Smithsonian Magazine – As the newly renovated and expanded library in Washington, D.C., prepares to reopen on June 21, an article describes how Henry Clay Folger, Amherst class of 1879, and his wife, Emily Jordan Folger, acquired the collection of Shakespeare artifacts that started it all.

“Future titan of industry Henry Clay Folger Jr. lived the first part of his life in Dickensian poverty,” write Andrea Mays and James L. Swanson. “[H]e used essay contests to pay for his education at Amherst College …. And he was a deep admirer of William Shakespeare: He recalled delight in reading the Bard’s plays and poems ‘far into the night’ while still at Amherst.”

Folger went on to become a protégé of John D. Rockefeller and then president of Standard Oil Co. of New York. Along the way, he and Emily began buying Shakespeareana, eventually amassing the largest such collection in the world. It was dedicated as the Folger Memorial Shakespeare Library in 1932, two years after Folger’s death. Today the library is administered by a board of governors under the auspices of Amherst College.

The article includes photos of Henry and Emily Folger and of interior parts of the library, as well as details about what visitors can expect to see when it reopens—perhaps most notably, 82 copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio.