This article provides 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. The article was prompted by a document that said the library had "60,093 manuscripts" — someone took the "60,000" rough estimate and added the exact count of the previous year's acquisitions to it.
- Printed books: approx. 277,000 total (includes both vault and open stacks books)
- approx. 103,000 open-stacks titles; some are held in multiple copies, making a total of about 104,000 books
- approx. 115,000 vault titles; many are held in multiple copies, making a total of about 173,000 books including:
- 496 incunables (books printed before 1501)
- approx. 20,000 pre-1600 titles; some are held in multiple copies, making for a total of about 22,000 books
- approx. 13,700 STC titles (that is, examples of 42% of all known STCs); many are held in multiple copies, making a grand total of about 18,000 STC books
- approx. 31,500 Wing titles; many are held in multiple copies, making a grand total of about 34,500 Wing books
- well over 20,000 copies of 18th-century English titles
- approx. 10,000 editions of Shakespeare, including 2,250 editions in languages other than English
- 82 "First Folios" (collected edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623)
- 58 "Second Folios" (collected edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1632)
- 23 "Third Folios" (collected edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1663)
- 39 "Fourth Folios" (collected edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1685)
- 168 "Quartos" (see Shakespeare Quartos at the Folger for details)
- 836 editions from the 1700s
- about 4,100 editions from the 1800s
- about 4,000 editions from the 1900s
- 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)
- Counts based on June 2021 data: count of unique unsuppressed bibs with ((bib format "a*") AND (display location *Staff* or *RR* or *Open* or *Periodical*)) is 102,807; count of unique unsuppressed mfhds for same bibs is 103,958; count of active barcodes is 143,523.
- Counts based on June 2021 data: count of unique unsuppressed bib IDs for bib format a* and *Vault* display location is 115,664, includes SPi dupes; count of unique unsuppressed mfhds for unsupressed bibs with bib format a* and location *Vault* is 172,601.
- Count based on May 2021 data export for Material Evidence in Incunabula Database (MEI)
- Counts based on June 2021 data: count of unique unsuppressed bib IDs for bib format a* with date begins 15* and *Vault* display location is 21,878, but includes SPi recon dupes; count of unique unsuppressed mfhds for unsuppressed bibs, etc. is 22,344)
- Based on the total of approx. 33,000 individual STC titles given in 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. 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.
- Counts based on June 2021 data: 13,764 unique unsuppressed bib IDs for bib format a* with date ("14*" or "15*" or "160*" or "161*" or "162*" or "163*" or "1640") AND ((language "eng") OR place ("enk" or "stk" or "wlk" or "nik" or "ie")) AND Location Display Name (*Craven* or *STC*)); count of unsuppressed STC Vault and Craven vault mfhds attatched to unsuppressed bibs in scope for STC is 18,166.
- Counts based on June 2021 data: 31,585 unique unsuppressed bib IDs for bib format a* with date (("164*" or "165*" or "166*" or "167*" or "168*" or "169*" or "1700") And Not "1640")) AND ((language "eng") OR place ("enk" or "stk" or "wlk" or "nik" or "ie")) AND Location Display Name *Vault*; count of unsuppressed mfhds attached to unsuppressed bibs in scope for Wing is 34,658)
- 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. Not yet updated with post-recon numbers because of the possibly high number of duplicates and language miscodings.
- Counts based on June 2021 data: 10,184 unsuppressed bibs with bib format a* and “Shakespeare, William...” but not “Shakespeare, William...(Spirit)” as main entry; unsuppressed mfhds for ditto: 13,936; 2,250 unsuppressed bibs where language is not null and not eng.