You are in love with the First Edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Tell the story, in your own words, of how this wonderful work came into the hands of the State Library of NSW. You are of course allowed to make up the event, or draw on the details given by Helen in the talk in the Shakespeare Room
Who would have known? Who would have known that centuries later this collection would be so valued and attainable? I guess few people of Shakespeare’s time would have suspected this bar two special friends of William. This was, of course, fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell. With their love and respect for Shakespeare, the two men collected the marvellous plays, Shakespeare, had written and collaborated them under what is now known as Shakespeare’s first folio.
Here you can find 36 plays with famous ones that would have been forgotten in time without the creation of this collection such as the Tempest. The book was published in London with an estimated 750 copies. The men have divided the book into the three main themes Shakespeare wrote; comedy, tragedy and history. Of these 750 copies, a known 234 remain with one of them being held in Australia, and lucky for most of us, in Australia’s one and only Sydney! Yes, the NSW State Library holds an original copy and is readily available to anyone who visits the Shakespeare Room. And who can we thank for this wonderful and glorified piece of history? the answer is Richard and George Tangye.
These brothers bought this copy at an auction for $850 with no knowledge of the previous owners. In 1885 the NSW State Library was lucky enough to have this donated to them. However, before this occurred Richard decided to have one more read of this favourite play The Twelfth Night. As he sifted through the pages by his dim candle lit room, he noticed a crinkle in the page. He brushed this thumb over it with curiosity until he felt a separation in the corners of the page. Eager to explore this discovery he turned his lantern up and the pages quite easily opened up to reveal an additional sheet of paper between two blank pages…
Overwhelmed with excitement, Richard turned the page over to find a small letter. Richard scrunched his face up in confusion to see the letter was still there once he opened his eyes. This letter read…
To thy clev’r pupil who is’t buys mine own booketh, I am did please to bid thee yond this the first copyeth mine own cousin, Henry and I did create. Thee’ll findeth this one to has’t an extra playeth yond the oth’r copies doth nay attaineth. This playeth is our minion and is hath found at the v’ry endeth of the booketh. Enjoyeth this, with the additional p’rsonal notes telling thee the insightful instructions shakespeare hath said himself at which hour we p’rf’rm’d t. I desire this reaches the hands of one who is’t appreciates the bliss of William as we doth. I am f’rev’r grateful and I desire this unique edition creates the same humour in thee.
And THIS is the wonderful history of NSW State Library’s copy of First Edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio.
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