Thomas J. Gearty Jr.

Document Type



Fall 1973


pamphlets, Victorian, Syracuse University Special Collections, forgery, Thomas Wise, King's Library Gallery, Robert Louis Stevenson




Arts and Humanities | History


Thomas J. Wise was a renowned bibliographer and book collector of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as a reviewer and editor of The Bookman's "Notes." He was held in high esteem by his contemporaries, and was accepted in literary and intellectual circles as a respected scholar. His library is kept intact in a room off the King's Library Gallery in the British Museum.

But Thomas J. Wise also was a forger and a thief who stole leaves from books in the collection of the British Museum. David Foxon surmised that Wise began the thefts in the 1890s to replace leaves missing from books in his own collection. Then, when he began to supply John Henry Wrenn, an American collector and friend of Wise, with plays from the Jacobean and Caroline periods and from the Commonwealth Interregnum, he took more leaves to complete the copies supplied to Wrenn.

About 206 leaves were stolen from forty-four books (thirty-nine different titles) printed from 1600 to 1659. Wrenn obtained fifty to sixty leaves and Wise acquired ninety for himself. Fifteen more leaves are untraced but may be in the Wrenn copies, and of another forty-one untraced, some may have been discarded.


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