‘First Folio’ At Granoff Through May 1st

An exhibition titled “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Featuring the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the exhibition offers a chance for visitors to view a book of national significance that would’ve otherwise been lost to history if not for Shakespeare’s fellow actors in the 1600s. So . . . hooray for theater people. Linda Borg writes in the Providence Journal.

The folio, written in Elizabethan English on yellowed vellum, is open to a couple of pages from “Hamlet” that contain the fraught encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia in which he says, “Get thee to a nunnery.” The 900-page folio has no acts or scenes, no numbered lines.

Since First Folios are among the most valuable books in the world (a recent one was advertised at $1.1 million to $1.7 million), the Shakespeare Folio is encased in glass in a bare room where the humidity, temperature and light are strictly controlled.

And there is a guard. Competition to host the First Folio was fierce. It is estimated that only about 750 were ever printed and — according to the excellent exhibit display — only 233 are still known to exist. Except . . . EXCEPT . . . that just last week the existence of another First Folio was announced in Scotland! Which brings that number to 234. (NYT 4.6.16)

“Finding it right now is almost crazy,” said Emma Smith, a Shakespeare expert at the University of Oxford who authenticated the Folio during a visit to the house in September.

A sentiment probably shared by the curators of the Granoff exhibit.

(Granoff hours are: Tuesday-Thursday from noon to 8pm; Friday-Sunday from noon to 6pm.)

And you can learn more at this week’s Athenaeum Salon:

Salon at Providence Athenaeum, Friday, April 15, 5pm to 7pm — “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare,” with Coppélia Kahn, Professor, Emerita, Brown University Department of English.

In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays for future generations. Half of these had never been published and would have been lost without this First Folio publication. This year, as the Folger Shakespeare Library tours a First Folio to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, we are challenged not to fall back on the clichés (“greatest writer in English,” “not for an age but for all time”) in our celebrations. Kahn will explore some of the reasons why his works have lasted more than four hundred years.

First Folio Exhibition runs through May 1, Granoff Center, 154 Angell Street, (directions)

"First Folio"

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