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Special Collections: Igoe Shakespeare Collection

What is the Igoe Shakespeare Collection?

The Charleston Library Society was elated to receive the Igoe Shakespeare Collection in 2019.  Harold "Skipper" Igoe (1936-2020) was a Charleston native and Shakespeare enthusiast.   A harbor pilot by profession, Skipper was just as likely to be found on his John Deere tractor on his farm in Wadmalaw Island as he was to be reading Shakespeare at his home on the Charleston peninsula.  He lived an adventurous life and marched to the beat of his own drum.  The Library received from the Igoe Foundation a gift of 37 rare books and 8 portraits contemporary to the Elizabethan era.  This collection was curated by Skipper over a period of fifty years and contains the essential books that Shakespeare used as reference material, among many others.  There is a large reference collection as well, with catalogs and books about collecting Shakespeare.  Among the eight contemporary portraits, is one of the "boy king" Edward VI, Queen Elizabeth's half-brother, who served just six years until he died from tuberculosis at age 15.  It, along with Sir Walter Raleigh and Lady Stanhope's portraits were on loan to the Folger Shakespeare Library before coming to the Library Society. 

Search "Igoe" in our online catalog to learn more about this collection.

Shakespeare's Fourth Folio

The Fourth Folio of Shakespeare's works in the Igoe Collection is one of the crown jewels of the Library's collection.  Published in 1685, it contains additional edits to the text over its previous editions as the publishers sought to keep up with changes in language that had occurred since the first folio of 1623.  Our Igoe Fourth Folio is bound in late 18th-century red morocco, with a gilt frame, and  edges decorated with painted stripes of red, yellow, and green.  It is an "honest copy" meaning it retains all of its original pages, with none removed and none tipped in.  The term "folio" can have a couple of different meanings: a folio can be a gathering of pages bound together or it can refer to the dimensions of a book - typically over 15 inches tall.  Shakespeare's "folios" are gatherings of his plays bound together, with the first folio containing 36 plays and the fourth folio containing 43 plays.

Shakespeare's Hamlet

The Igoe Collection's copy of Hamlet dates to 1676.  If the play were to be performed in its entirety, it would last over four hours!  Because of this, the printers of this edition, included markings indicating sections that they thought were extraneous and could be deleted for a production.  


Shakespeare Source material in the Igoe Shakespeare Collection

Originally written in Latin by second-century historian Justin, the Igoe Library's 1606 copy is a translation by G.W. or George Wilkins.  Wilkins was a collaborator with Shakespeare when he wrote Pericles, with scholars believing that Wilkins wrote the first two acts, and Shakespeare the last three.  Many names in the play can be found in this volume.



The Igoe Collection contains both a 1577 and 1587 set of the the notable Holinshed Chronicles.  Shakespeare consulted these volumes for his history plays, including King Lear and Macbeth.  Numerous woodcut illustrations decorate the earlier edition, including an image of Noe (Noah) from the Bible.  The collaboratively-written volumes trace the history of England, Scotland and Ireland all the way back to Noah and the flood, in the hopes that readers would learn how "Albion" (England) survived the great flood in the Bible because Noah and his family were giants.   When the second edition of Holinshed's Chronicles was published in 1587, Queen Elizabeth disapproved of some parts, dealing chiefly with Anglo-Scottish relations. She ordered these pages "castrated" or removed, cancelled. Mr. Igoe purchased a bound set of these "castrations."  They are reprints of the original sheets and were printed in the 1720s.



Plutarch's Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, first penned in the second century, was translated by Thomas North and published in London in 1579.  Shakespeare consulted these biographies for his Roman plays, including Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus (from which he directly quoted Lives).  


Montaigne's Essays were originally published in French in 1580, with the Igoe copy dating to 1603. Shakespeare consulted this English translation by John Florio for The Tempest in 1610.  The Essays cover a wide variety of topics, from posting letters to smells to cannibalism which is the chapter that was of particular interest to Shakespeare.  Our copy contains the bookplate of Thomas Hanmer, editor of the 1743-1744 edition of Shakespeare's works.


The Geneva Bible was historically significant as the first "family bible" that was widely accessible, and likely the one that Shakespeare was most familiar with.  It was illustrated and available in smaller sizes, though the Igoe Library's copy is a folio (large) size dating to 1607.  It was printed after work had already begun to develop the King James Version, which was completed in 1611.  The Geneva Bible is the bible that the Puritans brought with them to the colonies in 1620.


Portraits in the Igoe Shakespeare Collection

Lady Stanhope

Lady Stanhope, Catherine Trentham (1566-1621) was married to Sir John Stanhope (1559-1610) of Shelford and Elvaston.  Her sister, Elizabeth, was one of Queen Elizabeth’s Ladies-in-Waiting and was married to Edward DeVere, the 17th Earl of Oxford.  Notable in their own right, the Stanhope family were powerful landowners with well over four thousand acres.  Sir John Stanhope was Postmaster General to Queen Elizabeth and was knighted in 1603.  He and Lady Stanhope had a son, John, from whom the Earls of Harrington are descended. This portrait was Skipper's favorite and was on loan to the Folger Shakespeare Library by the Igoe Library Foundation prior to coming the Charleston Library Society.     

 Artist: William Larkin, painted circa 1615 after Lady Stanhope was widowed

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) was a writer, poet, explorer and a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I.  Knighted in 1585, he was instrumental in the exploration of the new world.  He received a royal charter to explore, colonize, and rule any area not already occupied by Christians in return for one-fifth of whatever gold or silver might be found.  He never reached North America but did send others who founded the Roanoke Colony, or the “Lost Colony” in North Carolina.  Sir Walter Raleigh joined Robert Devereux and Charles Blount, whose portraits also hang in the Igoe Library,  in an expedition to find treasure in the Azores and the coast of Spain.  Raleigh, not a favorite of  James I, was arrested for treason three days after the queen’s death. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London from 1603 to 1616. During his time there, he wrote the History of the World in Five Volumes, a copy of which is in our Igoe  Collection.  King James I suspended Raleigh’s sentence in 1616 to send him in search of gold. Sailors under his command violated a peace treaty and to appease the angered Spanish king, James I had Raleigh re-imprisoned and executed in 1618.  Raleigh’s wife successfully restored Raleigh's reputation and guaranteed his heirs full access to titles and possessions.  The Igoe Rare Books Collection includes three books by Raleigh and one commissioned by King James I to defend Raleigh's execution.  This portrait was on loan to the Folger Shakespeare Library by the Igoe Library Foundation before coming to the Charleston Library Society.

 Artist: unknown, date unknown

Thomas Cecil

Thomas Cecil, 1st Earl of Exeter (1542-1623) was known as Lord Burghley from 1598 to 1605.  His father, William Cecil, was the 1st Baron Burghley, Elizabeth I’s Lord Treasurer and a principal advisor to her throughout her reign.  The Cecil family was one of the most prominent and politically influential families of the Elizabethan era.  Their vast fortunes built some of the grandest country houses in England, one of which, Burghley House, is still occupied by Cecil family descendants. 

Artist: Cornelius Ketel, circa 1575  

Charles Blount

Charles Blount (1563-1606) accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh and Robert Devereux on an expedition to the Azores and the coast of Spain, seeking treasure from the Spanish in 1596-97.  He became the 8th Lord Mountjoy upon his brother’s death, and was later raised in status to the Earl of Devonshire by King James I.  Blount and Robert Devereux, initially rivals for the queen’s favor, became close friends and allies until Devereux’s initiation of an Irish uprising outraged the Crown and resulted in his beheading. Blount later married Devereux’s sister, Penelope, and since his reputation remained untarnished he assumed Devereux’s duties of English Lord Deputy after the execution.  He went on to become English Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, after concluding the Treaty of Mellifont. Blount’s reign in Ireland showed some tolerance towards the Roman Catholics in Ireland.

Artist: unknown, date ca. 1594

King Charles I

King Charles I (1600-1649) believed in the Divine Right of Kings to inherit the throne.  The King placed great importance on the Order of the Garter, the oldest and highest order of chivalry in England, and you can see he wears a blue garter with a badge in this portrait.  A shy and well-mannered ruler, he was not interested in traveling or in mixing with his subjects.  Rather, Charles was a lover of the arts, in particular paintings and tapestries.  His rule which disregarded the  role and function of parliament- coupled with a lack of political prowess in his dealings with Parliament – subsequently led to his execution in 1649.  For the next 11 years, there was no King and Great Britain was run solely by Parliament.  His son, King Charles II (the “Merry Monarch”) is the namesake of Charleston, and was proclaimed King in 1660, thus restoring the constitutional monarchy.

Artist: unknown, date unknown

Robert Devereux

Robert Devereux (1565-1601), 2nd Earl of Essex was an English soldier and courtier famous for his relationship with Queen Elizabeth I. He was one of the queen’s favorites, and for many years she excused his rash behavior, until she finally declared him out of favor. In 1596-97 he accompanied Sir Walter Raleigh and Charles Blount (whose portraits hang here as well) on a failed expedition in search of treasure to the Azores and the coast of Spain. Thomas Cecil (whose portrait hangs here as well) was a bitter enemy of Devereux, and because of the Cecil family’s influence in foreign affairs, Devereux’s relationship with the Queen became further strained and he was deprived of his main sources of income.  In 1601, Devereux and several hundred others launched an ill-conceived revolt against the Queen in London.  The attempt failed, and he was arrested for treason and executed in the Tower of London in 1601; his execution was  the last one on Tower Green.  In our Igoe Rare Books Collection, we hold Robert Devereux’s copy of the funeral sermon, given in honor of his father in 1576.  He was just 10 when his father died, and you can see his signature on the title page matches an accompanying framed document that is part of the Igoe Collection.

Artist: unknown, date unknown

Edward VI

Edward VI (1537-1553) was the only son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. His father’s “precious jewel” was only 9 when he acceded to the throne.  He was King of England and Ireland from 1547 to his death from tuberculosis in 1553, at the age of 15.  During his short reign, Edward upheld and supported the departure from Catholicism in favor of the protestant Church of England and further cemented its power.  

When he died, his older half-sister Mary (1516-1558), by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, also known as Mary Tudor or Bloody Mary, became the first queen to rule England in her own right. His other half-sister, by Anne Boleyn, was Elizabeth I (1533-1603), who was also known as the Virgin Queen and Good Queen Bess.  Her reign as Queen of England from 1558–1603, came to be known as the Elizabethan Age, when England asserted itself vigorously as a major European power in politics, commerce, and the arts.  This portrait was on loan to the Folger Shakespeare Library by the Igoe Library Foundation prior to coming to the Library Society.

Artist: unknown, date unknown

Charles Cavendish

Charles Cavendish (1620-1643) was an English royalist general, killed at the Battle of Gainsborough by Oliver Cromwell’s Captain Lieutenant, James Berry.

Charles’ grandfather, the 1st Earl of Devonshire, bought his title from King James I. The Cavendish family amassed a vast fortune under the 1st Earl’s father and mother, Sir Charles Cavendish and the famous and powerful Bess of Hardwick.  Sir Charles served as the crown’s appointee for the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII.  After his death, Bess married Lord Shrewsbury, one of the long-time keepers of Mary Stuart.  Her close relationship to the crown, and her talents as an astute business woman enabled her to bequeath to Charles and his siblings one of England’s largest fortunes. Charles, named for his Godfather, King Charles I, remained close to the crown during his short life. His older brother became the 1st Duke of Devonshire, surviving him by 36 years and making Bess’ former home, Chatsworth House, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire.         

Artist: unknown, circa 1725

Igoe Shakespeare Library Portraits

Which portrait is your favorite?
Lady Stanhope: 2 votes (12.5%)
Sir Walter Raleigh: 2 votes (12.5%)
Thomas Cecil: 0 votes (0%)
Charles Blount: 1 votes (6.25%)
King Charles I: 1 votes (6.25%)
Robert Deveraux: 8 votes (50%)
Edward VI: 0 votes (0%)
Charles Cavendish: 2 votes (12.5%)
Total Votes: 16

Selections from the Igoe Reference Collection

CLS Newsletter featuring article on the history of Shakespeare collections at the Library