[SHAKESPEARE, William] – William Henry IRELAND (1775-1835). Autograph manuscripts, in his own hand and that of 'William Shakespeare', n.p., dated 1797 [apparently after 1804], comprising:
Autograph manuscript, 'Specimens of the Shakespearian Manuscripts presented to Albany Wallis Esq at his particular desire by me the Writer Wm: Hy: Ireland', 32 pages, chiefly 225 x 185mm, decorative frontispage, two autograph copies of letters written to Albany Wallis, London, 2 March 1797 and '1797', with further pages explaining the genesis of the forgeries, setting out transcripts and discussing his methods, one with a lock of hair affixed with red wax [to accompany the letter to Anne Hathaway];
Ten examples of Ireland's Shakespeare forgeries, various sizes, as follows: Shakespeare's signature (three times); signatures of [Michael] Fraser and Shakespeare; Shakespeare's 'Profession of Faith'; Shakespeare's letter to Crowley the Player; signature of John Heminges (twice); Shakespeare's letter to Anne Hathaway; verses to Anne Hathaway; a copy of the jug water mark; signature of Elizabeth I; signature of the Earl of Southampton.
Laid into a half brown morocco album, 305 x 250mm (certain pages out of order) [With, laid in :] [Samuel Daniel] A Defence of Ryme (London: Edward Blount, 1603) (incomplete, lacking all after F8) [And, tipped in:] additional printed material on Ireland and literary forgeries.
Provenance: Sotheby's, 12 December 2012, lot 83 – Schøyen Collection, MS 80679.
The Ireland Shakespeare forgeries: part-confession, part-exhibition of his art, the manuscripts in the hand of William Henry Ireland presented here comprise ten examples of his Shakespeare forgeries alongside an explanation of his literary crimes. After the Ireland Shakespeare manuscripts – now at Harvard's Houghton Library – were exposed as forgeries in 1796, William Henry Ireland approached the task of salvaging his finances and reputation with characteristic ingenuity and industry, setting about producing further copies of the forgeries for presentation to his friends and for sale. The current manuscripts derive from a set made by Ireland for presentation to his neighbour Albany Wallis; the 1804 watermark visible on certain of the pages precludes their being Wallis' own set, as he died in 1800.