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“Thou art a monument without a tomb, / And art alive still while thy book doth live / And we have wits to read and praise to give”*…

400 years ago this month, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, his friends John Heminge and Henry Condell published The First Folio, containing 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, (an endeavor which they financed with a bequest that he had left them).

Although 19 of Shakespeare’s plays had been published in quarto before 1623, the First Folio is arguably the only reliable text for about 20 of the plays, and a valuable source text for many of those previously published. Eighteen of the plays in the First Folio, including The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure among others, are not known to have been previously printed.

It is considered one of the most influential books ever published. Of perhaps 750 copies printed, 235 are known to remain, most of which are kept in either public archives or private collections. More than one third of the extant copies are housed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., which is home to a total of 82 First Folios.

It is also, as Alicia Andrzejewski and Carole Levin explain, one of the most stolen…

Late at night on July 13th, 1972, an unknown person entered the University of Manchester’s Library and violently smashed the plate glass top of an exhibition case, stealing the contents. Inside was one of the most famous, most valuable books in existence: the library’s near-perfect edition of one of Shakespeare’s First Folios. This theft is the most mysterious of all the stolen First Folios. More than fifty years have passed, and this First Folio—one of the 750 printed in 1623 and of the estimated 232 known copies across the globe today—is still missing.

This year, 2023, marks the 400th year anniversary of the printing of Shakespeare’s First Folio, deemed one of the most significant books in the English language, “a coveted treasure,” to quote Eric Rasmussen, an expert on the First Folios and author of The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. Without the First Folio, we would not have many of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, the half that were not printed in his lifetime, including The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest. In collecting and printing these plays, Shakespeare’s two close friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, validated that plays are more than entertainment—they have literary value.

The First Folios still in existence are mainly housed in public institutions—their significance is underscored by their rarity, as copies are almost never available for sale, and the most recent one sold in 2020 for almost ten-million dollars. Even in the seventeenth century, when the First Folios were first printed, they were only available to elite members of society: earls, lords, knights, admirals, and the occasional lawyer. To this day, ownership is limited to, and a fetish among, the super wealthy. Because of their elite status, Rasmussen speculates that, of the copies that cannot be located, most “have probably been stolen.”

For some, as Rasmussen suggests, the First Folio is coveted because of its monetary value, an object to steal and eventually attempt to sell. Three First Folios were stolen in the 20th century alone, including the Manchester Library’s copy, and the thieves in the latter two cases are characters as strange as some of those in Shakespeare’s plays, the heists as thrilling as some of his plots. The thefts we describe, and the desires that inspire them, speak to Shakespeare’s foothold in Western civilization—the reverence and awe so many people have for him, that imbue the First Folio with an almost religious power…

Some of the most brazen heists of a historic volume: “Shakespeare’s First Folio has been Stolen Many, Many Times,” in @CrimeReads.

* Ben Jonson, “To the Memory of My Beloved the Author, Mr. William Shakespeare” (in the First Folio)


As we linger on literary larceny, we might recall that it was on this date fifty years ago that then-President Richard Nixon made his famous declaration of character:

On Nov. 17, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon held a news conference before Associated Press managing editors in Orlando, Fla., in which he defended himself against a number of allegations. Most of the questions related to the Watergate break-in, which had become even more of a scandal a month earlier with the “Saturday Night Massacre.” Other questions focused on reports that he had cheated on his tax returns.

The Nov. 18 New York Times outlined President Nixon’s many assertions, concluding that the president had acquitted himself well: “The president seemed composed and on top of the subject throughout the session, faltering perceptibly only during the discussion of his taxes. In contrast with some of his recent appearances he did not berate his critics or his political enemies.”

The best-remembered part of the news conference came as the president defended himself against claims that he had illicitly profited from his years in public service. “I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited, never profited from public service — I earned every cent,” he said. “And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I could say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook. I have earned everything I have got.”

The news conference did little to end questions over Mr. Nixon’s honesty. His declaration “I’m not a crook” was used against him — and the line would forever be associated with the Watergate era.

In April 1974, the Internal Revenue Service ordered that the president pay more than $400,000 in back taxes for making improper deductions. And the Watergate investigation continued to uncover misconduct. In August 1974, with the House Judiciary Committee having recommended impeachment and the release of a “smoking gun” tape showing that he had approved a cover-up, the president resigned…

“Nixon Declares ‘I Am Not a Crook’”


“Things gained through fraud are never secure”*…

… Still, the damage done to the defrauded is too often too real. A unsettling report from the front lines of financial accounting…

The level of corporate earnings manipulation is similar to that of past pre-recessionary periods, according to research by professors at the University of Missouri and Indiana University.

Their finding is based on the M-Score, a screening model that catches fraud in corporate earnings reports. Messod Daniel Beneish, a professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business, created the M-Score in the 1990s. The “M” stands for manipulation, and the measure is also sometimes referred to as the Beneish M-Score.

Based on known examples of past financial misreporting, the M-Score combines eight ratios on a company’s balance sheet to assess its fraud risk. A higher M-Score means a company is more likely to be manipulating its earnings.

“It allows us to assess fraud risk in real time,” said Matt Glendening, an accounting professor at the University of Missouri. “The advantage of using a measure such as the M-Score is that if you use actual instances of accounting fraud, not all cases are caught, especially the less severe cases. And also, there is a delay between the misreporting period and the time at which the fraud is actually revealed.”

One notable M-Score success came in 1998, when a group of Cornell students used the M-Score to flag Enron as having an elevated fraud risk. This was three years before the public learned that the company was inflating its profits, resulting in what was then the largest corporate bankruptcy in history and several executives going to jail.

Corporate earnings are traditionally manipulated either by overstating revenues or understating expenses. How companies do this varies, but it could include recognizing sales revenues early or understating inventory.

“There are all sorts of capital market pressures on firms to maintain stock price, maintain earnings growth,” Glendening said. “There could also be some compensation incentives at play.”

In 2019, Beneish expanded the M-Score, creating a new measure that goes beyond individual companies to the economy as a whole. With the help of Glendening and two other co-authors, Beneish created the aggregate M-Score, which now compiles the M-Scores of 2,004 companies to measure the likelihood of earnings manipulation across the economy. Earlier in 2023, the aggregate M-Score was at its highest level in 40 years.

“Accounting manipulation matters for the economy at large,” Glendening said. Companies use other business’ earnings data to inform hiring, purchasing, and production decisions. “What we are finding is that the level of aggregate misreporting is very similar to what we’ve observed in pre-recessionary periods.”

Ask not for whom the bell tolls: “This little-known accounting measure is ringing an economic warning bell,” from Kai Ryssdal (@kairyssdal) and Andie Corban on @Marketplace.

See also: “Corporate Fraud” (source of the image above)

* Sophocles


As we look more closely, we might recall that it was on this date in 1974 that the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend that America’s 37th president, Richard M. Nixon, be impeached and removed from office for a variety of offenses that arose from the Watergate Affair. Several days later (August 5), as the full house discussed the trial, the “Smoking Gun” tape was released, demonstrating that Nixon was in fact involved in the cover-up. His political capital destroyed, Nixon resigned– in a nationwide television address– on August 8, effective the next day.


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