Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Ireland mss. consists of the papers of William Henry Ireland, 1777-1835, forger. A bound volume dated 1805 containing letters and manuscripts of William Shakespeare fabricated by Ireland, with associated documents, engravings, and printed materials.

Purchase. Goodspeed's Book Shop, Boston, Massachusetts. 1962

Detailed description:

Bound volume, 387pp., 36cm.

Captions by William Henry Ireland

Bookplate of Otto Owen Fisher mounted on inside of front cover; rubber stamp on verso of front flyleaf reads: "Williams Library, Cheltenham."

Contents consist of forgeries, tracings, and other manuscript materials connected with William Henry Ireland and his family: Tracings from authentic signatures of William Shakespeare; forged signatures of William Shakespeare; forged signature of Michael Fraser to the deed purported to be between Shakespeare and Fraser; drawing of the Quintin seal affixed under the signature of Shakespeare on the Fraser deed; forged signature of John Lowin, the player; forged signature of Henry Condell, the comedian; forged Profession of faith of Shakespeare; facsimile of Queen Elizabeth's signature; forged signature of Queen Elizabeth; note attached to forged letter of Queen Elizabeth to Shakespeare; forged signature to Lord Southampton's letter; copy of supposed letter from Shakespeare to Lord Southampton; spurious love letter from Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway; love stanzas enclosed in the foregoing letter; forged letter from Shakespeare to Richard Cowley, the comedian; two plates representing the witty conundrum enclosed in the letter to Cowley; leaf containing jug water mark prevalent in the reign of Elizabeth; promissory note purporting to be from Shakespeare to Heminges for services performed by the latter; facsimile of John Heminges's authentic autograph; forged signature of John Heminges; receipt for playing before Lord Leicester with obliterated date; second receipt for playing before the Earl of Leicester; lines on Henry Patenson, Sir Thomas More's jester; stanzas on the sanguinary Bishop Bonner, who figured under Mary of Catholic celebrity; lines on Nell Rummin, alewife; acrostic On the untimely fate of Richard II; acrostic On the unfortunate Earl Rivers; acrostic On the Earl of Warwick; acrostics On Queen Elizabeth and the ill fated Mary Queen Of Scotland; acrostics On Dudley and the Lord Southampton; acrostics On Sir Philip Sidney and Henry, Prince of Wales, eldest son of James I; acrostics On William Henry Ireland and Shakespeare; note on tract on the execution of the gunpowder conspirators; letter of James Caulfield to "Dear Sir," undated; first leaf of the altered Tragedy of King Lear; altered speech introduced in the transcript of King Lear; extract from Vortigern; plaintive ballad from Vortigern; forged signature of Shakespeare to the purported deed of gift to Ireland; forged signature of Shakespeare to the supposed deed of trust to J. Heminges; specimen of handwriting of Samuel Ireland; Timothy Puzzle Cause to "Sir," undated; poetic compositions of William Henry Ireland's mother, 3pp.; list of Controversial works on the subject of the Shakespeare mss.; Engravings of Beaumont House, Butcher Row, Temple Bar; Samuel Butler; Geoffrey Chaucer; Thomas Coram; Oliver Cromwell; Richard Cumberland; Queen Elizabeth; David Garrick; Francis Grose; interior view of the chamber in which the Gunpowder conspirators laid down their plan of operations, from an original drawing by Samuel Ireland; John Philip Kemble; Mary, Queen of Scots; John Milton; Richard Porson; Foster Powell; William Shakespeare; Shakespeare's Monument at Stratford on Avon; Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan, engraved from a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds; Sir Philip Sidney; Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton; Stratford on Avon; Thomas Warton.

Other pictures: Etching by Samuel Ireland from a drawing by his friend, Mortimer; Bookplate and armorial bearings of the Ireland family; Outline of the likeness of William Henry Ireland's mother; Etching by Samuel Ireland from his drawing of his daughter, Anna Maria Ireland, and June Linley, sister of the first Mrs. Sheridan

Printed materials: William Henry Ireland, Miscellaneous Papers And Legal Instruments Under The Hand And Seal Of William Shakespeare ...London, Printed by Cooper and Graham, 1796; The doctor Dissected: or, Willy Cadogan in the Kitchen. By a Lady... London, Printed by T. Davies, 1771, 21pp., 23cm. (Two annotations in ink on the title page: 1. "Anna Maria DeBurgh Coppinger" written under "By a Lady," 2. "One of my mother's poetical essays. WHI." at bottom of title page); William Henry Ireland, An Anthem on the Lamented Death of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte. Written by W.H. Ireland and Set to Music by Thomas Shaw ... Paris, Privately printed, n.d., 1p., 30cm.

An account of the Ireland fabrications may be found in The Confessions of William Henry Ireland, London, printed by Ellerton and Byworth for Thomas Goddard, 1805 (Lilly PR2950 .A18).

Collection size: 69 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.