Many voices

The covers of the First Folio enclose many voices,” Dr Edmund King said, in passing.

The phrase has stuck in my mind. Edmund, whose research includes eighteenth-century editors of Shakespeare, was talking about dramatic production. Alongside Shakespeare’s voice are those of many collaborators: co-writers, revisers, and actors all contributed to Shakespeare’s play texts before they even reached a publisher.

Within the First Folio, some of these voices are named.

Ben Jonson’s beautiful poem ‘To the memory of my beloved, The AUTHOR’ sits next to others by Leonard Digges, Hugh Holland, and James Mabbe.

A letter of dedication is written by John Heminge and Henry Condell, friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare. Less formally, they also write a letter “To the great Variety of Readers.” The names of these two men, who speak so warmly of Shakespeare, are also listed among the “Principall Actors”.

Edward Blount, Isaac Jaggard, John Smethwick, and William Aspley are named as the publishers. Jaggard’s name also stands for his father, William, who died while the book was in production.

Your voice can be added to those of Aspley, Blount, Condell, Digges, Heminge, Holland, Jaggard, Jonson, Mabbe, Smethwick, and the many printing-house workers whose names are lost to us. By donating to the campaign, you will help open our copy of this book to the world, and your name will appear online, alongside it. You can name someone you would like your donation to be dedicated to, and their name will be added too.

There is another way to add your voice. We are looking for guest bloggers to write posts for us to publish here.

We want to hear what you think of Shakespeare — of the First Folio, of film or theatre productions you’ve seen, your favourite speech, your worst character, the first teacher who inspired love for Shakespeare, a character you acted, a play you directed, bits that make you laugh, and what makes you cry…

Post your thoughts on other people’s blogposts in the Comments below, or email us your own post to be published here: shakespeare@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.

The Team

In November 2011, Dr Emma Smith talked to the Friends of the Bodleian about her study of the history of the Bodleian’s First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays. With characteristic warmth and light touch, Emma translated rigorous research into an engaging tale of a book lost, found, and, through the generosity of 800 subscribers, returned to its first home.

Emma’s talk inspired the Sprint for Shakespeare campaign, aiming to raise funds to stabilize, digitize and publish the First Folio online to share with the world. You can see another lecture Emma gave on the Bodleian’s First Folio online.

The research is Emma’s, and she remains closely involved in the campaign, encouraging support and advising us, but the campaign could not have reached the public without the help and hard work of many colleagues, from Dr Sarah Thomas, Bodley’s Librarian, onwards.

The Bodleian’s Rare Book department has cared for the book since 1906. Dr Clive Hurst and Sarah Wheale have advised us on the First Folio since the first conversations about the campaign. Virginia Lladó-Buisàn and Nicole Gilroy, from Conservation and Collection Care, are charged with assessing the book’s state and carrying out the stabilization work needed. They are working with  Andrew Honey, Arthur Green and Julie Sommerfeldt. Once we reach our target, James AllanNick Cistone and John Barratt from Imaging Services will carry out the specialist photography.

Our Communications department has been central to work on the campaign. Oana Romocea is undertaking all our media communications. Sophie Durand designed the look of the campaign. Alison Prince and Dan Q set up and continue to provide support for this website.

Amy Trotter and Charlotte Paradise, from the University’s Development Office, guide and advise us on public fund-raising, and organized the giving website.

Dr Christine Madsen, working with Dr Matthew McGrattan and Matthew Wilcoxson, from Bodleian Digital Library Systems and Services, will co-ordinate the publication of the digital book online.

The lottery prizes — exquisite, hand-printed reproductions of Leonard Digges’s poem in praise of Shakespeare — are being created by Dr Paul Nash at the  Bodleian Hand-Printing Workshop at the Story Museum.

Caroline Astley, an English graduate working in the Bodleian’s Staff Development department, is kindly volunteering to edit some of the guest blog posts.

The project is overseen by Dr Wolfram Horstmann, and Pip Willcox is managing the work and this website.

If you’d like to get in touch, please email us: shakespeare@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.