Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Shakespeare 400 and the First Folio

Forgive the silence of the last week; even I cannot find away to make reorganizing spreadsheets sound fun. Because Excel doesn’t have a native functionality for sorting by call number, it is up to us to sort the sheets for the shelf read. It’s just as charming and delightful as you might imagine.

But! I return with a quick review of “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare” We went last Saturday but I decided to hold the write up until today, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. For those in New Hampshire (or really anywhere in the Boston area), the place to go is the Currier Museum of Art. The Currier is a great little museum on its own, and New Hampshire residents get in free on Saturday mornings until noon.

When you first enter the museum, the exhibit is to your left (there’s plenty of signage). The Currier is also running an exhibit through their library on potion books from the time of Shakespeare, and that is signed as well.

So I freely admit that I could have elbowed people out of the way to take a picture of the folio, but I didn’t. I thought it was more important to read the exhibit, to actually read the folio, and to explain it to my son. What surprised me was how small it is; the fact is that this volume represents the first time that 18 of Shakespeare’s play appeared in print, but its not that big a book.I grant you, its bigger then a book you’d take on an airplane, but it can be easy to forget that the publisher at the time was just concerned with putting out a book, not a historical artifact. Its immensely cool, nonetheless and well worth a trip.

The Currier’s installation is in their European art wing, so we wandered through those pieces as well:



Most of the art in there can’t have photos taken, so I only snagged two of the medieval pieces, but they’re quite lovely. The Folio is up until May, but the Potion exhibit the library is running will be up a little longer, and you want to make sure not to miss it either:


The exhibit is made up of medical texts and herbologies from the time of Shakespeare. Its also less crowded then the Folio room so you can spend more time looking things over without feeling guilty that you’re blocking others.

You can find a great deal of information on what is out there for celebrating Shakespeare; a quick search of Twitter for #Shakespeare400 will do the trick. For the locals, consider checking out St. Anselm’s marathon reading of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which takes place Monday.

Shakespeare in New Hampshire

Consider this early warning for your spring plans, Shakespeare is coming to New Hampshire!

First, some background. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC holds 82 copies of the First Folio, sometimes referred to as “The Book that gave us Shakespeare.” The First Folio is just that, the first published Shakespeare collection in folio form. There is far more to it then that, though. The First Folio was published in 1623 after Shakespeare’s death and represents the first time his plays were grouped into comedies, histories, and tragedies. It is also the earliest known folio containing a single author’s work.

Oh, and did I mention it is also the first time that 18 of Shakespeare’s plays were first published and thus preserved? If you happen to enjoy As You Like It, the Comedy of Errors, Henry VI part I, Twelfth Night, The Winter’s Tale, or my personal favorite The Taming of the Shrew, you owe their published existence to the First Folio.

At most, 750 copies were printed, with 233 surviving today. You’ll recall Folger has 82. And bless them, they are sending them out into the world so that those of us who cannot make it to DC have the chance to see a First Folio in person. There will be an exhibition in all 50 states throughout 2016.

The first dates of the tour have already wrapped in Indiana, Oklahoma, and Oregon.If you’re heading to Vermont this month, make haste to Middlebury College– they have a copy through Feb. 28. My MLS alma mater, University of Arizona, has a Folio starting tomorrow and running through March 15 for those who have escaped to warmer climes– I don’t begrudge you a bit. The windchill over the weekend was well below zero; we’ve finally recovered.

And New Hampshire? Pencil in April 9 through May 1, my friends. The First Folio will be on display at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester (along side an exhibit on high heels called Killer Heels. How can you not want to see that?) Other New England locations include Brown University in Rhode Island (April 11 – May 1), Amherst College in Massachusetts (May 9-31), and University of Delaware (August 30 – September 25).

Folger also has digital copies available, including downloadable files. Those can be viewed on their website.

Treasures from the Library: Sonnets on Shakespeare

Welcome to the new blog series! Hopefully you guys get as much of a kick out of the random, weird, and wonderful things in the collection as I do. First though, a quick word to clarify: when I feature something as a treasure of the collection, it may or may not have monetary value. It may be a book with an interesting story or it may be a first edition of an author that is a favorite of the college. There are many types of value, after all.

Now, onto our first find!

My first question for you is, have you ever heard of Major General Ethan Allen Hitchcock? If the answer is no, don’t worry, I hadn’t either. Ethan Allen Hitchcock was born in Vergennes, VT in 1798. As an aside, you should visit Vergennes if you ever get the chance. Its a beautiful little town about 7 miles away from Lake Champlain. Seriously difficult not squee at the quaint nature of the town when you drive through. But back to the task at hand. Vergennes was named after the Comte de Vergennes at the suggestion of Ethan Allen. Ethan Allen being the grandfather of Ethan Allen Hitchcock, and famous for a great many things in his own right.

The son of a judge/delegate to the Constitutional Convention/part of the group who founded the University of Vermont and the grandson of the man who captured Fort

General Ethan Allen Hitchcock. He doesn’t have time for your shenanigans.

Ticonderoga and helped found the state of Vermont, the good (eventual) General had a lot to live up to. After graduating from the US Military Academy, Hitchcock moved through the ranks, serving in the Seminole War and the Mexican-American War. He was out of service for a time before returning to serve in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major General.

He was a military man, through and through. And yet, somewhere in between marching all over the country and commanding troops during a war that was the bloodiest to date, he found time to write. The flute and alchemy were his two loves, but he clearly had a soft spot in his heart for Shakespeare, as this little volume attests.

Remarks on the Sonnets of Shakespeare was published in 1867, four years before Ethan Allen Hitchcock passed away. It was the last book he wrote that was published in his lifetime. His journals, Fifty Years in Camp and Field and A Traveler in Indian Territory would only be published posthumously.

The copy we possesses is not in the best condition: it has visible wear on the spine and there are sections that are detaching from the spine. Its to be expected of a little book from 1867 that has rattled around for almost 150 years. There aren’t any distinguishing marks on the book, so I can only guess where it might have come from. Most of our library books began their library career elsewhere before retiring to our collection, and that very well may hold true for this little volume as well.


For those looking to read the work, this volume has been removed from general circulation until we can decide how best to proceed. However, the Internet Archive has a digital copy that can be found here.

“We few, we happy few…”: St Crispin’s Day resources

KING. What’s he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say “To-morrow is Saint Crispian.”
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say “These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.”
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

— The St. Crispin’s Day Speech, Henry V, William Shakespeare

Happy St. Crispin’s Day! We take a brief break from our library adventures to point you to a handful of digital resources for today, the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

 First, check out Twitter, specifically the hashtag #Agincourt600. Many institutions in England, including the Royal Palaces, the British Museum, and the Royal Armouries are “tweeting the day.” Its a newer trend on Twitter for big anniversaries of historic events. Museums will ‘live tweet’ the event as though they were there, bring some of the immediacy of a modern newscast to historic events. I particularly loved the ‘live tweet’ of the anniversary of World War I, starting with the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. There’s also a number of interesting articles out there too.

Second, check out this write up on a digital exhibit from the Royal Armouries. There are copies of important paintings, examples of historic armour, and even a Carol written specifically to commemorate the battle. To be honest, you should just go read their whole blog, right up to today. Lots of good information on the battle as well as how the commemoration is working for this museum.

Third, The Telegraph has a nice, short summary of Agincourt in culture. Helpful for those who want to go beyond Shakespeare.

Finally, I leave you with Sir Laurence Olivier’s take on the St. Crispin’s day speech.