Saturday, January 16, 2010

Act IV of The Book of William

I finished Act IV of Paul Collins' The Book of William last night and am happy to report that I am still loving this book. The book is mostly a chronological look at the fates of the First Folios (i.e., the original compendium of Shakespeare's plays) and Acts III and IV are mostly about the scholars and amateur enthusiasts who tracked down and established a census of the First Folios. My favorite part had to do with the photographing of the recovered Folios in the mid-nineteenth century, and then the various machines (e.g., the Hinman blink comparator) that were developed in order to compare copies of Folios in order to establish a definitive text for the plays as virtually all of the Folios had been "repaired" over the centuries with pages from other versions of the plays.

Act IV also describes in some detail the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. Collins visited not only the basement vault which houses the library's collection of seventy-nine First Folios, but got to personally look at several of them. I think I know where I'm going on my next literary pilgrimage.

In the meantime, I discovered that the Folger's website provides a pdf of a digital facsimile of one the First Folios. For your viewing pleasure, click here. The Folger has a wonderful website which I plan to explore...


  1. Would you believe that I've never been to the Folger even though I live just outside DC? It's one of those local touristy things I keep saying I'm going to get around to but then never do. This book did remind me that I want to visit, and your post had reminded me again :-)

  2. Teresa - I understand the phenomenon of not visiting key things that are in your own backyard. I'm guilty of that myself! It looks like the Folger is a venue for plays and concerts as well as housing Folger's incredible collection of rare books.

  3. As usual, very interesting Jane! Shakespeare and First Folios apart, I've seen you are reading ( or re-reading) Northanger Abbey.So many great books on your blog. And of course I'll be here tomorrow to read you Ethan Frome post for the Classics Circuit. Have a nice Sunday evening!

  4. This is something I'm completely ignorant about. I might just have to pick this up at the library the next time I go there.