The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0634  Sunday, 9 November 2008

From:       Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Sunday, November 09, 2008
Subject:    First Folios in the News

Dear SHAKSPEReans,

Over the past week or so, two major stories about First Folios have been in the 
news. I gathered my information for this report from various online resources 
that I located primarily from Google News.

        Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether
        that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
        To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was
        born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve
        o'clock at night.  It was remarked that the clock began to strike,
        and I began to cry, simultaneously.

I cannot be as sure as David Copperfield about the birth of the idea for the 
collection of the plays of William Shakespeare, published in November of 1623 as 
_Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies_. The established 
London playwright died in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon on 23 April 1616. 
Earlier, in January 1616, Shakespeare and his lawyer, Francis Collins, began 
composing the latter's will, according to Peter Holland in his _ODNB_ biography 
of Shakespeare, the writing of the will "probably provoked by the impending 
marriage of his other daughter, Judith, to Thomas Quiney, son of Richard 
Quiney," a neighbor with whom Shakespeare had had some financial dealings. In 
late March after Judith and Thomas were married and Quiney's illegitimate child 
was born and had died, Shakespeare made changes to the first page of the three 
pages of his will. Many other changes were to follow, the best known being the 
passage referring to his wife Anne: "Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed 
with the furniture." Another addition, however, worth noting with regards to 
this discussion of the origins of the First Folio is the interlineation in which 
Shakespeare leaves bequeaths for the purchase of memorial rings "to my ffellowes 
John Hemynges, Richard Burbage and Heny Cundell XXVIs VIIId A peece to buy them 
Ringes." Richard died three years later, but Henry Condell and John Heminges 
were to live on and publish in folio the collected works of their friend and 
fellow, a book that has been called "incomparably the most important work in the 
English language."

Peter Blayney, in the marvelous little catalog he wrote to accompany his 1991 
Folger Library Exhibition on the First Folios in the Folger's collection, 
address the importance of this book: "The book was a large folio (a format with 
pages about as wide as those of a modern encyclopadia, but two or three inches 
taller), and nothing quite like it had ever been published in folio before. The 
folio format was usually reserved for works of reference (on such subjects as 
theology, law, history, and heraldry) and for the collected writings of 
important authors, both ancient (Homer, Tacitus, Saint Augustine) and modern 
(Spenser, Sir Philip Sidney, Bishop Joseph Hall). / Plays written for the public 
theatres, however, were generally viewed as fairly trivial works of popular 
entertainment, unworthy of serious consideration as literature. In 1616 Ben 
Jonson had included nine plays in a folio collection of his 'Workes', and 
several of his contemporaries had jokingly suggested that he had forgotten the 
difference between 'work' and 'play'. The First Folio of 1623 was not only the 
first collected edition of Shakespeare-it was the first folio book ever 
published in England that was devoted exclusively to plays."

Story ONE:

On December 10, 1998, staff at Durham University who had been dismantling an 
exhibition of English literature noticed that a First Folio and six other 
valuable books/manuscripts were missing from a display case in the Bishop Cosin 
Library. These cases were covered by cloths to protect the books from being 
damaged by light, so the exact day of the theft could not be determined.

Some ten years later, on June 16, 2008, a 51-year-old Britain, John Scott, 
brought a 17th-century book with him to the Folger Shakespeare Library, where he 
met with head librarian Richard J. Kuhta. (Incidentally, for anyone who might 
not know, Richard Kuhta, the Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger, will retire 
in December: http://www.folger.edu/template.cfm?cid=2766. When the time draws 
nearer, I plan to share some of my stories about this wonderful man and will 
invite others to do so.) Scott claimed that he had obtained the book from a 
friend of his 21-year-old "fiancee," Heidy Garcia Rios, a nightclub dancer. 
Scott's story was that his fiancee's friend, Odeiny Perez, a former bodyguard 
for Castro, asked Scott to take the book, which had been in his family since 
1877, out of Cuba to be authenticated. Kuhta told Scott that he wanted to have 
Stephen Massey, an independent expert, examine the volume, so Scott left the 
book at the Folger Library and returned to his home at Washington, Tyne and 
Wear, in northeast England, (less than fifteen miles from Durham University). 
Several weeks later, Massey informed Scott that he suspected that the book was 
the First Folio that was stolen from Durham University: Scott was arrested, 
released on bail, and scheduled to be arraigned on November 11, according to the 
_Washington Post_.

On Friday, 24 October 2008, a decade after it was taken from Durham University's 
library, the recovered First Folio was flown from the US back to a secret 
location in North East England, where it is being held in police custody as 

On October 28, 2008, Raymond Scott launched a legal fight of his own to get the 
First Folio back, demanding that Christopher Higgins, the Vice Chancellor of 
Durham University turn over to him the First Folio so that he can prove that it 
is not the copy that was stolen from the University ten years earlier.

On November 6, Scott, the prime suspect in the theft of the Durham University's 
First Folio was re-arrested and brought in for more questioning after new 
evidence was found.

On November 9, Scott was released again on bail.

Story TWO:

A story in the Guardian Newspaper 
reports that American collector John Wolfson has pledged to give his 
multi-million pound collection of Shakespeare manuscripts to the Globe Theatre 
upon his death. Wolfson is donating 450 texts to the theatre, including a First 
Folio of Shakespeare's complete works, printed in 1616, a Second Folio (1632), a 
second edition of the Third Folio (1664), and a Fourth Folio (1685). Wolfson has 
pledged his collection to the Globe Theatre, the sole beneficiary of the more 
than 450 works in the collection, which in addition to the Shakespeare texts 
includes works by Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton, and John 
Ford, among others.

Wolfson said: "What happens to most collections, unfortunately, is that they get 
broken up. Having witnessed the break up of many collections, I consider myself 
fortunate to have found a place for my books at Shakespeare's Globe. Here it 
will be possible for the collection, which I have put together, to remain 
together, and to be used to great advantage by students, scholars, and educators 
for generations to come."

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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