Friday, May 7, 2021

Book Note: The Shakespeare Documents

Lewis, B. Roland. The Shakespeare Documents: Facsimiles, Transliterations, Translations, and Commentary. 2 vols. Westport: Greenwood Press, [1940] 1969.

This is one of my favorite Shakespeare reference books, and I'm so pleased to have it in my collection. The Shakespeare Documents is an enormous (see the image to the right with the Shakespeare Action Figure to show the scale) two-volume set of just about every document associated with Shakespeare.

I've only had my own copy for a few months (I've been known to have my library's copy out for nearly the entire school year), but I've already found several occasions to use it:
  1. Confirming Shakespeare's baptismal date.
  2. Looking at the signatures on Shakespeare's will.
  3. Reviewing the transcription of the entry in the Stationer's Register for the plays never before published that were to be printed in the First Folio.
Indeed, since we've been talking about the First Folio, let me show you something below. Here, B. Roland Lewis shows a chart of all the plays in the First Folio together with "First Definite Mention," dates of any pre-First Folio printings, and the "Probable Source of Text."

It's a fascinating tour through the thirty-six plays that make up the First Folio. Click on the images below to enlarge them. They will still be a bit small, but imagine each of the four pages pictured below being almost 11x17 and you'll get an idea of how great this two-volume set is. 

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest