New Exhibit Features Shakespeare and His 18th-Century Editors

Editing Shakespeare PosterIn recognition this year of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Armstrong Browning Library’s new exhibit Editing Shakespeare features significant eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s collected works from the library’s Stokes Shakespeare Collection.

The exhibit, currently on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room, was curated by ABL intern Hannah Schwartz, a junior University Scholar with concentrations in linguistics and English literature. Hannah spent the summer at the ABL researching the materials in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection, selecting specific items for display, and writing exhibit labels.

Here are a few things Hannah had to say about her experience as an ABL intern and first-time exhibit curator.

Why were you interested in an internship with the Armstrong Browning Library?

“I was very excited when I heard about the internship at the ABL because it was one of the few humanities research internships that I’d been able to find. The fact that I would be able to do research about Shakespeare (one of my favorite writers) in the ABL (one of my favorite buildings on campus) made me even more interested in the internship.”

Installing Editing Shakespeare

ABL intern Hannah Schwartz installs Editing Shakespeare in the Hankamer Treasure Room

How will the skills you developed during this internship help you in your course work and in your career goals?

“This internship has provided me with valuable research and writing experience that will serve me well as I continue with my education. In addition, I’ve gained a few new skills that may come in handy in a future educational or career setting: exhibit label writing and rare book handling. I’ve had the opportunity to explore library science and exhibit curation, two career fields that I had not previously considered but am now interested in. In addition, the information I’ve learned about printing and editing in the eighteenth century has given me many interesting things to think about as I begin to consider options for my senior honors thesis.”

Portrait of Alexander Pope

Portrait of Alexander Pope from John Bell’s 1788 edition of Shakespeare’s collected works

What is your favorite item in the exhibit? What makes it particularly interesting to you?

“My favorite item in the exhibit is the first volume of the 1788 Bell edition. The books in [John] Bell’s edition are tiny and illustrated, making them neat to look through. The first volume is my favorite because it includes portraits of several of the editors who preceded Bell. It was a fun surprise to open up the book and see engravings of the men I’d spent so much time researching. Several of them don’t look at all like I’d expected!”

Editing Shakespeare is on display until December 22, 2016. The Armstrong Browning Library is grateful for the donor support that makes library internship experiences for graduate and undergraduate students possible.

William Shakespeare at the ABL

Illustration from The Tempest

Illustration from The Tempest in Nicolas Rowe’s 1709 edition

The Stokes Shakespeare Collection was given to the ABL by William N. Stokes, Jr., a former student of ABL founder Dr. A.J. Armstrong, and contains over 280 titles, including significant eighteenth-century editions of William Shakespeare’s collected works.  According to bibliographer Colin Franklin, the eighteenth century produced the first critical editions of Shakespeare’s works that attempted to correct errors introduced in earlier editions of single plays by previous editors, printers, and compositors.  The size of the volumes in which these new texts appeared also made them, for the first time, suitable for home reading.

Portrait of William Shakespeare

Portrait of William Shakespeare in Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition

A number of the important eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s works identified by Franklin in his book Shakespeare Domesticated are contained in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection.  Among them is the 1709 edition edited by playwright and later Poet Laureate Nicolas Rowe, which was the first illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s works and includes the first biography of Shakespeare.  The 1733 edition by Lewis Theobald contains extensive footnotes in which Theobald hotly debates other editors of Shakespeare’s works, namely Alexander Pope and William Warburton.  The 1765 edition by Samuel Johnson may, according to Franklin, be considered the first variorum edition of Shakespeare because notes appearing in all previous editions of Shakespeare’s works were reprinted so that they could be examined side by side.

Title Page from Johnson

Title page for Samuel Johnson’s 1765 edition

Other significant eighteenth-century editions of Shakespeare’s works in the collection include those by Alexander Pope (1723-1725), Thomas Hanmer (1744), Edward Capell (1767), Samuel Johnson and George Steevens (1773), John Bell (1786-1788), Edmund Malone (1790), and the “anonymous” edition of 1745.  Also in the collection is the Boswell-Malone variorum (1821).

Illustration from Macbeth

Illustration from Macbeth in John Bell’s 1788 edition

In addition to Shakespeare’s works, the collection contains a number of books relating to the Bacon-Shakespeare authorship controversy, a particular interest of the collection’s donor.  A list of the books in the Stokes Shakespeare Collection can be found in the Baylor Libraries’ Online Catalog, BearCat, and by clicking here.

Works Cited:

Franklin, Colin.  Shakespeare Domesticated:  The Eighteenth-Century Editions.  Scolar Press, 1991.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Dramatick Writings of Will. Shakspere.  Eds. Samuel Johnson and George Steevens.  Vol. 10.  London:  John Bell, 1788.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Plays of William Shakespeare.  Ed. Samuel Johnson.  Vol. 1.  London:  J. and R. Tonson, 1765.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Works of Mr. William Shakespear.  Ed. Nicolas Rowe.  Vol. 1.  London:  Jacob Tonson, 1709.  Print.

Shakespeare, William.  The Works of Shakespeare.  Ed. Lewis Theobald.  Vol. 1.  London:  A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, 1733.  Print.