A Perfect Ten

American theater manager and playwright Augustin Daly (1838–1899) had a unique way of commemorating his productions. He collected illustrations, letters, and ephemera connected with the his staging, connected with historic productions of the play, and connected with the story of the play. However, instead of making a scrapbook from what he had gathered, he commissioned a professional inlayer to mount the material in paper “windows” and interleave them with similarly-mounted pages from his production’s printed acting edition. Then he had the whole thing specially bound.

Open book with text on the left, watercolor on the right.

Watercolor drawing of costume design added to William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Love’s Labor’s Lost, arranged…by Augustin Daly. New York: Privately printed for Mr. Daly, 1891. Extra-illustrations collected by Augustin Daly (1838–99), arranged and bound by Augustus Toedteberg (ca. 1823–1909), New York

In other words, he made extra-illustrated copies of the text. What would normally have been a thin little printed book was transformed into a gigantic volume (or two).

Augustin Daly’s extensive art and book collection, including the extra-illustrated copies of his own productions, went to auction in the spring of 1900, nine months after his death. At that time, Henry and Emily Folger were in the early days of their collecting, quietly starting to gather Shakespeareana with the intention of some day founding a research library. They managed to acquire an enormous number of items at the Daly sale, including the personal commemorative volumes for nine of his Shakespeare productions, seen below (three of the plays were so extensively extra-illustrated that they had to be bound as two volumes instead of one). [UPDATE: see comments below for more on the provenance]

NineTitles

The above photograph shows them in Folger call number order. In chronological order, they are:

Merry Wives of Windsor, 1886
Taming of the Shrew, 1887
As You Like It, 1890
Twelfth Night, 1893
Two Gentlemen of Verona, 1895
Much Ado About Nothing, 1897
The Tempest, 1897
Love’s Labor’s Lost, 1891
The Merchant of Venice, 1899

Fast-forward one hundred and twelve years to the autumn of 2012, when I received an email from James Arsenault, an antiquarian book dealer in Arrowsic, Maine, asking if the Folger might be interested in the following:

Shakespeare, William. [Original watercolor costume designs, photographs, letters, broadsides, engravings, etc. extra-illustrating:] The Comedy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…Arranged for Representation at Daly’s Theatre, By Augustin Daly, Produced There For the First Time, January 31, 1888. Thick folio, original half olive morocco, marbled paper over boards, gilt spine in six compartments, raised bands, t.e.g.; bookplate of Livingston Ludlow Biddle affixed to the front paste-down; binding by Stikeman & Co., New York. 273 ff., comprising Daly edition of MND (NY, 1888, 75 pp.), 39 watercolor costume designs, 2 costume design drawings, 86 albumen photographs, 3 broadsides, 6 playbills (3 on silk), 7 autograph letters, 160 printed illus., consisting of copper-plate, steel and wood engravings, as well as photogravures, and 9 ff. from the Second folio of 1632 consisting of the entire text of MND.

A unique extra-illustrated volume commemorating Augustin Daly’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which premiered at his New York City theatre on Tuesday, January 31, 1888. This is one of ten Daly editions of Shakespeare’s plays, inlaid to folio and extensively extra-illustrated, that were compiled expressly for him and were in his library at the time of his death in 1899. Daly’s books were sold at auction by American Art Galleries on 19 March 1900. The present volume was item no. 730 in the sale.

Might be interested?! Ummm… yeah! I pulled out the curatorial file for ART Vol. b23 through b34 to double-check the photocopy from the Catalogue of the Valuable Literary and Art Property Gathered by the Late Augustin Daly and, sure enough, call numbers were penciled next to nine lots: 729, and 731 through 738. How on earth did Mr. and Mrs. Folger miss getting ten out of ten at the sale? Was their agent asleep? The list of prices realized shows that lot 730 sold for less than many of the others.

Long story short: we bought it. And it’s full of great things.

Treats inside include…

Correspondence with artist Frederick Barnard, of Harper’s Weekly, making arrangements to sketch the production for the illustrated newspaper:

Letter from Frederick Barnard to Augustin Daly; Barnard's illustration for Harper's Weekly.

Letter from Frederick Barnard to Augustin Daly; Barnard’s illustration for Harper’s Weekly.

Souvenir programs printed on silk:

Silk program for A Midsummer Night's Dream, Saturday, April 7, 1888, at Daly's Theatre, New York

Silk program for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Saturday, April 7, 1888, at Daly’s Theatre, New York

Really creepy-looking photographs of Titania and Bottom:

Miss Effie Shannon as Titania and Mr. James Lewis as Bottom in Augustin Daly's 1888 production of A Midsummer NIght's Dream

Miss Effie Shannon as Titania and Mr. James Lewis as Bottom in Augustin Daly’s 1888 production of A Midsummer NIght’s Dream

A costume design for a very moth-like Moth:

Costume design for Moth in Augustin Daly's 1888 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Costume design for Moth in Augustin Daly’s 1888 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A costume design for a very cramped Mustardseed:

Lift-the-flap costume design for Mustardseed in Augustin Daly's 1888 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Lift-the-flap costume design for Mustardseed in Augustin Daly’s 1888 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A costume design for a male Oberon, and the resulting costume, worn by a female Oberon in the production:

Costume design for Oberon (left) and Miss Alice Hood as Oberon (right) in Augustin Daly's 1888 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream

Costume design for Oberon (left) and Miss Alice Hood as Oberon (right) in Augustin Daly’s 1888 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

At the very end comes the entire text of A Midsummer Night’s Dream extracted from a copy of the 1632 edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays (the ” Second Folio”). Not something one would do today with a Second Folio, but a very 19th-century way of giving Shakespeare the last word.

A Midsummer Night's Dream from a Second Folio edition of the Works of Shakespeare (1632)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream from a Second Folio edition of the Works of Shakespeare (1632)

And now, available to researchers for the first time, ten out of ten Augustin Daly Shakespeare productions documented in a baker’s dozen of volumes:

All of Daly’s own commemorative volumes for his Shakespeare productions

The “perfect ten” volume was one of the seventy-five items on view at Acquisitions Night this year, and remains available for adoption at $9,500.oo. If you’re interested, or a have a group that is interested, please let me know.

Author: Erin Blake

ERIN BLAKE is Interim Head of Collection Information Services and Cataloging at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and also the Folger's Curator of Art & Special Collections, a remit that covers prints, drawings, photographs, paintings, porcelain figurines, playbills, Shakespeare souvenirs, and anything else that isn't a printed book or manuscript. She teaches History of Printed Book Illustration in the West at Rare Book School, and is chief editor of Descriptive Cataloging of Rare Materials (Graphics).

3 Comments

  1. Going to pass out from Shakespearean awesomeness: A Perfect Ten http://t.co/IGLIrYUF8g

  2. The mystery deepens… turns out I was careless when I skimmed the long list of Daly lot numbers packed into cases 26 through 31 at Eagle Storage in 1900. Up to five of the volumes might have been acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Folger AFTER the sale. Love’s Labor’s Lost even has the same bookplate (of Livingston Ludlow Biddle) as the just-acquired Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some other Daly items later owned by Biddle were acquired by the Folgers from a Philadelphia dealer in 1929, but I’ve not yet been able to determine if any of these extra-illustrated volumes were among them.

  3. The mustardseed costume alone is worth the price!

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