Imagine buying a book and having the queen of England give you a special case in which to store it! That’s what happened after wealthy heiress Angela Burdett-Coutts purchased a Shakespeare First Folio in 1864: Queen Victoria gave her a carved casket made from Herne’s Oak, a tree at Windsor that had been felled by a storm in 1863. The oak was associated with Shakespeare’s character Falstaff and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The casket itself was carved by William Perry in 1866.
This casket, part of the Folger collection along with the First Folio it originally housed, has now been included in the online exhibition Making History: Shakespeare and the Royal Family, a project of Shakespeare in the Royal Collection.
Shakespeare in the Royal Collection is a three-year AHRC-funded research project led by King’s College London, in collaboration with Birkbeck University of London and The Royal Collection Trust, investigating the Shakespeare-related holdings in the Royal Collection and Royal Archives, 1714–1945, and providing new information about a broad range of objects created, collected, and displayed by generations of members of the royal family.
You can take a guided tour of the oak casket on the exhibition website, and you can learn more about the history of the Burdett-Coutts First Folio (now stored separately from the casket) on the Folger website.