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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: October ::
The Book of William by Paul Collins
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0504  Wednesday, 14 October 2009

From:       Alan Horn <
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Date:       Saturday, 10 Oct 2009 10:57:33 -0400
Subject:    The Book of William by Paul Collins

THE BOOK OF WILLIAM
How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World.
By Paul Collins.
Bloomsbury, $25.
 From NYTimes online

Could you imagine a world without "Macbeth" or "A Midsummer Night's 
Dream"? If the answer is no, direct your thanks to John Heminge and 
Henry Condell, Elizabethan theater producers who assembled a posthumous 
compilation of the work of their friend and peer William Shakespeare 
after he died in 1616. Without their foresight, Shakespeare might have 
been remembered as "just another industrious quill-scratcher," Collins 
writes in this lively and entertaining history of one of the most 
important books in English literature. Part antiquarian-book primer, 
part chronicle of literary curiosities, "The Book of William" is divided 
into five acts, each evoking a significant place and time in the First 
Folio's colorful history. Collins's diverse cast of characters includes 
an overconfident Alexander Pope, editor of a hack job of a 1725 
Shakespeare collection intended to supplant the Folio in reputation; 
Henry Clay Folger, the oil baron behind the world's largest collection 
of First Folios, which now resides at the Folger Shakespeare Library in 
Washington; and Mitsuo Nitta of Tokyo, First Folio dealer par 
excellence. Weaved throughout are accounts of Collins's amusing efforts 
to examine a handful of the 230 First Folios known to exist; he writes 
of the mixture of horror and delight he felt on discovering that "some 
Jacobean brat" had doodled in a Folio's margins. By the end, the reader 
is inclined to agree with Collins's assertion that "books bear a 
tangible presence alongside their ineffable quality of thought: they 
have a body and a soul."


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