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Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book Hardcover – 24 Mar 2016
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[A] compassionate biography... a wonderful testimony to the 'worlds most expensive book' and the readers who keep it that way. (Charlotte Scott, Shakespeare Survey)
This book is a very good read, a largely anecdotal but always entertaining account of copies of the Shakespeare First Folio (henceforth FF) from their production in 1623 to the present ... the pleasure and instruction this book will bring to the casual bibliophile or the Shakespeare enthusiast. (Alan H. Nelson, Renaissance Quarterly)
Her diligence in considering every aspect of the Folio's material existence is commendable. (Brian Vickers, Times Literary Supplement)
Smith's second book, Shakespeare's First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book, picks up where The Making of Shakespeare's First Folio leaves off, tracing different ways of interacting with the Folio ― owning, reading, forging, acting, collecting, and studying ― from the seventeenth century to our own time, and from Europe and America to Africa and Asia. (Kevin Curran, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900)
a fascinating and provocative book (Daniel Swift, Spectator)
delightful (Jerry Brotton, The Daily Telegraph)
This is a beautifully judged book about books, impeccably researched yet wry and affectionate (Jerry Brotton, Financial Times)
a charming, enlightening account, not so much of the origins, as of the fortunes over the years subsequently, of the great edition (David Sexton, Evening Standard)
Smith's account of the Folio's distinguished career is very nicely written and consistently entertaining and informative ... It is the modern equivalent of a magic book, and Smith's own book does justice to that magic. (Times Higher Education)
Emma Smith's book comes as a welcome corrective to the fascination with Shakespeare the man ... as it is the "biography" of something far more interesting: a book. (Stuart Kelly, Independent i)
About the Author
Emma Smith teaches at Hertford College, Oxford, and has published and lectured widely on Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and on the reception of Shakespeare.
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One would think that there was nothing more that could be said of Shakespeare but here is some original work which will take the reader from the first copy sold to the modern collector.
Shakespeare’s First Folio is now the most expensive English language book in the world. In this book, Emma Smith uncovers who purchased this first folio of his plays, what did they do with it and where did the copies end up? This work concentrates on three different copies – asking who owned them, how were they read and how did readers use the folio and even looks at notes these readers made in the editions. There are also chapters on how it was used in the theatre and how the work changed.
If, like me, you are a real bibliophile, you will enjoy this book immensely. The history of books is always intriguing, especially such a monumentally important, and influential, work as this. I most enjoyed the parts of the book which traced who owned the folio and what it meant to them, but this is also a scholarly work, which will appeal to those interested in the historical significance, as well as the personal stories involved.
This characteristically elegant paragraph, taken from the introduction of this fine and timely book pithily describes some of its aims and objectives. It's a fascinating investigation into the reception of Shakespeare and his readership, using the palimpsest of the physical copies of his First folio to do so. This is probably the most developed ‘biography of the book’ (barring of course the multiple volumes on the Bible) ever written, and it's a fascinating engagement with the topic. What is isn't is a book that's for a novice reader of Shakespeare, or someone looking for an introduction. It does presume prior knowledge, but the style is both accessible and scholarly, and the content will stretch and challenge your preconceptions of Shakespeare. Highly recommended.
It is described accurately as an iconic book and the author takes us through from the first purchaser and the histories of the book through the years since its first edition. It is focused not only on the First Folio but also the many copies around the world, including for example bindings, marginalia, condition and location. The First Folio contains eighteen plays including Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Tempest and is especially important as it provides us with a world we would not have known about as a significant number of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays were lost.
The author rightly does not concern herself or the reader with the many speculative theories on whether some plays had contributions from other writers including Nashe and Middleton. The goal of the author is an investigation and examination of the First Folio and on this she succeeds.
The author creates, for me a compelling narrative, rich in detail and for a book lover, not only a Shakespeare aficionado, it is a must read.
I enjoyed it immensely.
Note :The very recent discovery of an authenticated copy of the First Folio in Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute adds to the interest and excitement of this most sought after books. (A copy owned by Oxford University was sold in 2003 for £3.5 Million.)
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