dr. Shelton Mackenzie.

Z.e.8, p. 22 (d): Facsimiles of William Shakespeare signatures, ca. 1595.

Facsimiles of three signatures of Shakespeare and also includes an item mentioning Sir Thomas Lucy in the Chamberlains accounts of the borough of Stratford for 1595 (which is reproduced in Halliwell-Phillipps’ Outlines).