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The Bodleian Library to Digitize Their Shakespeare First Folio

by Josina Reaves on August 2, 2012
First Folios at the Folger Library, Washington, D.C.

Oxford University’s Bodleian Library is known for its exacting standards of behavior and its difficult admission process (you have to sit through a lecture on the library’s history and then take and sign an oath just to get a library card!), but the untold million volume, non-lending library is preparing to give rare access to a piece of literary history by digitizing their First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays.

The move, instigated by Dr. Emma Smith of Hertford College, Oxford, will give readers a chance to see the text as it was printed in 1623. The book was sold by the library after an acquisition of a Third Folio in 1664 because it was such a shoddy printing job to begin with but re-purchased in 1905 after a chance encounter by an eagle-eyed librarian. Obviously, there are stories to be told by the nearly 400-year-old volume, and given its state, no one has been able to touch it, except for restoration work, in quite some time.

The library has launched a fundraising campaign called “The Sprint for Shakespeare” in hopes of raising £20,000 for the project. Digitizing this book will be more than a simple job, since the binding had to be restored before the cover could even be opened. Click through and join Stephen Fry, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sir Peter Hall in helping to bring this piece of history to the masses.

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