Furniture and furnishings

Furniture and furnishings at the Folger Shakespeare Library fall into several categories: artifacts from Shakespeare's time or with Shakespearean associations that are considered part of the collection, antiques acquired for decoration and use, "special furniture and furnishings" designed for the library in 1931, and standard furnishings of the sort that could be found in any office or library supply catalog over the decades.

Collection material

The art in the reading rooms is the most obvious example of collection material that is located outside the usual "vault" location, particularly the forty two paintings and the "Garrick chair" that can be found in the Bond Reading Room. Other collection material on display includes porcelain figurines and other objects in the cases in the Founders' Room, paintings hung elsewhere in the building, and decoration that is literally part of the building, like the Seven Ages of Man window in the Paster Reading Room.


Many of the Jacobean-era antiques in use at the Folger came through wealthy Washingtonian Alice Maury Parmelee (1862-1940), a friend of Mrs. Folger. Some were loaned or given during Mrs. Parmelee's lifetime, many others were left to the Folger in her will. This antique furniture was intended to be decorative and functional rather than to be museum pieces. Some items are, in fact, made up from several pieces of Jacobean-era furniture. Other items, such as the replica Renaissance globes in the Paster Reading Room, were not antiques at the time they were acquired, but have naturally aged into "antique furniture" status over the decades. In addition, a number of antiques have been purchased or donated over the years for functional use in the building. A partial list of functional antiques in the building can be found in the Antique furniture article.

Special furniture and furnishings

Paul Cret's original design for the Folger included over two hundred Tudor-inspired items desgined specially for the library by Westing, Evans & Egmore, Inc., of Philadelphia. Many of them are still in use, including the tables and chairs in the Paster Reading Room, and the little oak stools and end tables found throughout the building. For the original list, entitled "Special Furniture and Furnishings, Schedule A: of English Design," see the list of Westing, Evans & Egmore furniture and furnishings.

Standard furniture and furnishings

Some of the standard office furniture original to the library is still in use. The filing cabinets from the 1930s are especially prized, since they are of much higher grade steel than modern filing cabinets. Desks and tables were primarily of two types: oak (often with a black top), and grey steel (often with a composite material top). Both kinds of desk had typewriter storage in the left-hand side: a pop-out shelf at typing height that could be pushed down into the desk and concealed behind a false front. Original office bookcases are likewise either oak, or grey steel.