By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department
Recent (re)discoveries of the First Folios:
On 11 July 2008, a folio was recovered that had been stolen from Durham University, England, in 1998, after it was submitted for valuation at Folger Shakespeare Library, The folio’s value was estimated at up to £15 million. The book, once the property of the Bishop of Durham, was returned to the library, but it had been mutilated and was missing its cover and title page. The folio was returned to public display on 19 June 2010 after its twelve-year absence.
In November 2014, a previously unknown First Folio was found in a public library in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais in France, where it had lain for 200 years. Confirmation of its authenticity came from Eric Rasmussen, of the University of Nevada, Reno, one of the world’s foremost authorities on Shakespeare. The only other known copy of a First Folio in France is in the National Library in Paris.
In April 2016 a new discovery was announced, a First Folio having been found in Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, Scotland. It was authenticated by Professor Emma Smith of Oxford University. The Folio originally belonged to Isaac Reed.
The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending some of their precious First Folios touring around the country to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and work. Researchers believe that 750 or fewer copies of the First Folio were printed; 233 survive today, 82 of which are in the Folger collection. After Shakespeare dies, two of his friends published this book in 1623 (folio refers to the large size of paper, which was usually saved for more important documents like theology, history, and royal proclamations.) in 1623. These first Folios are books containing 36 Shakespeare plays. Some of these plays had not been published before, anywhere. Without this book, some of his plays would have been lost, possible forever. More locally, The Wonder of Will, from the Folger Shakespeare Library, has a list of where the First Folios will be in the United States. In Tennessee, a first Folio will be on view at The Parthenon from, Nov 10 2016 – Jan 8, 2017.
Since everybody knows about Shakespeare’s plays and some about his sonnets, I thought I would share some less known information about the Bard of Avon:
- By tradition, it is generally supposed that Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, which is Saint George’s Day, the national day of England, and the same date as Shakespeare’s death in 1616 at the age of 52.
- Even though we know a great deal about Shakespeare, there is no evidence for what he did between 1585 and 1592, when he moved to London and began his writing career. Thus, there is no record of how his career began or how quickly he became famous.
In Shakespeare’s time, theaters had no curtain and used little or no scenery. Playwrights described the setting within the text of the performance.
- Shakespeare’s works contain first-ever recordings of over 2,000 new English words, including critical, frugal, excellent, barefaced, assassination, and countless. The British journalist Bernard Levin put all the words into a handy list which you can find online.
- The full inventory of Shakespeare’s possessions, which would have listed his books and other historically important information, was probably sent to London and was probably destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666.
- In his will, Shakespeare left his wife the second-best bed. Ann Cook, Professor Emerita at Vanderbilt in English, whose specialty is Shakespeare explains this. The second best bed was the one they had used. The best bed was always reserved for guests.
- Shakespeare is popular world-wide. According to Stephen Marche, author of How Shakespeare changed the World, Any night you could go to see a Shakespeare performance in any major city in the world and most of the minor ones, on every continent. By the 19th century, he was the most popular playwright in India and Japan.
- And yes, in 1890, Eugene Schieffelin, a New York pharmaceutical manager, imported 60 starlings into the United States. He wanted to introduce every bird mentioned in Shakespeare into the United States. The other birds he brought over did not have such a huge impact on the country. Starlings surely did! (also from How Shakespeare changed the World)
Oddly enough, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (author of the famous classic The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha) died on April 22, 1616. In Barcelona this date is St. Jordi’s Day (St. George) and is celebrated throughout Catalonia. The legend goes that there was a dragon terrorizing the country but St. George came to the rescue and slew it. A rose tree rose up from the blood of the dragon. From that time on, men give women and women give men books. It’s one of the biggest days of sales for booksellers in Spain!
- Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles tells of this legend.
We have 833 books in our card catalog about Shakespeare—here are a few of them to consider:
- The Hogarth Shakespeare Series, in which the plays are re-imagined by contemporary authors, was launched in October. First up was The Gap of Time. Coming later in 2016 are Howard Jacobsen’s Shylock Is My Name (The Merchant of Venice), Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (The Taming of the Shrew) and Margaret Atwood’s as-yet-untitled variation on The Tempest.
- The Gap of Time: The Winter’s Tale Retold by Jeanette Winterson
- Hark!: A Novel of the 87th Precinct by Ed McBain
- Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde
- Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle that Gave Birth to the Globe by Chris Laoutaris
- How Shakespeare Changed Everything by Stephen Marche
- The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen
- Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson
- Shakespeare: An Illustrated Stage History edited by Jonathan Bate and Russell Jackson
- Shakespeare Basics for Grown-ups: Everything You Need to Know about the Bard by E. Foley and B. Coates
- The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe by Dan Falk
- The Rough Guide to Shakespeare: The Plays, the Poems, the Life by written by Andrew Dickson
- Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher, and the Other Players in His Story by Stanley Wells
- How to Speak Shakespeare by Cal Pritner and Louis Coliaianni
- The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Shakespeare by Dick Riley & Pam McAllister
- Shakespeare Alive! by Joseph Papp and Elizabeth Kirkland (Joseph Papp started Shakespeare in the park in New York City, which has spread throughout the nation, including Nashville!)
- William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher; inspired by the work of George Lucas and William Shakespeare
- Shakespeare’s Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects by Neil MacGregor
- Understanding Shakespeare’s England: A Companion for the American Reader by Jo McMurtry
- http://www.folger.edu/first-folio-tour-host-locations-and-dates (Tennessee date is there too – coming to Nashville at The Parthenon, Nov 10 2016 – Jan 8, 2017