Thursday, July 13, 2006


John Mullan at the Guardian on the value of a copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays:

If there are rich and hungry collectors out there, the Dr Williams copy should tempt them. It is in unusually good condition and has a near-contemporary binding. Thanks to the eccentricities of the Jacobean printing house and the depredations of time (readers removing pages), many surviving copies are incomplete (the Oriel-Getty copy lacks two leaves from Romeo and Juliet). Here, only the very first printed leaf, Ben Jonson's 10-line verse To the Reader, is not original (it was replaced in the 19th century). Defacing some of the pages, but probably raising the value, are the marginal scribbles of one of its first readers. In brown ink this early Shakespeare devotee marked interesting passages with circles or wavy lines, often scrawling, like some early A-level candidate, 'joy', or 'wit', or 'time', or, most commonly of all, 'simile'.

Oh dear, that does suggest to me that someone had to read it for school.

One thing that makes me absolutely crazy, by the way (somewhat unrelated to main topic), is how often a book I check out from the library seems to be absolutely covered with underlinings and marginal annotations. I don't really care what you do with your own books, tear out the pages if you like, but it is never all right to write in a library book! Not even in pencil. (Though it is true that I use post-its on library books, and a strict preservationist would say this also is very bad: but at least there is no evidence left perceptible to the naked eye or finger of subsequent readers.)

1 comment:

  1. Jenny, have you read any David Searcy? Interesting stuff.