Tag Archives: First Folio

Shakespeare and Theatre in Cambridge: An Online Exhibition

Last month, King’s College Library and Archives hosted an exhibition for the Open Cambridge weekend as part of the events marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The exhibition, held on 9 and 10 September, showcased scarce editions of Shakespeare’s plays alongside other treasures from the special collections in the College Archive celebrating theatre and the history of theatre in Cambridge. Below are some selected highlights from the exhibition focusing on early editions of Shakespeare’s works.

College Librarian James Clements and College Archivist Patricia McGuire waiting to welcome visitors

College Librarian James Clements and College Archivist Patricia McGuire waiting to welcome visitors

King’s College’s First Folio (1623) is one of only 234 known surviving copies. The title-page portrait in this copy is not original and appears to be an engraved facsimile. The importance of this book cannot be overstated. Pivotal plays like The Tempest, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and Julius Caesar were printed here for the first time, and may have been lost otherwise. Next to it is the first facsimile reprint of the First Folio, edited by Francis Douce. The date has been derived from the paper, which is watermarked: Shakespeare. J. Whatman, 1807:

Shakespeare’s First Folio (right) next to the 1807 facsimile reprint (left)

Shakespeare’s First Folio (right) next to the 1807 facsimile reprint (left)

On the other side of the display case are the two other Folios from the Thackeray Bequest: the Second (1632) and the Fourth (1685). The printing of the former was carried out by Thomas Cotes and a syndicate of five other partners: Richard Hawkins, John Smethwick, William Aspley, Robert Allot, and Richard Meighen. This copy bears the “exceedingly rare” Hawkins imprint (Frank Karslake, Book Auction Records, London: William Dawson, 1903; p. 355):

Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies London: Printed by Tho[mas] Cotes, for Richard Hawkins, 1632

Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies
London: Printed by Tho[mas] Cotes, for Richard Hawkins, 1632

The Fourth Folio included seven additional plays: Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Locrine; The London Prodigal; The Puritan; Sir John Oldcastle; Thomas Lord Cromwell; and A Yorkshire Tragedy. All of these had been printed as quartos during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but only Pericles is now seriously considered to have any Shakespearean connection. The front board of this copy was completely detached; it was repaired in August 2016 thanks to the grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Mr. William Shakespear’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies: Published According to the True Original Copies London: Printed for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685.

Mr. William Shakespear’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies
London: Printed for H. Herringman, E. Brewster, and R. Bentley, 1685

As well as the Folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays, the exhibition also included early quartos of individual plays. This is a third edition of Henry V, a reprint of the second quarto of 1602. The imprint date is false, as the book was printed in 1619 for the Shakespearean collection of that year:

William Shakespeare, The Chronicle History of Henry the Fift London: Printed [by William Jaggard] for T[homas] P[avier], 1608 [i.e. 1619]

William Shakespeare, The Chronicle History of Henry the Fift
London: Printed [by William Jaggard] for T[homas] P[avier], 1608 [i.e. 1619]

Below is a copy of the fourth edition of Othello. The play was entered into the Stationers’ Register on 6 October 1621 by Thomas Walkley, and the first quarto was printed by him in 1622.

William Shakespeare, The Tragoedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice London: Printed for William Leak, 1655

William Shakespeare, The Tragoedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice
London: Printed for William Leak, 1655

Featured in the exhibition were also later editions of Shakespeare’s works. This 18th-century collection of his plays, edited by Kingsman George Steevens (1736-1800), includes a facsimile of Shakespeare’s will:

The Plays of William Shakspeare: In Fifteen Volumes. With the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators. To Which Are Added Notes by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens London: Printed [by H. Baldwin] for T. Longman, et al., 1793

The Plays of William Shakspeare: In Fifteen Volumes. With the Corrections and Illustrations of Various Commentators. To Which Are Added Notes by Samuel Johnson and George Steevens
London: Printed [by H. Baldwin] for T. Longman, et al., 1793

Despite inclement weather on the second day, the event was attended by more than 600 local people:

Local residents attending the exhibition on 9 September 2016

Local residents attending the exhibition on 9 September 2016

Our Shakespeare season culminated in a public lecture on the First Folio by a leading world expert, Professor Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford) on 3 October 2016. Professor Smith’s talk took the captive audience into the First Folio, and investigated the clues it gives us about Shakespeare’s writing methods, the early modern theatre, and the development of the Shakespeare brand.

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IJ

Public Lecture on Shakespeare’s First Folio

Our series of events marking the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death culminates in a public lecture on Shakespeare’s First Folio by a leading world expert, Professor Emma Smith (Hertford College, Oxford), author of Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book (2016) and The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio (2015). The lecture will be held in the Audit Room at King’s College, Cambridge on Monday 3rd October 2016 at 6pm.

Front cover of Emma Smith's The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio (2015)

Front cover of Emma Smith’s The Making of Shakespeare’s First Folio (2015)

Professor Smith’s lecture is entitled “Reading Shakespeare’s First Folio”. She will discuss the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the First Folio of 1623, which has become one of the world’s most sought-after books. This illustrated talk takes us into the First Folio, and investigates the clues it gives us about Shakespeare’s writing methods, the early modern theatre, and the development of the Shakespeare brand. You can hear Professor Smith talk about the recent discovery of a copy of the First Folio on the Isle of Bute here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-35973094

The event is free and open to all, but as spaces are limited, we ask that you reserve your place by going to the following website and clicking on ‘Register’ before printing your ticket:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reading-shakespeares-first-folio-lecture-by-professor-emma-smith-tickets-27940806705

Those attending the lecture are invited to visit King’s College Library to view the First Folio from the Thackeray Bequest between 5pm and 6pm on 3rd October and after the talk. We look forward to seeing you there!

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IJ

 

HLF funding for King’s Library

King’s Library has received £44,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, ‘Shakespeare and Austen at King’s College: Celebrating their Centenaries in 2016 and 2017’. The project will result in the online cataloguing and conservation of the English literature section of the Thackeray collection of rare books, bequeathed to King’s College Library in the mid-nineteenth century by the sometime Provost of the College, George Thackeray (1777-1850), cousin of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863). A major part of the project is a comprehensive programme of outreach activities and online educational material.

by Richard James Lane, lithograph, 1851

George Thackeray (1777-1850) by Richard James Lane, lithograph, 1851

The project will enable local people and volunteers to engage with some of the most important books in the history of English literature through a series of exhibitions, talks, open days and workshops for young people, and give a worldwide audience the opportunity to learn about the collection online. Owing to the lack of a proper online catalogue, the collection has remained difficult to explore.

Shakespeare folio image

Title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623)

Highlights in Thackeray’s library include Shakespeare’s First Folio, first and early editions of all of Austen’s novels, a collection of 16th-century books on theology (including works by Sir Thomas More, Martin Luther and Erasmus), and over one thousand volumes of early editions of the most important English authors in sumptuous historic bindings. Other major writers included are John Milton, John Donne, Edmund Spenser and Ben Jonson.

We are delighted to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will enable us to gain a much better understanding of the Thackeray collection and help us to improve access to these treasures. We are also looking forward to the many opportunities the project will afford us to allow local people to engage with their heritage (anyone interested in volunteering for the project is most welcome to get in touch), and hopefully revisit the works of Shakespeare and Austen during their anniversary years.

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