Exhibit: The Books That Made Shakespeare

Shakespeare died four hundred years ago, but he is alive and well in our contemporary culture. In the centennial year of 2016 the University of Iowa is joining in the global celebration of Shakespeare’s life and works.

As one of the owners of the most successful theater company of his age, Shakespeare devoted his career to writing and performing in plays. His works were given new life in print, and Shakespeare was first defined as an author by the Renaissance book trade. Studying the ways in which his plays and poems were printed and published, bought and sold, and collected and catalogued in his own time can help us understand why he remains so important to us today.

This exhibition explores the books that made Shakespeare: the books he read and used, the books that preserved his works, and the books that shaped and reshaped his reputation and textual afterlife.

Shakespeare’s Library

Shakespeare was educated at the grammar school in Stratford, where he received an intense training in classical works of literature and rhetoric which he read in the original Latin. The reading and writing skills he learned in his youth served him well throughout his life. Shakespeare read widely and actively in a remarkable variety of forms, genres, and languages. He then incorporated, adapted, and transformed those texts in his own poems and plays. This case includes examples of the many kinds of books that would have constituted Shakespeare’s library.

School Books

#1: Richard Bernard, translator, Terence in English (1614)  The comedies of the Roman playwright Terence were an important influence on Shakespeare, who read the plays in Latin in grammar school. This book provides the Latin text of the plays with an English translation. Richard Bernard, a clergyman and graduate of Christ’s College, Cambridge, produced this popular translation in 1598, and it was reprinted six times during his lifetime. The book was printed by John Legate, the University Printer in Cambridge, a sign that it was intended for a primarily academic audience. This copy was annotated throughout by a seventeenth-century reader who drew in “manicules,” or pointing fingers, a sign commonly used to mark important passages.

#2: Ovid, selected works (1502)  Ovid was the most important literary influence on Shakespeare, especially early in his career, and he was widely identified as an Ovidian poet by his contemporaries. This volume includes several of Ovid’s scandalous, erotic works, including De Arte Amandi (“The Art of Love”) and De Remedia Amoris (“The Cure of Love”). The title includes Ovid’s full name, Publius Ovidius Naso (“Naso” means “big nose,” and reflects the most distinctive physical feature of the poet). This book was printed by the Venetian scholar-printer Aldus Manutius, who was famous for publishing convenient, small-format editions of classical works. This copy was annotated in both brown and red ink by a sixteenth-century reader.

#3: Ovid, Metamorphoses (1545)  The Metamorphoses, an epic poem in fifteen books, was Ovid’s masterpiece, and it was one of the most influential and widely imitated poems in the English Renaissance. This small, portable edition of the poem was published by Sebastian Gryphius, a humanist printer in Lyon, France. This copy was once owned by two different members of a family whose name was “Maciga,” as the inscriptions on the title-page reveal.

#4: Terence, selected plays (1560)  This edition of Terence’s works was prepared by the Dutch scholar Theodor Pulmannus (or Poelman). The volume includes a brief life of the playwright, marginal notes, and an index of “old and rare words.” The book was printed in the internationally renowned shop of Christopher Plantin in Antwerp, whose famous device (the golden compass) can be seen on the title-page. English readers like Shakespeare had to rely on imported books in order to gain access to many important classical works. Plantin, who had agents in London, was a leading figure in the thriving international book trade.

#5: Nicholas Grimald, translator, Cicero’s Three Books of Duties (1556)  The rhetorical and philosophical works of Cicero were central to the grammar school curriculum in the English Renaissance. Shakespeare would have read works such as the De Officiis (“On Duties”) in Latin, but Cicero was also available in English. This book is a translation of the De Officiis produced by the important humanist scholar and poet Nicholas Grimald. It was published by the printer Richard Tottel, who is famous in English literary history for producing the first major anthology of vernacular poetry, the Songs and Sonnets (1557) which featured several poems written or translated by Grimald. In Grimald’s preface to the reader in this copy of Cicero, an early reader has made several notes, including a rudimentary “manicule” or pointing finger (see item 1) with the word “nota” [“note this”]. The book was later owned by a woman named Lucy Renshaw, who inscribed her name (dated July 31, 1876) and whose initials appear on the elaborate binding.

#6: New Testament, Geneva Bible (1591)  The “Geneva Bible” translation was produced by Protestant exiles during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary, and was first published in 1560. It became the most popular and influential English bible, and was the translation Shakespeare turned to most often. It was repeatedly reprinted in a variety of formats, and was widely available. This miniature bible was meant to be carried around as an object of devotion, and it shows several signs of use: the clasps have been lost, and the indentations in the binding may derive from the constant handling of the book. An inscription indicates that the bible remained in use into the nineteenth century. Like item 23, this bible was printed by Christopher Barker, the Queen’s printer.


#7: A Mirror for Magistrates (1610)  This book is a collection of poems written by a number of different authors, each of which recounts the life and tragic end of a famous figure from the English past. The poems were intended to be exemplary and didactic: many of them feature the ghosts of historical figures who relate their deeds and misdeeds. Here, the ghost of the infamous tyrant Richard III tells his own terrible tale, with an illustration showing Richard wielding a dagger. The opening of this story recounts his monstrous birth: he was fabled to have been born with teeth (“I ready toothed came”) and he had a misshapen body that was often interpreted as a reflection of his evil nature. Shakespeare transformed and extended the reputation of Richard III, making him into the most notorious villain in English history and the most popular villain on the English stage. A Mirror for Magistrates was first published in 1559; this updated edition dates from 1610, and includes the life of the recently deceased Queen Elizabeth.

#8: John Hayward, The History of Henry IV (“1599” but printed in 1629)  The title of this book is somewhat misleading: it is mostly an account of the life and death of King Richard II, detailing his downfall and overthrow by Henry Bolingbroke, who seized the throne and was crowned as King Henry IV. The historian John Hayward unwisely dedicated the book to the earl of Essex, who led an infamous rebellion against Queen Elizabeth in 1601–after a command performance of Shakespeare’s play Richard II. Due to the perceived parallels between the reigns of Richard II and Elizabeth, the book was immediately suppressed by the Elizabethan government, and Hayward was locked in the Tower until the Queen died in 1603. It was first published by John Wolfe in 1599, but this copy is one of a number of subsequent reprints that used a false imprint. Bibliographical evidence shows that this edition was printed three decades later, in 1638. The false imprint was a convenient way to avoid any trouble with the authorities, and may also have appealed to readers who wanted to experience the thrill of reading an infamously banned book.  Learn more:  http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/04/faking-1599.html

#9: Raphael Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1587)  This monumental history of England was compiled by Raphael Holinshed, who was hired by the printer Reyner Wolfe to carry out the project. The massive and expensive undertaking was part of a broader nationalist movement that sought to elevate England’s political and cultural status. It can be considered a secular counterpart to Foxe’s Acts and Monuments (item 11). The first edition, in two volumes, was published in 1577; after Holinshed’s death, it was revised and expanded to three volumes by the scholar Abraham Fleming, and was finished by a consortium of printers and publishers in 1587. Both editions were censored by government authorities, who were anxious about the chronicle’s treatment of recent political events. The 1587 edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles was one of the most important sources for Shakespeare. It provided much of the material for the English history plays—such as Richard III, visible here—but Shakespeare also found the narratives that inspired tragic plays such as King Lear and Macbeth.  On loan from the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield


#11: John Foxe, Acts and Monuments (1570)  This volume is better known as Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs.” Foxe, a Protestant scholar who had been exiled during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary, set out to write the history of the church in England, focusing on the persecution of English martyrs from the fourteenth century to the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1559. Foxe worked closely with the printer John Day, who published the massive and unprecedented book in 1563. Despite its size and expense, it was an immediate success, and it made Foxe famous. He continued his labors, revising and expanding the book for a second edition which appeared in 1570. The printer Day financed the production of additional woodcut images, a key component of the book. The striking image on display here depicts the burning of the Protestant reformers Martin Bucer and Paulus Phagius. Both had already died, but were exhumed during the reign of Queen Mary in order to be burnt, along with copies of their books. The remarkable event captured by this image demonstrates the power accorded to the printed word.

#12 Richard Knolles, The General History of the Turks (1621)  The first English history of the Ottoman empire was compiled by Richard Knolles and published in 1603; subsequent reprints appeared, like this 1621 edition that was revised and expanded after Knolles had died. The Turks had long been perceived as a religious and military threat, but interest in the Ottoman state intensified due to an increase in economic and diplomatic relations. The portrait of the Turks provided by Knolles is simultaneously disparaging and admiring: the Turks were feared because of their religion (Islam) yet admired for their strength and military prowess. The General History provides a crucial cultural context for Shakespeare’s Othello. The portrait on display here is of Selimus the Second, who captured the Mediterranean island of Cyprus from Venice in 1570, an event recalled by Shakespeare’s play, which largely takes place on the island.


#13: Samuel Harsnett, A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603)  The fascination with witches and devils—so evident in Shakespeare’s Macbeth—was a result of changes in the religious and economic environment in England. In the first year of the reign of King James, the Protestant divine Samuel Harsnett was directed by the new government to write this Declaration in order to expose the practices of certain Catholic priests who claimed to be conducting exorcisms. Harsnett described the details of these events, revealing the exorcisms as nothing more than elaborate performances. For example, Harsnett listed the names of various devils uttered by people who claimed to be possessed. Shakespeare drew on these descriptions when writing King Lear, in which the character of Edgar, in the guise of “Poor Tom,” goes mad and uses some of these names (such as “Fliberdigibbet,” visible here). In his role as a licenser for the press, Harsnett approved the publication of his friend John Hayward’s History of Henry IV (item 8) and barely escaped punishment. This copy of the Declaration lacks the preliminary leaves and a few other pages which have been supplied in manuscript by a later owner.

#14: Reginald Scott, The Discovery of Witchcraft (1584)  Scott’s Discovery was one of the most important and influential treatises on witchcraft in the entire period, familiar to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as well as to subsequent generations of scholars. Scott’s rational, erudite approach demonstrated that the belief in witchcraft was a sociological, rather than a spiritual, problem: the majority of accusations were levelled at poor women seeking charity who may have “cursed” their neighbors if refused charitable offerings. Scott also exposed other forms of superstition, including conjuring tricks that could be used to confuse credulous observers. The diagram on this page demonstrates how to “cut off one’s head, and to lay it on a platter,” a trick known as “the decollation of John the Baptist.”

#15: John Cotta, The Trial of Witchcraft (1616)  Cotta’s Trial focuses on the faulty methods used by those who attempted to prove the existence of witchcraft. Cotta was a physician, and his goal was not to refute a popular belief in witches, but rather to use the debate as an opportunity to critique contemporary scientific thinking. One early owner annotated a passage that casts suspicion on the “cures” performed by witches, arguing that “learned men” have observed their imperfect and failed treatments. On the opposite page here, he draws a distinction between “impostors”—those who pretend to be truthful, and whose actions are plausible, yet who intend harm—and witches and wizards, who engaged in apparently supernatural behavior. The continuing debates over the relationship between science and religion would have brought new meaning to Shakespeare’s references to witchcraft and supernatural phenomena.

#16: John Darrel, A True Narration of the Strange and Grievous Vexation by the Devil (1600)

#17: John Darrel, A Detection of that Sinful Shameful Lying and Ridiculous Discourse of Samuel Harsnett (1600)  The most spectacular and successful exorcist in the period was John Darrel, whose notoriety derived from a series of events in 1597-1598. After claiming to exorcize seven demons in a single Lancashire household, he sought to publicize his apparent achievement in print. His fame led to a protracted encounter with William Somers, who later confessed to fraudulently pretending to be possessed. Darrel nevertheless claimed success, but was pursued by the ecclesiastical authorities. His True Narration was an attempt to vindicate himself, while his Detection was likewise aimed at denigrating the credibility of Samuel Harsnett (see item 13) who had exposed his tactics. The imprint of both books states only that they were printed in the year 1600, with no further information; they seem to have been produced by a secret press to avoid detection. Darrel was subsequently imprisoned and convicted of fraud, thereby ending his career. His exploits reveal a popular and profound fascination with the extravagant performances associated with witchcraft.


#18: Robert Farley, Kalender of Man’s Life (1638)  Shakespeare was an avid reader of poetry, plays, and other literary genres, but he was also inspired by practical everyday texts. The “shepherd’s calendar” was a compendium of useful information similar to an almanac, and was an extremely popular genre. Like Edmund Spenser (see item 20) Robert Farley imitated this genre by adapting the almanac form while extending and combining it with the conventions of emblem books. Emblems included a symbolic image, a Latin motto, and a poem explaining the importance of the quality depicted. Farley’s book traces the stages of a man’s life, beginning in the spring of youth and ending with winter, providing both English and Latin versions of his poems. Imitating Farley’s own practice, one early owner of this copy produced his own Latin translation of a few lines of Farley’s English verse, writing the lines in the margin. The small format and abundance of illustrations provide an example of the kinds of almanacs and emblem books with which Shakespeare would have been very familiar.

#19: The Shepherd’s Kalender (1765)  This version of a “shepherd’s calendar” is a compendium of useful information, from the practical (signs of the weather, agricultural advice, and health remedies) to the fantastical (discovering lucky and unlucky days, finding hidden treasure). It is the sixth edition of a popular book first published in 1700, but it imitates the format and content of many sixteenth- and seventeenth-century almanacs. These pervasive books were used by gentlemen such as Shakespeare (who was the head of a substantial household in Stratford) and helped inspire Spenser’s pastoral poetry. Books like this help to provide a common frame of reference for the knowledge and beliefs of the time.

#20: Edmund Spenser, Works (1617)  The most important poet of the Elizabethan period was Edmund Spenser, whose work influenced and was imitated by generations of English writers, including Shakespeare. Spenser modelled his career on the classical poet Virgil, but combined several influences (particularly Chaucer, see item 21) to fashion a distinctly English literary style. His epic poem The Faerie Queene was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth and effectively made him into the national poet, and he was widely mourned at his death in 1599. His first major work was The Shepheard’s Calender, a series of twelve poems—one for each month of the year—which combined classical pastoral poetry with the form of common English almanacs. Each poem was accompanied by an image and scholarly notes, thereby making a claim for the value of English poetry. The “October” poem, on display here, praises poetry and argues that poets deserve greater support. This copy of the book has been annotated by a twentieth-century reader in a striking pink ink: visible here is the name of Spenser’s friend and collaborator Gabriel Harvey, which has been underlined. Learn more: http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/11/faking-shakespeare-part-2-spenserian.html

Used Books

Renaissance readers were trained to encounter books with a pen in hand in order to mark them up and take notes. Simply reading a book was not enough: a proper reader should actively use the book, taking the time and expending the effort to fully comprehend its meaning. This form of reading was aimed at a practical or intellectual goal: a used book should be incorporated into one’s own writing. The image of the “book wheel” presents an idealized scene of reading in which the diligent scholar consults multiple books at the same time.

However, readers did not always use books for their intended purposes. These three items present examples of books that demonstrate the variety of unexpected and striking ways in which Renaissance books were used.

#21: Geoffrey Chaucer, Works (1598)  Chaucer was known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries as the father of English poetry. Although he lived and wrote in the fourteenth-century, he was well-known to Renaissance readers thanks to a series of scholarly editions of his works. Thomas Speght produced an important edition in 1598 in which he provided a biography of the poet and a table of “hard words” that helped readers understand Chaucer’s Middle English language. One owner of this copy read it in a scholarly manner, inserting corrections in the text. Another early owner, however, copied out the first two stanzas of the prefatory poem “The Reader to Geffrey Chaucer.” This poem reanimates Chaucer in order to authorize Speght’s editorial work, and so it is an important part of this book. However, it is likely that the copyist was simply using a blank page to practice handwriting.  Learn more: http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/06/emending-and-remembering.html

#22: Geneva Bible (1580)  This bible was printed by Christopher Barker, the Queen’s printer, who held a patent for the production of all English bibles. Barker’s device prominently featured the tiger’s head from the crest of his patron, Sir Francis Walsingham (Queen Elizabeth’s secretary of state). One early owner was particularly attracted to this device and started to cut it out of the book. The page fortunately survived, perhaps because of the “book curses” written on the reverse, which offer a reward for the return of the book if it were ever lost. The two matching curses were written by Hugh Tanner (dated January 12, 1639) and his son John, on the same day twenty-three years later (in 1662). John notes that he was the youngest son, in what constitutes a respectful display of familial piety.  Learn more:  http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/03/curses-and-cuttings.html

#23: Conrad Gesner, Bibliotheca (1583)  In 1545 the Swiss scholar and bibliographical pioneer Conrad Gesner published Bibliotheca Universalis, the first attempt to provide a “universal library” of books in print. It was organized by author, and provided brief commentaries on each work. Gesner’s Protestant sympathies invoked the ire of the Catholic church, which banned the book. Subsequent editions of the work appeared throughout the sixteenth century, including revisions by other scholars that offered a manageable selection of authors and titles. This book is an edition of 1583, printed in Zurich, that offered an updated list of books. It was owned by a Catholic monastery in Buxheim (in what is now the south of Germany). An inscription on the title-page states that the works of prohibited authors (“auctores damnatos”) have been expurgated. The volume has been meticulously redacted: often the censors cross out a single word. However, certain entries—such as the one for Martin Luther—have been crossed out in an emphatic manner.

Faking Shakespeare

In the century after his death Shakespeare’s reputation depended on performances and adaptations of his plays, as well as the publication and circulation of his works in print. In the eighteenth century interest in Shakespeare intensified. He was canonized as the national poet of England, and was even known as “the god of our idolatry,” as the actor David Garrick proclaimed at his spectacular Shakespeare Jubilee. At the same time, scholars began editing Shakespeare’s works and grounding his biography in historical research.

There was an insatiable desire to access and acquire more and more Shakespeare, which led to a search for new historical evidence. The potential reward for making a new discovery was so great that a few intrepid individuals simply invented documents, and even entirely new “lost” plays. This began the long tradition of faking and remaking Shakespeare to suit contemporary desires.

#24: William Henry Ireland, Shakespeare papers (c.1800)  The most infamous forger of the eighteenth century was William Henry Ireland. In what started as a way to please his father, a Shakespeare enthusiast, young William began “discovering” new biographical documents in the 1790s, including the signatures of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, along with personal correspondence—such as a love letter to his wife Anne Hathaway. He also claimed to have found Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, such as a page from Hamlet, consisting of the end of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” speech and his encounter with Ophelia. It was not long before Ireland’s forgeries were exposed, in part due to his idiosyncratic and anachronistic spelling—such as “Hamblette.”

#25: William Henry Ireland, Vortigern and Henry II (1799)  Ireland did not stop at “discovering” lost manuscripts, for he wrote two complete “lost” plays supposedly by Shakespeare, the historical romances Vortigern and Henry II. Vortigern was performed only once in public, and was laughed off the stage. Once exposed as a forger, however, Ireland capitalized on his fame by producing “authentic” forgeries. This copy includes a few forged signatures, as well as several pages of a new play written by Ireland in the style of Vortigern. It also includes a note of authentication from the owner of the book, who states that it was written by Ireland “in my presence” and delivered on February 13, 1800. There is no better demonstration of our cultural investment in Shakespeare than this authentic fake.  Learn more: http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/11/faking-shakespeare-part-3-authentic.html

#26: Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music (“1599” but printed in 1709)  Shakespeare’s Sonnets were first published in 1609—yet this book claims to be a “lost” edition of the complete sonnet sequence printed a decade earlier in 1599. A book of poetry attributed to “W. Shakespeare” was indeed published in 1599, but it was The Passionate Pilgrim, printed by William Jaggard, and that book contained a page that looks similar to the one shown here. We now know that Shakespeare only wrote a few of the poems included in The Passionate Pilgrim, but it was reprinted as part of the Shakespeare canon through the eighteenth century. The pages in this “1599” volume once formed part of a book that was actually printed in 1709. One early owner broke apart the book, taking the “1599” page from the end of the book, and attaching the sonnets from the beginning of the volume to it. The small hole at the bottom of the page reveals that the page signature has been scratched out, in order to hide the deception. This book is an ingenious attempt to “discover” (that is, to fake) a valuable new addition to the Shakespeare canon.  Learn more: http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/10/faking-shakespeare-part-1-passionate.html

Shakespeare in Print

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Shakespeare never expressed a desire to publish his plays. They were nevertheless extraordinarily popular in print, and they remain so to this day. It was the Renaissance book trade—the printers, publishers, and booksellers working in London—that first made Shakespeare into a best-selling author.

The book we now call the “First Folio”—the large format collection of thirty-six plays published in 1623—was a commemorative volume compiled by Shakespeare’s colleagues in the theater. It was printed by William Jaggard, who had a long history of selling Shakespeare. Jaggard’s involvement with Shakespeare must be contextualized within his business as a printer and publisher, and these items represent several of the books that were important to him. Other items include some of the books that reshaped Shakespeare’s reputation in the century after his death.

Shakespeare’s Printer

#27: Helkiah Crooke, Mikrokosmographia, or a Description of the Body of Man (1615)

#28:  Somatographia Anthropine, or a Description of the Body of Man (1634)  In 1615, William Jaggard partnered with Helkiah Crooke to publish Mikrokosmographia, the first anatomy book in English to be compiled by a physician. In a letter to the reader Jaggard explained his interest in the book, writing that anatomy was “a matter much affected by me,” and that he had expended “no mean care and cost” in producing it. Jaggard also published an epitome of Crooke’s book that included only the woodcut illustrations in a smaller, cheaper, and more accessible format. The first edition was attributed to “W.J. Printer.” Taken together, the two books demonstrate Jaggard’s intellectual commitment to and financial investment in the works he chose to publish. This is the first edition of Mikrokosmographia. An early owner, Arthur Champernowne, has inscribed his name, while a later owner, one Thomas Jones, has inserted his address, “51 Strand” in London. This is the second edition of the Somatographia Anthropine, printed by Thomas Cotes in 1634. Cotes had previously reprinted Mikrokosmographia in 1631, so the two books remained companion volumes. One of the early owners of this copy was a woman, who inscribed her name on the title-page (“Anne Hodgson booke”) demonstrating a wider audience for anatomy books beyond physicians.  On loan from the John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

#29: Thomas Wilson, A Christian Dictionary (1622)  In the Renaissance books were not simply printed from beginning to end. Printers usually had several books and other small jobs in production at the same time (see items 31 and 32). When work on the First Folio began in Jaggard’s shop early in 1622, the third edition of Thomas Wilson’s Christian Dictionary was just being finished. A detailed bibliographical analysis of the two books reveals that the same pieces of type (distinctive because they were damaged) appear in both books. Wilson’s substantive work was the first dictionary of the bible in English, and was intended to help readers understand the scriptures. One early owner, however, used the blank space on the title-page to work out a math problem and to practice handwriting.

#30: Thomas Milles, The Catalogue of Honor (1610)  Jaggard maintained working relationships with a number of authors, including Thomas Milles. Jaggard published nine books written by Milles, including the Catalogue of Honor, an important treatise on heraldry. This copy has been censored: a note on the illegitimate children of Charles Blount has been excised with a knife. Heraldry was important to Jaggard because he would later become embroiled in a controversy with the irascible Ralph Brooke. Jaggard published Brooke’s book of heraldry in 1619, but it was filled with errors. Brooke tried to blame Jaggard, and financed his own revised edition. Meanwhile Jaggard hired his friend Augustine Vincent to quickly produce a scathing critique of Brooke’s work, which was rushed into print in 1622 in order to save the printer’s reputation. The Shakespeare First Folio, in press at the same time, was far less important (not least because the aged printer, who had been blind for a decade, would not live to see it published). Isaac Jaggard, William’s son, gave Vincent a copy of the First Folio to express his gratitude.

#31: Anthony Munday, A Brief Chronicle (1611)  William Jaggard became the City Printer of London in 1610, and he proudly displayed his new title in the imprint of Anthony Munday’s Brief Chronicle. This imprint also lists the location of Jaggard’s shop in the Barbican, just outside the city walls of London. The City Printer was responsible for producing official proclamations of various kinds. These usually took the form of “broadsides,” single sheets printed on only one side so that they could be easily displayed. Jaggard also held monopolies for the printing of the Ten Commandments, and for the production of playbills. These small jobs provided Jaggard with the consistent work and dependable income necessary to finance larger projects.

#32: Andre Favyn, The Theater of Honour (1623)  Jaggard’s interest in history and heraldry is further demonstrated by this translation of Favyn’s Theater of Honour. Jaggard himself signed the dedication, in which he praises the “reading of Chronicles and Authentic Histories” because they are filled with wisdom and virtue. This elaborate and beautiful book includes many images and is printed in both red and black ink—it is a far more sophisticated production than the First Folio. Jaggard started production on the Theater at about the same time as work on the First Folio commenced, early in 1622. The two books shared a similar schedule: bibliographical analysis shows that work was interrupted on both at about the same time, and they were  finished late in 1623, just after William Jaggard had died.  On loan from the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield

Remaking Shakespeare

#33: Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1624)  This encyclopedic work was a significant and popular study of human psychology. This is the second of eight editions published in the seventeenth century. Burton’s book is the result of an exhaustive search for sources that could illuminate the condition of “melancholy,” a condition of fear or sadness that could result from medical, intellectual, or religious reasons. Melancholy was also a fashionable condition, since artists and students (like Hamlet) were particularly affected by it. Burton depended on his own library, which included nearly 2000 volumes—including Shakespeare’s early narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and Lucrece. To illustrate the condition of madness and melancholy derived from love, Burton quoted from a variety of literary sources, including the well-known final couplet from Romeo and Juliet. Burton’s inclusion of this couplet is a demonstration of Shakespeare’s reputation as a love poet, as well as the increasingly common practice of quoting memorable lines from contemporary poems and plays.  On loan from the John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences

#34: William Shakespeare, Othello (1695)  Some of Shakespeare’s plays were initially published individually as small, slim pamphlets, as opposed to the larger format of the collected plays. Editions of individual plays remained popular throughout the seventeenth century. This edition of Othello was advertised as both an “old” and a “new” play: the title-page mentions performances at the Globe and the Blackfriars theatres (where they were first performed by Shakespeare’s company) as well as recent performances at the Theatre Royal in late-seventeenth-century London. Unlike the earliest editions, this book includes a “Dramatis Personae,” a list of characters that identifies the actors and actresses who played each principal part. At some point this copy was interleaved with blank pages which were used to take notes: opposite the first page of the play a reader has identified the first instance in which the villain Iago purports to reveal his motivation, his “professional jealousy” of Cassio. This copy was once owned by Marsden J. Perry, an important early-twentieth century Shakespeare collector.

#35: Nahum Tate, The History of King Richard the Second (1681)  Due to the English Civil War, the theatres were closed from 1642-1660. When they reopened, Shakespeare’s plays were often adapted in order to suit contemporary needs and desires. Nahum Tate produced the most notorious adaptation of a Shakespeare play, giving King Lear a happy ending. (In fairness, Shakespeare’s version of the Lear story is the only one that ends in such a bleak manner). Tate also adapted Richard II, which was immediately banned from the stage due to its commentary on sensitive political topics (see item 8). Tate altered his adaptation by changing the names of the characters and the setting, renaming it “The Sicilian Usurper.” The authorities were not fooled, and the production was shut down once again. In the printed edition of the play, Tate defends himself by claiming that his adaptation “still retains the immortal Spirit of its first-Father” Shakespeare, and that he was merely “charmed with the many Beauties I discovered” in the original version. Even though it was “forbid to tread the Stage,” it will nevertheless “survive in Print.” This copy bears the name of an early owner, John Genet, who has dated his inscription 1817; the number “4” at the top of the title-page may indicate that this copy was once bound into a larger volume of plays (see item 39).

#36: John Dryden and William Davenant The Tempest, or the Enchanted Island (1690)  This adaptation of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest was a collaboration between John Dryden, the poet laureate of England, and William Davenant, a playwright and theatre manager. Dryden adapted several Shakespeare plays, and was an important figure in the development of English literary criticism. Davenant also adapted a few Shakespeare plays, and his devotion was such that at times he implied that he was Shakespeare’s illegitimate son. Even though the prologue states that Shakespeare’s power is as “sacred” as a King, and that his “magic could not be copied,” new characters are introduced to alter the plot and enhance the play’s comedy. The Tempest is a play filled with music, and the two adapters further developed this aspect by turning the production into a kind of comic opera. The Dryden-Davenant production proved to be immensely popular on stage and in print, demonstrating the ways in which Shakespeare’s works continued to inspire new creations. First published in 1670, this copy is one of several reprints.

#37: George Lillo, Marina (1738)  One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays was Pericles, an episodic romance that centers on the separation and reunion of Pericles, his wife Thaisa, and their daughter Marina. The play was not included in the First Folio collection, perhaps because it was written in collaboration with George Wilkins. The text of the play also seems to be corrupted, and so it has long been considered as a marginal work in the Shakespeare canon, despite its initial popularity. This adaptation of the play includes a prologue written by the playwright George Lillo which praises Shakespeare’s “matchless wit” while also justifying his alteration of the work by claiming that “some mean scenes” in the original play are “injurious” to Shakespeare’s fame. Lillo’s play focuses only on Marina’s story, and he ends the prologue by claiming that his adaptation will “charm the sense” and “improve the mind” of the audience.

Bound Together

#38: Benjamin Jonson, Works (1640)  England’s first literary celebrity was Ben Jonson, an ambitious and learned poet, playwright, and scholar who was widely acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of his generation. In 1616, the year Shakespeare died, the first edition of Jonson’s Works was published. Jonson himself designed the book as a monument to his own achievement and success. The engraved title-page claims the authority of the classics: figures that represent the genres of Comedy and Tragedy flank the title, with Tragicomedy, Satire, and Pastoral above, while a Greek amphitheatre and a Roman coliseum are also visible. Jonson thus sought to raise the status of English poetry and drama. (He was not entirely successful, since he was sometimes mocked for including plays in his “works”). Jonson knew and admired Shakespeare, and contributed two prefatory poems in praise of him to the First Folio. Jonson wanted to publish a second, expanded edition of his Works but died before it was completed in 1640. The publication history of this second edition is extremely complicated: copies exist in varying states (of one, two, or three volumes) and some have even been completely disbound. Learn more:  http://www.adamghooks.net/2012/07/breaking-jonson-apart.html

#39: A collection of plays, published separately (1697-1709)  Individual copies of Shakespeare’s plays were first published as small, unbound pamphlets (about the size of items 34-37) that were held together by stitching a thread through the pages. Once a customer had collected a sufficient number of printed plays, they could be bound into a single volume, thereby becoming an actual book. The Shakespeare First Folio simply imitated this common practice by providing customers with a convenient collection of plays all in one volume. This item is a collection of plays published around the turn of the eighteenth century by different publishers in different years. The owner of these plays then had them bound into this volume. One early owner has provided a table of contents of the book at the back; a similar list, likely written by a later bibliographer or bookseller, is also visible. The collection is coherent both chronologically and generically—all the plays are comedies. The first play is Sir George Etherege’s The Comical Revenge. The hero of the play, Sir Frederick Frollick, is a transgressive young libertine and man about town, which explains the suggestive subtitle “Love in a Tub.” First performed and published in 1664, it was phenomenally successful and influential; this copy, published in 1697, was one of many reprints. Learn more: http://www.adamghooks.net/2012/07/collection-of-plays-published.html

The Shakespeare Second Folio

#40: Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1632)  The second edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays was published in 1632. The First Folio was the first book that consisted only and entirely of English plays from the professional theater. The fact that the book was reprinted after only nine years demonstrates that the risky enterprise was a success. The Second Folio was produced by a consortium of publishers and was printed by Thomas Cotes, who was once an apprentice to William Jaggard. Cotes inherited the Jaggard printing house after William and his son Isaac died. The Second Folio includes additional memorial tributes to Shakespeare, including the first published poem by John Milton. This copy was once severely damaged: several of the preliminary leaves, including the title-page, are later facsimiles, and the remaining pages have been cleaned. It was once owned by a man named William Coles, who inscribed his name, dating it April 28, 1709. Another owner, whose name has been washed away, dated his inscription 1806. This book was donated to the University in 1975 by Beatrice Beck Fahnestock.

Learn more:  http://www.adamghooks.net/2011/04/breaking-shakespeare.html

#41: William Prynne, Histriomastix (1633)  In this massive anti-theatrical treatise the puritan polemicist William Prynne charged that plays were mere “vanities or idle recreations.” Because they possessed no ethical worth or value, he argued that “no price ought to be taken for them.” Unfortunately for Prynne, this is not how the book trade worked, for printed plays were indeed “vendible” commodities that were eagerly bought by customers (see item 43). In a footnote Prynne objected to the fact that more than 40,000 plays had been published and sold in the previous two years (a figure that scholars have found to be accurate) and he complained that some playbooks had “grown from Quarto into Folio,” a reference to the larger format of the Shakespeare and Jonson folio collections. He also lamented that “playbooks” were “now more vendible than the choicest sermons,” and protested (in another note) that Shakespeare’s plays were printed on better quality paper than most bibles. Once again Prynne was correct, and his note here likely refers to the Second Folio (see item 40) which was published the previous year.

#42: King John, fragment from Second Folio (1632)  This fragment consists of the entire play King John which at some point was removed from a copy of the Second Folio. There was—and remains—a thriving trade in fragments of Shakespeare folios. It was once common to repair incomplete or damaged copies of the First Folio with pages from a subsequent folio edition (there were four folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays published in the seventeenth century). In this instance, however, it is likely that these pages were removed in order to sell an incomplete copy of the Second Folio as separate fragments, in order to maximize profit. This fragment thus becomes a kind of relic, the remains of a secular scripture. It also demonstrates the fundamental instability of the material object. A “Shakespeare Folio” is only a book when the pages are bound together in a way that resembles what we define as a book. The scene that begins on page twelve features the defiant and moving lament of Constance for her son Arthur, who has been imprisoned by King John. The act and scene numbers (in Latin) are incorrect—such divisions were not standardized until the eighteenth century.  Learn more:  http://www.adamghooks.net/2012/06/breaking-shakespeare-apart.html

Selling Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s life was defined by his afterlife in print. The interests and investments of members of the book trade defined Shakespeare’s identity as an author. Booksellers began to collect, classify, and catalogue his plays, and so the first biographical accounts of Shakespeare were based on the bibliography of his works. Shakespeare’s plays were not considered great books, but they were recognized as good business. It was the buying and selling of Shakespeare’s books that made Shakespeare.

#43: William London, A Catalogue of the Most Vendible Books in England (1658)  The bookseller William London included “Mr. Shakespeare’s Plays” (one of the Folio collections) along with copies of King Lear and Richard II in his catalogue of “vendible” books. (A “vendible” book is one that is easily sold). However, London listed them in the section of “Romances, Poems, and Plays” which in a lengthy introduction he derides as “least useful of any” books. His catalogue thus demonstrates the conflicted status of printed plays. London was attempting to reverse the meaning of “vendible”—he prized ethical, not economic, profit—by utilizing the marketing strategies of the book trade. Most of London’s book lists the titles of important religious and academic books. In order to accomplish his goal of making knowledge more accessible, he embraced the world of commerce. Yet in doing so, he helped to consolidate the very genres he criticized. This copy was inscribed by three different owners—in the years 1684, 1749, and 1843—demonstrating the remarkable longevity and usefulness of London’s book.

#44: Gerard Langbaine, An Account of the English Dramatic Poets (1691)  In the 1650s booksellers began to produce catalogues of all the plays that had ever been printed. Because Shakespeare’s plays had been conveniently collected in one volume, he was granted a position of prominence in these catalogues. Other plays that had been attributed to him in print (but which scholars now know he did not write) were also counted as part of the Shakespeare canon, such as The Birth of Merlin, which was attributed to Shakespeare on the title-page. The bookseller Gerard Langbaine transformed the genre of the dramatic catalogue, extending it beyond the enumeration of printed plays by providing an analysis of the sources on which the authors had relied. His biographical account of Shakespeare begins with a brief outline of Shakespeare’s life (in part derived from Thomas Fuller—see item 45) but is mostly made up of a systematic examination of the plays attributed to him in print. Langbaine’s Account defined the criteria for a kind of criticism that first defined the practices of Shakespearean biography and dramatic history. Booksellers listed the books that—quite literally—made Shakespeare.

#45: Thomas Fuller, The History of the Worthies of England (1662)  The first formal biographical notice of Shakespeare was written fifty years after his death by Thomas Fuller, a clergyman whose most important work was The Church History of Britain. His final work, published posthumously, was the first biographical dictionary in English. Fuller’s History of the Worthies of England catalogued the significant features of every county in England, relying on comprehensive research (he was known as a “walking library”). He sought to enliven the entries of writers by naming and numbering their books. Fuller included Shakespeare among the notable authors of his native Warwickshire. This brief passage outlines Shakespeare’s contemporary reputation. He is compared to classical poets, including that “fine wag” Ovid (see items 2 and 3). In a notable nautical metaphor, he repeats an anecdote about the “wit combats” between Shakespeare and Ben Jonson (see item 38). While the more learned and laborious Jonson is characterized as “solid, but slow,” Shakespeare is praised for the “quickness of his wit and invention” which can “turn with all tides.” The myth that Shakespeare lacked learning derives from Jonson’s memorial poem in the First Folio, where he refers to Shakespeare’s “small Latin, and less Greek”—although it is important to note that in Jonson’s estimation, no other writer could approach his own authoritative knowledge of the classics.  On loan from the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield

Remembering Shakespeare

William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, and was buried inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon. The simple gravestone is inscribed with an epitaph that takes the form of a curse: “Blest be the man that spares these stones, and curst be he that moves my bones.” Seven years after his death, a group of actors and publishers produced the book we now call the First Folio, a collection of his plays. Just as Shakespeare’s tomb offers both a blessing and a curse, Shakespeare’s tome is presented as preserving and perfecting his literary corpus. As Ben Jonson declared in his poetic tribute, “Thou art a monument without a tomb, and art alive still while thy book doth live.”

#46: John Weever, Ancient Funeral Monuments (1631)  In 1599 the young Cambridge graduate John Weever published a book of epigrams, including one in praise of Shakespeare written in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet. It reflects Shakespeare’s reputation as a love poet: it alludes to the first encounter between Romeo and Juliet in which their playful banter about saints and pilgrims leads to a kiss. (This passage also inspired the title of The Passionate Pilgrim—see item 26). Weever soon abandoned poetry, however, and became an antiquarian, traveling around England researching funeral monuments. After three decades of study, he published his work in 1631—fittingly, the year before he died. Weever visited Stratford and recorded the inscriptions on Shakespeare’s gravestone and funeral monument in his manuscript notes, although they are not included in the published volume. The remarkable title-page engraving, which is modeled on a funeral monument, features the skeleton of the “first Adam” (still holding the forbidden apple from the Garden of Eden) and the “second Adam,” Christ holding a cross with his foot on the serpent. At the bottom there is an illustration of a churchyard of the kind that Weever spent years visiting. The title-page states that the book was “Composed by the Travels and Study of John Weever,” and includes the fitting motto “Spe labor levis,” which can be translated as “hope lightens labor.”

#47: William Dugdale, The Antiquities of Warwickshire (1656)  After nearly twenty-five years of research, William Dugdale published his history of Warwickshire in 1656. It provides the history of the towns within the county, including Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown. Dugdale’s main concern was to record the genealogy and heraldry of notable residents, with a particular focus on funeral monuments and churches. He notes that Stratford is where “our late famous poet William Shakespeare” was born, and is buried. He also includes an illustration of Shakespeare’s monument in Holy Trinity Church. The inscription praises his skill as poet: “all that he hath writ leaves living art but page to serve his wit.” Although the monument refers to a tomb, Shakespeare is buried nearby under a simple gravestone, with an epitaph that curses those who would disturb his bones. Dugdale himself financed the publication of his book. This copy is inscribed and dated by Dugdale, noting that the book is a gift from the author on the seventh day of May in 1656.  On loan from the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield


First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, is a national traveling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC and produced in association with the American Library Association and the Cincinnati Museum Center. First Folio! has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the support of Google.org, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, the British Council, Stuart and Mimi Rose, and other generous donors.

The Books That Made Shakespeare is an exhibition drawn from the holdings of The University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections, the John Martin Rare Book Room at the Hardin Health Sciences Library, and the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield.

Curated by Adam G. Hooks, Associate Professor, UI Department of English.
Assisted by Greg Prickman and Margaret Gamm, UI Libraries Special Collections.
Prepared & Installed by Giselle Simon and Bill Voss, UI Libraries Conservation Lab.
Designed by Heidi Wiren Bartlett, Creative Coordinator for the UI Libraries.

Shakespeare at Iowa is a commemoration of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Public programs, education materials, and community events have been prepared by the University of Iowa Libraries with the support and participation of many partners throughout the State of Iowa.

  • University of Iowa — UI Alumni Association, Center for the Book, Department of Cinematic Arts, Department of English, School of Library and Information Science, School of Music, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, and the Theater Arts Department.
  • Community — Brucemore, Iowa City Public Library, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, Salisbury House, and Riverside Theatre.
  • Higher education — Coe College, Cornell College, and Grinnell College.

Public programming coordination: Jennifer Masada, UI Libraries Communications and Colleen Theisen, UI Libraries Special Collections.

Financial support for Shakespeare at Iowa provided by the Friends of the UI Libraries.

Creative Commons License

Adam G. Hooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.