List of Notable Forgeries at the Folger

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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.

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 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.

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.

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

Secondary Sources

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

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.

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.

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.

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