By Will Noel
2023 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio, the first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare, printed by Jaggard and Blount in 1623. To celebrate it, tomorrow we are opening an exhibition entitled “In the Company of Good Books,” a treasure trove of great copies of books of English literature from 1623 to the present day from our holdings.
The exhibition starts with William Parker’s copy, containing his signature dated 1791, now in a binding put on by his son Samuel. It was the subject of a wonderful article by William Scheide ’36 in the Princeton University Library Chronicle (Autumn 1976), where he suggested that this is the very first copy of the First Folio to hit the New World, which is rather wonderful to think about.
The exhibition is about the people that surround these books as much as the books themselves, and for this the Parker copy is ideal, because on a back fly leaf famous orators and actors have signed their names. At the top of the page is Edward Everett’s signature. He’s the guy who gave the “other speech” at Gettysburg, the long one that no one remembers. Below his signature is Fanny Janauschek‘s, and below hers is Edwin Booth’s. Booth was the greatest Hamlet of the 19th century and the brother of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin.
The exhibition also includes a playbill. The lower half of the playbill announces a special performance of MacBeth, staring Janauschek as Lady MacBeth, and Booth as MacBeth himself.
Please come see all the selections on display from September 6-December 10, 2023. It’s full of goodies like this!