The Library Council began its Shakespeare birthday bash appropriately on the steps of the Harrison/Small Research Center that houses rare editions of the Bard’s work, documenting the printing history of Shakespeare since his death four centuries ago. Many are currently on display in the north gallery exhibition “Shakespeare by the Book: Four Centuries of Printing, Editing, and Publishing.”
The cake for the occasion was decorated in frosting with lines from the plays. From The Tempest we have Prospero’s words equating the value of his dukedom to his library—“My library was dukedom large enough.”
Fans could go on a docent-led tour of the north gallery exhibition, viewing a wealth of items spanning a period from early 17th century folio editions through 18th and 19th century “corrections” and expurgations, to modern-day miniatures and artistically technological interpretations of Shakespeare.
In his lecture “If Michelangelo’s David is in Florence, Where is Shakespeare’s King Lear?” Michael Suarez, Director of Rare Book School, gave the audience some idea of the slippery question of what the “authentic” text of King Lear is, given the play’s convoluted publishing history.
Those wishing to indulge in living history could step into the past in the south gallery and see members of the Drama department transformed into an Elizabethan lady and gentleman—the lady in a bodice and kirtle (a skirt elegantly spread with a bum roll and farthingale underneath); the gentleman in a ruff and a proper doublet, breeches and cross-gartered hose—and watch them go through the “measures” of a dance.
Downstairs in the main gallery of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Rare Book School staff demonstrated the printer’s art—setting type, printing sheets, folding sheets twice for a folio edition, four times for a smaller quarto, and eight times into an even smaller octavo. In Shakespeare’s time errors were often corrected on the fly, leaving earlier ones uncorrected. After the Rare Book School staff folded and cut the sheets, they demonstrated how the pages were then stitched together into volumes.
English professor David Vander Meulen’s lecture “UVA and the Bard of AVON” enlightened the audience on the role of bibliographer Fredson Bowers in bringing UVA’s English department into national prominence, and the special contribution to Shakespeare studies of Bowers’ student and protégé, Charlton Hinman, who invented a collating machine. The Hinman collator was used to compare fifty versions of the First Folio in the Folger Library for discrepancies, determining the order in which they were printed and who the printers were.
Happy 452nd, William Shakespeare!