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The Book of William : How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World
The first popular narrative history of Shakespeare's First Folio, the world's most obsessively pursued book.
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. Paul Collins, lover of odd books and author of the national bestseller Sixpence House, takes up the strange quest for this white whale of precious books.
Broken down into five acts, each tied to a different location and century, The Book of William's travelogue follows the trail of the Folio's curious rise: a dizzying S otheby's auction on a pristine copy preserved since the seventeenth century, the Fleet Street machinations of the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century quests for lost Folios, obsessive acquisitions by twentieth century oilmen, and the high-tech hoards of twenty-first century Japan. Finally, Collins speculates on Shakespeare's cross-cultural future as Asian buyers enter their Folios into the electronic ether, and recounts the book's remarkable journey as it is found in attics, gets lost in oceans and fires, is bought and sold, and ultimately becomes immortal.
Undoubtedly, the Bard himself would be amused to learn all about the fate of the book compiled after his death by fellow actors and colleagues John Heminge and Henry Condell. It was, a collector said recently, the most important secular work of all time.� Collins (Sixpence House), an English professor and NPR regular, is passionate, knowledgeable and sassy in bringing this story to glorious life. Collins divides his work into five acts, leading his reader on a whirlwind trip through the Four Folios eventually printed, into feuds between Alexander Pope and Lewis Theobald and to the opportunistic reach of a financially desperate Dr. Johnson. Over the next 200 years, there are the stories of Henry Clay Folger as well as an ingenious collating machine and related technologies for today's textual scholars. Collins's remarkable voyage through time and across the globe leads to Japan, where the most obsessive collectors of Sheikusupia� reside. This is for anyone with an interest in how Shakespeare has come down to us, the nature of the book business, the art of editing and the evolution of
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July 06, 2009
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