First Fo­lio! The Book That t Gave Us Shake­speare opens at the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art


Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

Henry Clay Fol­ger was thirty-twoo years old when he ac­quired his first t rare book, a rather tat­tered copy of f the so-called Fourth Fo­lio of the plays s of Wil­liam Shake­speare, a col­lec­tion n that had been pub­lished in 1685. He e bought it in 1889 for $107.50. He traced d his fas­ci­na­tion with Shake­speare too a decade ear­lier, when, as a se­nior r at Amherst Col­lege, he heard Ralph h Waldo Emerson give a lecture that t touched on the topic. Fol­low­ing his s grad­u­a­tion, he went to Columbia Law w School and then took a job within the e Stan­dard Oil Com­pany. He rose gradu- ally through the ranks to be­come pres­i­dentp of the Stan­dard Oil Com­pany of New York. In that ca­pac­ity he earned a great deal of money, with which he and his wife, Emily, could sup­port their col­lect­ing habit.

A Fourth Fo­lio is good, but not as good as a First Fo­lio, the orig­i­nal “col­lected works” of Shake­speare, which two of the pplay­wright’syg col­leaguesg pub­lishedp in 1623, seven years af­ter his death. About half of Shake­speare’s plays had ap­peared in­de­pen­dently by then in stand-alone print­ings — the early “quar­tos” — but the 1623 pub­li­ca­tion, printed in the con­sid­er­ably larger “fo­lio” for­mat, as­sem­bled 36 of his 38 plays iinto a sin­gle volu­ume. But for the First FFo­lio, the plays thhat had not ap­peared iin quarto might well have been lost ffor­ever, in­clud­ingg such pop­u­lar ti­tles aas The Tem­pest, Twelfth Night, Julius CCae­sar, and Mac­beth. Even for plays tt hhat hhadd pre­vi­ous­lyi ap­peared in qquarto, the First Fo­lio some­times prov­vided a more con­sci­en­tious, care­fully rren­dered text. It stood as the prin­ci­pal ssource for en­su­ing Shake­speare col­l­lected edi­tions, in­clud­ing that Fourth FFo­lio that launched the Fol­gers along tthe prim­rose path.

They were savvy col­lec­tors, scour­ing ddealer lists and auc­tion cat­a­logs, of­ten aac­quir­ing books through third par­ties rrather than risk call­ing at­ten­tion to ttheir in­ter­est in an item. Some­times tthey bought en­tire col­lec­tions. Boxes ccould pile up as Emily tried to keep hher card file of the col­lec­tion re­as­son­ably up to date. At some point it bbe­came clear that some­thing needed to be done to en­ssure the col­lec­tion’s vi­a­bil­ity af­ter the Fol­gers were gone. They con­sid­ered sites in New York City (where they lived), Amherst (Henry’s alma mater), and Strat­ford-upon-Avon (Shake­speare’s home­town), but they ended up de­cid­ing on Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which held a cer­tain ap­peal as the na­tion’s cap­i­tal.

Over a num­ber of years, they pur­chased var­i­ous ad­ja­cent town­houses, de­mol­ished them, hired ar­chi­teects and de­sign­ers, and put plans into place for the li­br­rary that would house their trove. Henry saw the cor­nerr­stone of the build­ing laid be­fore he died in 1930, and he left the bulk of his es­tate to sup­port the pro­ject and en­ssure that it would be man­aged by the trustees of Amher­stt Col­lege.

The Fol­ger Shake­speare Li­brary opened in 11932 as a gift to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and it con­tin­ued to grow. To­day it is the world’s largest repos­i­tory deed­i­cated en­tirely to Shake­speare­ana. The pièces de ré ésis­tance of its col­lec­tion are its 82 copies of the First Fo­lio,F by far the most in any in­sti­tu­tion any­where. Schol­arsS be­lieve that no more than 750 copies of thee vol­ume were printed, and 233 of those sur­vive to­daay. More than a third of them are at the Fol­ger. Usu­al­lyy, that is.

To mark the 400th an­niver­sary of Sha­keespeare’s death, which will be noted this April 23, thhe Fol­ger de­cided to em­pha­size its founder’s con­cep­tioon of his col­lec­tion as a gift to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. In thhe course of this year, 18 of the Fol­ger’s First Fo­lios — six at a time — are tak­ing to the road to make the roun­nds of the United States, one of them be­ing dis­played forr three or four weeks at one lo­ca­tion in each state plus Pueerto Rico and Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The first two of the 522 ex­hi­bi­tions, which in­clude sur­round­ing dis­plays pro­vided by the Fol­ger, opened in early Jan­uary at the Univver­sity of Notre Dame in In­di­ana and the Sam Noble Mu­u­seum in Nor­man, Ok­la­homa; the last, at the Parthenon, an art mu­seum in Nashville, Ten­nessee, closes on Jan. 2, 2017.

The New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art hosts thet First Fo­lio from Fri­day, Feb. 5, through Feb. 288, as the cen­ter­piece of a show ti­tled First Fo­lio! The Bo ook That Gave Us Shake­speare. Get­ting “dibs” on preesent­ing the show qual­i­fies as a coup. Caro­line Bedin­nger, the Fol­ger’s di­rec­tor of spe­cial events and vis­i­tor re­la­tionsr and the point per­son for all the li­brary’s proo­jects in this quadri­cen­ten­nial year, sat on the in-hou­use panel that eval­u­ated the ap­pli­ca­tions from po­ten­ti­ial hosts — a del­uge that was “just shy of 200.” The saafety and se­cu­rity of the First Fo­lios was ob­vi­ously of supremes im­por­tance when it came to se­lect­ing the venues; but since many more than one per state did meetm the Fol­ger’s se­cu­rity and en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dardds, other qual­i­fi­ca­tions be­came paramount in nar­rowinng down the ap­pli­cant pool. Pro­pos­als about pub­lic pro­grams are one ex­am­ple; the Fol­ger re­quired all pre­sen­ters to host at least four events in the course of their ex­hi­bi­tion, in­clud­ing two for fam­i­lies or stu­dents and two for adults, in­clud­ing schol­arly pan­els. “One of the most ex­cit­ing things was how di­verse and lo­cal th­ese pro­pos­als were,” Bedinger said. “They were all speak­ing with a deep knowl­edge of their own au­di­ences and were draw­ing on their own state’s cul­tural re­sources, or on their own col­lec­tions, to make the ex­pe­ri­ence spe­cific. The heart­break­ing part, of course, was when we had to de­cide which or­ga­ni­za­tions were not go­ing to get to par­tic­i­pate.”

Many of the win­ning pro­pos­als showed un­fore­seen imag­i­na­tion. “In New Or­leans, they wanted to do a jazz pro­ces­sion,” she said. “In Min­nesota, they’re do­ing per­for­mances in­volv­ing ca­noes — ‘On the Lake with Shake­speare.’ It turns out that in Hawaii, they pre­sented a lot of Shake­speare in the late 19th and early 20th cen­tury in Hawai­ian, which was re­ported about in the news­pa­pers there; so in Honolulu, they are de­vel­op­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion about that.” In South Dakota,

a sym­po­sium will in­clude dis­cus­sions of teach­ing Shake­speare in Na­tive schools and of ef­forts to trans­late Ham­let’s “To be, or not to be” so­lil­o­quy into Lakota. In Florida, ar­chi­tec­tural stu­dents are us­ing an “I-CAVE” to cre­ate a vir­tual-re­al­ity en­vi­ron­ment that plunges vis­i­tors into Shake­speare’s Lon­don circa 1598. An an­cil­lary show in Santa Fe in­volves books and print­ing, a log­i­cal ex­ten­sion of the “main draw” given the re­sources of the Palace Print Shop & Bindery of the Palace of the Gov­er­nors, just across the street from the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art. (That, in turn, may un­der­score that Santa Fe was the only host city that was re­ally a “go­ing con­cern” when the First Fo­lio was printed.) “Print­ing presses are an ex­cel­lent way to bring vis­i­tors into the spirit of the First Fo­lio,” Bedinger said. “Right there you have a great ed­u­ca­tional el­e­ment, show­ing how the Fo­lio was ac­tu­ally printed — fun and fas­ci­nat­ing.”

A pro­ject of this scope was daunting to re­al­ize, and much of the re­spon­si­bil­ity for the lo­gis­tics of it fell to Sloane Whid­den, the Fol­ger’s ex­hi­bi­tion man­ager. The process was al­ready un­der­way when she joined the li­brary just over a year ago. “It is very rare for us to lend a First Fo­lio,” Whid­den said, “but we can, in the­ory — and we are, in re­al­ity. We re­ally d o want to share what we have with as broad an au­di­ence as pos­si­ble.

“Each copy is unique, which is part of the rea­son for hav­ing such a broad range of First Fo­lios in our col­lec­tion,” she con­tin­ued. “At ev­ery venue, the book will be open to the same pas­sage: ‘ To be, or not to be.’” We won­dered if keep­ing the vol­ume open to the same page for a three- or four-week span was healthy for the book. “We’ve thought that through with our con­ser­va­tion team, and ev­ery­one is com­fort­able with it. All the venues are hav­ing low light lev­els in the rooms where the First Fo­lio is dis­played. This is also one of the rea­sons we are cir­cu­lat­ing dif­fer­ent copies in and out of the tour.”

The Fol­ger signed on the Cincin­nati Mu­seum Cen­ter to help with the “nuts and bolts” of the tour. “The Fol­ger is a medium-sized or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Whid­den said, “and to launch a tour of this scale — 52 venues in a year — is a very am­bi­tious un­der­tak­ing. The Cincin­nati Mu­seum Cen­ter has ex­per­tise in trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tions and tour man­age­ment, so we are work­ing to­gether to make sure ev­ery­thing goes as smoothly as pos­si­ble with plan­ning and ex­e­cut­ing in­stal­la­tions at host sites.”

Even with the help of con­sul­tants, Bedinger adds, “It was quite a chal­lenge last year to match what each site wanted in terms of when they could host it, when we could pro­vide a First Fo­lio — and fit ev­ery­thing into 12 months. There were a lot of spread­sheets and solv­ing puz­zles. Still, there are sur­prises. The other day one of the sites re­al­ized they had sched­uled their open­ing on Elec­tion Day, so that re­quired some ad­just­ment. But peo­ple have proved very gen­er­ous in this pro­ject. There’s a good give and take on ev­ery­one’s part. Be­gin­ning with the ap­pli­ca­tion phase, the whole ex­pe­ri­ence just gives us a warm glow. I knew this was im­por­tant but have come to re­al­ize just how im­por­tant it is to so many peo­ple in dif­fer­ent places and dif­fer­ent ways.”

The globe ap­pears in the Palace of the Gov­er­nors’ show The Book’s the Thing: Shake­speare From Stage to Page

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.