While short on soothsayers and vengeful Brutuses, the University of Virginia’s Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library still offers a rare glimpse into the works of England’s most famous bard.
Its new exhibit, “Shakespeare by the Book: Four Centuries of Printing, Editing and Publishing,” takes visitors through the many ways Shakespeare’s work has been shaped and interpreted over the centuries.
UVA is among 52 institutions nationwide chosen to host one of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s rare First Folio editions of the Bard’s plays this fall. The folios are touring the country to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and the new Special Collections exhibit was created in anticipation of its arrival.
The idea of publishing Shakespeare’s collected plays in books like the First Folio did not arise until several years after his death. The playwright himself had no role in formulating what would become the “official” versions of his works and as a result, the history of publishing Shakespeare is also a study in the evolution of editing.
“That is really interesting to us at UVA because the University has been involved in some big innovations in editing over the last century, particularly in relation to Shakespeare,” Special Collections curator Molly Schwartzburg said. “Since the late 1930s, the University has been a leader in editorial practice and more broadly, the study of the book.”