Cleveland Public Library, Great Lakes Theater, Shaker Library, and other grant participants learned recently that they were selected to host “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.” This exhibition will travel to more than 50 locations next year, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.
Shakespeare, the famous poet and playwright, is regarded by most as the greatest writer of the English language. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564, died there in 1616, and has been called England’s national poet, the “Bard of Avon.”
In celebration of the many activities surrounding the exhibit, Shaker Library has declared 2016 as the “Year of the Bard.” We hope to draw people to the library’s website through the use of a 24-hour-a-day “Shakespeare Cam,” featuring our bobblehead mascot, “Billy the Bard.” He will help publicize “Bard-related” events, including a performance at the Main Library, as well as other library programs throughout the year.
The actual “First Folio” will be housed in a secure, climate-controlled case within the Rare Books Room at Cleveland Public Library from June 20 to July 30, where it will be available for public viewing. Cleveland is one of only five public libraries to host the Folio—the other locations being 23 museums, 20 universities, three historical societies, and a theater. Published in 1623, just seven years after Shakespeare died, it is one of 80 copies owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, among just over 200 in existence worldwide. Single copies have been valued in excess of $5 million dollars!
Grant funding for the exhibit comes from the American Library Association in collaboration with “the Folger” and the Cincinnati Museum Center, and includes major support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as generous donations from Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf.
Visitors will be able to view the valuable volume, which contains 36 of 38 plays written by Shakespeare, including all but two of his lesser known comedies: Pericles, Prince of Tyre, and The Two Noble Kinsman. At each site, the First Folio will be opened to the most quoted line from Hamlet, “to be, or not to be, that is the question.” The exhibit will be accompanied by six interpretive panels with background information on the Folio, Shakespeare, and his times, exploring his impact then and now. Digital content and interactive activities will also be included.
Since Tuesday, December 1 is Giving Tuesday and since December is the season of giving, may I suggest a donation to the Library, the Library Endowment Fund, or the Friends of the Shaker Library? Your gift will help sustain the library and the Friends. Please consider a gift to benefit all readers. I thank you in advance in the words of Shakespeare, who said, “I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks.”
Be sure to follow “Billy the Bard” at www.shakerlibrary.org beginning December 31 and January 1 when he will celebrate the New Year. Watch for him daily when he will celebrate a variety of dates, including January 7 (National Bobblehead Day) and February 5 (The Friends’ “Literary Libations III” featuring drinks from Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas), March 2 (Read Across America Day), April 4 (Opening Day at Progressive Field), and many more!
Luren E. Dickinson, Director