Henry Neill Paul

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Henry Neill Paul II (1863–1954), was a Princeton graduate (1884) and patent lawyer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. An avid Shakespearean, Paul served as dean of the Shakspere Society of Philadelphia during the 1930s. The Society was founded in 1851 by Philadelphia lawyers and is one of the oldest in the world. Paul was active in literary analysis of Shakespeare's works and wrote several articles, and a book, The Royal Play of Macbeth; When, Why, and How It Was Written by Shakespeare.[1]

Relationship with the Folger Shakespeare Library

After his first visit to the Folger in 1936, Paul began working closely with the Library's first reference librarian and curator, Giles E. Dawson (1903-1994). [2] Together, Paul and Dawson worked through Paul's large collection, creating a bibliography of Shakespeare's works printed in English between 1700 and 1864. During their appraisal of Paul's collection, the two men realized that the Folger lacked a large number of the volumes that Paul had collected, especially American printings of Shakespeare. Paul's comprehensive post-1700 Shakespeare collection and generous gift of almost 2,000 total volumes provided a strong basis for the Folger Shakespeare Library's holdings during the institution's early years.

Paul donated most of the volumes in 1937 and 1938, which ultimately provided a firm foundation on which the Folger could continue building its unparalleled collection of resources for scholarly study of Shakespeare. [3] According to the Folger annual reports, Henry Neill Paul wanted the fact of his donation to take a side line to the books themselves; however, his name was included on a bookplate in the donated volumes, "Gift of Henry N. Paul." Today, he is simply listed as a "Former owner" in Hamnet, making it easy to see his great contribution to the Folger's Shakespeare collection. Paul donated most of the books during the period when four-digit accession numbers were used, but additional volumes arrived in the 1940s (date-based accession numbers) and early 1950s (six-digit accession numbers).

Henry Neill Paul's personal papers

While the Folger holds an incredibly valuable and meaningful portion of Henry Neill Paul's life and work—a large portion of his Shakespeare collection—other institutions hold important and useful materials created by and about him.

Henry Neill Paul Papers, Princeton University Library Finding Aids

"The collection consists of works, correspondence, and printed matter of Neill (Princeton Class of 1884), and an autograph book (1850) and account books (1846-1856, 1841-1843) of family members. The collection contains his essays on Shakespeare; notes and file cards, including a listing of "Editions of Shakespeare's Works Published in the United States" (1779-1910); and correspondence with scholars, libraries, universities, rare books and manuscripts dealers, and learned societies on Shakespeare and the interpretation of his plays. Also included are some minutes, correspondence, and notes of the Shakspere Society of Philadelphia. In addition, there are newspapers clippings about World War I."[4]

Paul Family Papers, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania Finding Aids

"These papers consist of correspondence, accounts, and indentures that relate to the personal and business activities of the Paul family. The collection represents four generations of the Paul family as well as associated families. Series are divided primarily into family clusters." Henry Neill Paul II's papers appear in Series 4. [5]

Bibliography of works by Henry Neill Paul

As an active collector of Shakespeare, Henry Neill Paul participated heavily in scholarly discussion surrounding the author and his works during his lifetime. The list below includes his print and manuscript works and speeches in the Folger Shakespeare Library collection.

"The Dram of Esile and the Ennobled Queen: a Plea Addressed to the Shakspere Society of Philadelphia for the Restoration of Two Rejected Readings in the Play of Hamlet." Philadelphia, 1933. Hamnet call number: PR2807 .P3.
"Lecture on the engravings in Rowe’s edition of Shakespeare, 1709." Manuscript, ca. 1936. Hamnet call number: S.d.71-73.
"The Players’ Quartos and the Players’ Duodecimos of Hamlet." Manuscript, ca. 1933. Hamnet call number: Y.d.433.
The Royal Play of Macbeth; When, Why, and How It Was Written by Shakespeare. New York: Macmillan, 1950. Hamnet call number: PR2823 .P3.
"Shakespeare in Philadelphia." Philadelphia, 1936. Hamnet call number: Sh.misc. 1715.

Henry Neill Paul's bookplate

The Folger gift bookplate for Henry N. Paul exists in all of his donated books. This example comes from the same book as his inscription which is described in the next image.

Signatures and manuscript marks

This inscription reads "Mr H N Paul 1815 Land Title Bldg Phila" and appears on the front flyleaf in Dramatic Works of William Shakspeare: with a Life of the Poet, and Notes, Original and Selected. Boston: Phillips, Sampson, and Company, 1851. Hamnet call number: PR2752 1851k copy 2 Sh.Col. vol. 8


  1. New York: Macmillan, 1950. View in Hamnet.
  2. Grant, Stephen H. Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, p. 189.
  3. Grant, Stephen H. Collecting Shakespeare: The Story of Henry and Emily Folger. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, p. 189. See also the Folger Shakespeare Library Annual Reports for 1935-1936, 1936-1937, and 1937-1938, and the donor cards.
  4. "Henry Neill Paul Papers," Princeton University Library Finding Aids website. Accessed 4 January 2016.
  5. "Paul Family Papers 1709-1956," The Historical Society of Pennsylvania website. Accessed 4 January 2016.