Manuscripts and Shakespeare’s Books
There were no Shakespeare manuscripts. According to an improbable report of 1729 …
And somewhere there were supposed to be his books: signed copies of Bacon’s Essays, Florio’s Montaigne, a prayer book and a map of Cambridge presented by Ben Jonson. The eventual consequence of these legends, of course, was that manuscripts were forged. One of the most notorious forgers was William Henry Ireland (1775-1835) who presented legal documents, letters and love poems (enclosing a lock of Shakespeare’s hair), a manuscript of King Lear and two new plays: Vortigern and Henry II.
VORTIGERN WAS PERFORMED IN 1796 … BUT BEFORE THE PLAY WAS ENDED, THE HOUSE WAS IN UPROAR!
More subtle were John Payne Collier’s forgeries. Collier (1789-1883) fabricated supplementary historical material, and eventually annotations in a copy of the Second Folio that had supposedly belonged to Thomas Perkins, a colleague of Shakespeare’s who had corrected the text.