‘So long lives this’: A Celebration of Shakespeare’s Life and Works 1616-2016
Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto
25 January–28 May 2016.
In answer to America’s “First Folio!” project, which will see copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio on display in museums, universities, public libraries, and at historical sites across the country, Canada’s largest and most comprehensive Rare Book Library, the Thomas Fisher Library of University of Toronto, has assembled the most ambitious display of Shakespeare-related books in Canada, an exhibition complemented by a glorious full-colour catalogue, sized to match the Fisher’s extra-tall First Folio.
The exhibition is designed around the essays of the accompanying volume, which is to be especially commended for two lengthy chapters written by Scott Schofield, of Huron College, University of Western Ontario (formerly of University of Toronto). Working from unpublished notes shared by world famous Folger Fellow and Freeman of the Stationers’ Company, Peter W. M. Blayney, Schofield, in his first chapter, tells the history of the Jaggards: that of Isaac and William Jaggard, printers of Shakespeare’s First Folio (27–31); but, also, as importantly, of John, Elizabeth, and Dorothy Jaggard, the family collaborators of the business (31–34). He tells the story in a very accessible way, at first highlighting cut-outs of Plate 4 from Nova Reperta (1599–c. 1603), an engraving showing the interior of a printing house, before focusing in on specific Jaggard items displayed in cases of the exhibition (27–31). Looking back from the Folio at such Jaggard books as Thomas Milles’s The Catalogue of Honor (London, 1610) and Ralph Brookes’s A Catalogue and Succession of the Kings … of England (London, 1619), Schofield meticulously lays the groundwork for bringing together Shakespeare’s First Folio and the Jaggards’ prior heraldry volumes: this argument is exceptionally well-timed, given Heather Wolfe’s recent discovery of a new illuminated crest for the Shakespeare Family, topped by a note on the bard’s occupation as “player”.
Schofield’s second chapter, though offering less by way of original, ground-breaking, new research, stands as a compact and yet impactful source-survey. Ideally read in the Fisher Library, with the documents right there to be seen, Schofield’s examination depicts Shakespeare as anything but the divinely and socially inspired character of Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love (1998). To Schofield, Shakespeare is instead an unparalleled bibliophile, reading, discontinuously, Holinshed’s Chronicles (1577), Plutarch’s Lives of the Greeks and Romans (trans. Thomas North, 1579), the Geneva Bible (1557), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses (trans. Arthur Golding, 1567); Shakespeare is Agostino Ramelli (1531–1600), cranking through volumes of his imaginary “book wheel,” a device to facilitate quick knowledge acquisition from a wide variety of Reference works (38; Dell’ Artificiose Machine , figure 188). Some of the examples that Schofield selects are spot-on for undergraduate and even graduate learners: Shakespeare’s selectivity over the mortality statistics of Agincourt, from Holinshed’s Chronicles (36); the bard’s midrashic personalization of Plutarch for Enobarbus’s sumptuous description of Cleopatra’s barge (39). Others, albeit pure speculation, are visually striking: “A Cabinet of Curiosities,” out of Dell’ Historia Naturale (Naples, 1599), for Romeo and Juliet’s apothecary scene (42); “Memento Mori,” out of Andreas Vesalius’s (1514–1564) De Humani Corporis Fabrica Librorum Epitome (Basel, 1543), for themes of anatomy, death, and art, from Hamlet (42–43). Schofield’s treatment of Shakespeare’s intertextuality takes expert advantage of both exhibition space and page space to create an ideal learning situation for tomorrow’s scholars.
Other scholarship of the display and of the collection rises to meet the high measure Schofield sets: three pieces, in particular, do so gloriously, from their own respective angles. Anne Dondertman, outgoing Associate Chief Librarian for Special Collections and Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, begins the volume with a detailed introduction, discussing the earliest origins and provenance of the Fisher’s main Shakespeare holdings – Canada’s only known copy of the First Folio, and copies of its Second (1632), Third (1663), and Fourth (1685) printings. Her research for the project admirably fills in numerous critical gaps in the First’s patchy history (its erroneous link to “Lady Drake” in Sidney Lee’s census , and the separate provenance or descent of the Droeshout frontispiece [11; 11–14, with 12–13 displaying a to-scale repro]). Blayney comes out of retirement for the book’s first chapter (the exhibition’s first two cases) to re-tell his history of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio. He tells the story with an energy and awareness even surpassing that of his own widely celebrated The First Folio of Shakespeare (1991). His arguments come together even more naturally in part due to large full-colour illustrations, expertly cropped and captioned, shifted around, skillfully, by Stan Bevington, of Coach House Press, for optimum visual impact.
Alan Galey, of University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information and well-respected Book History and Print Culture Program (collaborative with Massey College of University of Toronto), steps in for the final display cases / catalogue chapter. Although Galey’s wide range of interests have often taken him away from Shakespeare (e.g., XML tagging, e-reader formats, prototyping, and bootlegged heavy metal recordings), here it would be hard to say he has done anything less than a stellar job as a Shakespeare scholar. For concluding our tour of Shakespeare in print or our scholarly history of this topic, Galey brings us from 1700 through present day. He aptly notes the shift from collective large editions, like the Folios, to collective compact editions, like those of “The Tonson Era” (65). With the dexterity of a born writer and a true Canadian bardophile, Galey unpacks the plays’ recent textual histories, from scholarly editions through lithographic facsimiles, from lithographic facsimiles to photofacsimiles, and from photofacsimiles to art books (66–69). He particularly excels while demonstrating his admirable knowledge of Canadiana – by telling us about Laurence Hyde’s (1914–1987) modernist illustrations of Macbeth (c. 1939), influenced by the paintings of famed Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris (1885–1970), and the Barbarian Press edition of Pericles (2011), anomalous in its artistic revitalization of a lesser-known play (75–77). Galey talks about Canadian book artist Robert Wu’s art re-binding of English cartoonist W. Heath Robinson’s (1872–1944) A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1914; re-binding, 2012), and Wu’s use of “a chemise, slipcase, opal inlays and onlays, and hand-marbled paper,” as a kind of ‘luxury’ collaboration between historical text and present-day visual forms (78).
Go see the exhibition. This is Canada’s answer to “First Folio!” It is not to be missed.
Joshua J. McEvilla
Exhibition & Catalogue by Scott Schofield, Peter W. M. Blayney, Alan Galey, Marjorie Rubright; with an introduction by Anne Dondertman. Toronto: Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, 2016. 97 p. Illus. (oversize [35 × 22 cm], double column).