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The Book of William: How Shakespeare's…

The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the…

by Paul Collins

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Collins travels from a London Sotheby's rare book auction, to the Folger Library to San Francisco to Tokyo to the Kent countryside, tracking and often holding Shakespeare's folios. Not all are first; he's actually tracking second, third and the first photographed facsimiles, and giving the reader a thorough history of how many people it took to save Shakespeare from becoming obscure and forgotten.
I have to stop myself from gushing, but I really looked forward to getting back to this book every time I had to lay it down. The descriptions of book auctions and the people who attend them, the book sellers and collectors who protected or made a living from folios, and especially the editors of competing editions of Shakespeare who fought over who had a better understanding of the Bard, make this a lively story. I only wish there had been a photo or two of some folios. ( )
  mstrust | Nov 15, 2014 |
At points the book felt like a script for a PBS special: each chapter begins with a description of a modern scene, and then the author tells us of the hidden history of that place touching upon his tales of the Shakespeare First Folios.

But perhaps that wouldn't be such a bad thing. The story Collins weaves is not only exceedingly fascinating, but he brings new, original material to the discussion. This is not, in other words, however well done, merely a repackaging of previously revealed information.

Whether you have an interest in Shakespeare, or just old texts, this book is highly recommended (especially in light of the recently announced plans of the Folger and the ALA to create a traveling exhibit to display a copy of the folio "at one site in all 50 United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands" in 2016: https://apply.ala.org/shakespeare/guidelines). ( )
  dono421846 | Jul 21, 2014 |
This book was a total delight! Paul Collins travels the world to try to find as many “First Folios” of Shakespeare as possible. Meanwhile he “time travels” (metaphorically) giving much information on the history of how these folios came into existence and the many people, both famous and nearly forgotten, involved. This was a Christmas gift from my husband and I highly recommend it to bibliomaniacs and Shakespeare fanatics. ( )
1 vote MusicMom41 | Apr 19, 2011 |
While I enjoyed this book (and Collins' Sixpence House) I was a bit disappointed by it. I had hoped for a bit more depth. The breadth of the work is, however, an excellent introduction to the movement of the Folios themselves. The "Further Readings" section makes up for some of the disappointment. Even (or perhaps especially) when reading popular histories, I find myself waiting for the footnotes, citations, etc. to point me toward more on the topics discussed.
I found Collins' tendency to jump in time a bit difficult to follow. His use of pronouns was not always clear enough for me to pick the book up after a few days away and remember who belonged when. Overall though the book is very readable. It's a bit breezy in style in places, but Collins is a writer bridging the gap between academic and popular publishing. I think he does well in general, but in a few places, particularly in Acts IV and V he increasingly 'floats' over rather than 'dives' into the subject matter.
I am reading Shakespeare and the Book by Kastan next and I think this will be an excellent deepening of Collins' work.
I would recommend Collins for anyone interested in Shakespeare, the Folios, the afterlife of either, and book history more generally. I think the book would be helped by some brief family/association trees of those persons that turn out to be related in various ways. ( )
  rheaphine | Jan 14, 2011 |
Paul Collins writes an entertaining and enlightening tale of the First Folio of William Shakespeare. I am not by any means a Shakespeare scholar, although like most educated Americans, I've been exposed to his works both in high school and in college.

The story of how his works were published, and the tortuous journeys of these volumes is fascinating and presented with a clear and somewhat humorous narration. Collins follows the folios throughout the world, tracking ownership, explaining the differences in different editions, and painting word pictures of these archival masterpieces. I was especially interested in two aspects, the collection at the Folger Library in Washington DC, and the collection owned by the Japanese and held at the Meisei University in Tokyo.

I was intrigued by his descriptions of Japanese theatre and how Shakespeare has been adapted to it over the past hundred plus years. I am familiar with kabuki, and with the marvelous Japanese puppet shows: Bunraku. He explains:

"Along with such alien notions as soliloquies, the poetry, the English system of meter and accent, didn't make much sense in Japanese. ...Japanese words are consonant-vowel, and because of the confoundment of R and L, Hamlet became Hamuretto, and Shakespeare himself turned into Sheikusupia. "

Puppets provided an excellent solution to the problem.

Collins' love of early printing, and the Folios in particular is evident throughout the book. It is well researched, and provides additional resources at the end. I just wish he'd presented a bit more framing up front so I could have figured out earlier what he was attempting to tell us. It took me almost 100 slowly dragging pages before the light went on and then the story snowballed. For book lovers and students of Shakespeare this volume will provide hours of enjoyment. ( )
1 vote tututhefirst | Jan 14, 2010 |
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One book above all others has transfixed connoisseurs for four centuries--a book sold for shillings in the streets of London, whisked to Manhattan for millions, and stored deep within the vaults of Tokyo. The book: William Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623. This "travelogue" follows the trail of the Folio's remarkable journey and Shakespeare's cross-cultural future as Asian buyers enter their Folios into the electronic ether.… (more)

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