Today is the day that William Shakespeare’s birthday (1564) is observed and we here in the Special Collections are hopping on that bandwagon. You would probably think that we surely don’t have any cool old stuff related to the Bard–but you would be wrong!
We do indeed have two intact plays from what is known as Shakespeare’s Second Folio. The Second Folio was printed in 1632 and contains the same plays as the First Folio (published in 1623) but with quite a few modifications to the text. The only real addition to the Second Folio was a poem by John Milton entitled “An Epitaph on Shakespeare” (believed to be Milton’s first published poem) that was added to the poems that open the Folio.
The Second Folio is interesting for many reasons, including:
- It represents a good example of the printing styles of the day. For example, the letter “w” was often printed using two “v’s”:
- It assists in illuminating the fact that there was really no standardization of spelling during that age. It wasn’t until Samuel Johnson’s landmark Dictionary of the English Language, published in London in 1755, that English spelling was standardized.
- The nearly 400 year old paper is still in great shape, showing how the pre-wood pulp paper has stood up over the years. (If you click on one of the images at the top of this post and then zoom in on it, you can get a good feel for the texture of the paper.)
The two plays (seen above) were donated by an alumnus, Paul Jordan-Smith, an early 1900s graduate of this university who went on to a successful literary career on the west coast. Mr. Jordan-Smith, also a bibliophile, took the occasion of giving a commencement address to the university in the 1940s as an opportunity to donate several rare and valuable books from his personal collection to the university.