Page:A Census of Shakespeare's Plays in Quarto (1916).djvu/30

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

seven and one half by five and five eighths, and standing together as Q11 and Q12.

The credit of being the first to collect plays and present them to an important library does not belong to Capell, and though he only missed it by a few months, it is probable that he was an imitator rather than an initiator. The Capell collection was accepted by the Masters and Seniors of Trinity College on 11 June, 1779. On the twentieth of the preceding January David Garrick had died, bequeathing, by a will made 24 September, 1778, all his “collection of old English plays to the Trustees of the British Museum for the time being for the use of the public.” Garrick and Capell were old friends and though they were estranged towards the end of their lives, it seems likely that Capell’s presentation was inspired by Garrick’s bequest. The Shakespearian portion of this is markedly inferior to Capell’s, comprising a total of thirty quartos as against fifty, and only five first editions as against fourteen. Moreover, save for the plays of the volume of 1619, which measure over seven and one half by five and three quarter inches, the copies as a rule are not as good as Capell’s either as to size or as to condition. None the less the collection was a very valuable one, or rather a very valuable part of a bequest to the total importance of which only Charles Lamb, who made such fine use of it, could do full justice.

Perhaps we may anticipate a little and having described the nucleus of the British Museum collection of Shakespeare quartos complete our account of its formation. The first addition to Garrick’s bequest was that of twenty-two quartos, comprising six first editions, which formed part of the library of King George III and came to the Museum in virtue of an arrangement between his successor and the British Government. These also were for the most part rather poor copies, the King’s librarian having apparently considered it much more important to secure spotless copies of books printed in the Fifteenth Century than of the first editions of Shakespeare. Up to this time, indeed, and beyond it, the great libraries and most of the great collectors thought it beneath their dignity to concern themselves with anything of Shakespeare except the Folios, neither Mr. Cracherode nor Mr. Grenville ever buying a play of his in quarto, though the latter admitted some of his poems. It may even be doubted whether, except more or less accidentally, any of the quartos entered any great library by purchase until Antonio Panizzi bought the Jolley copy of the Richard II of 1608 (first issue) in 1845. His successor, Mr. John Winter Jones bettered this instruction by spending a thousand pounds in November, 1858, to such good advantage that leave has been obtained to quote the invoice in full. Here it is: