Paul Chrzanowski Collection

item_67a_mainpageIn fall 2009 Paul Chrzanowski donated his collection of seventy-two early English books to the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. Nine additional titles followed in 2014. It is the most valuable and important donation made to the Clark since the original donation of the founder’s collection, deeded in 1926 and transfered to UCLA’s custody in 1934. A physicist and collector in California, Paul Chrzanowski set out twenty-five years ago to acquire texts that Shakespeare likely read or could have read in some form. Some are identified as source books that Shakespeare used to write his plays; many are not but remain important to the development of the English language and literature as well as societal changes in the English Tudor period in which Shakespeare lived.

This important collection includes older literary texts by Boccaccio, Gower, and Chaucer; English translations of classical works and European poetry, including Plutarch, Tasso, and Ariosto; and works of immediate predecessors and contemporaries such as Sydney, Spenser, Marlowe, Jonson, and Drayton. The Paul Chrzanowski Collection is also strong in religious texts—from pre-Reformation Catholic treatises to English Bibles and a Book of Common Prayer—and English Chronicles—from Higden’s Polychronicon to Holinshed.

Building a Shakespearean library these days is all but impossible, as the vast majority of the early editions (the so-called quarto plays) are rare beyond compare and were largely institutionalized long ago. Yet the collection does include copies of the second and fourth folio editions of the collected plays (1632 and 1685); sample plays extracted from the first and third folios; Allott’s England’s Parnassus with Shakespeare excerpts; and a quarto play, Parts 2 and 3 of Henry the Sixth. The latter is the first Shakespeare quarto play to be acquired by the Clark Library since the original gift of William A. Clark Jr.

The earliest book in the collection is a Caxton—his 1479 Cordyal of the four last and final thinges, in an extraordinarily tall and beautiful copy. This is the first copy of a book printed by William Caxton, England’s first printer, to enter any of the University of California library collections. Two other English incunables are in the collection and a total of five works printed by Wynkyn de Worde (Caxton’s successor). The Clark Library is deeply grateful to Paul Chrzanowski for his generous gift.

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675