The New York Times
The Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the Worldby Paul Collins
A tri-continental travelogue in five acts, The Book of William traces the history of one of the world's most hotly pursued literary treasures, encompassing the Fleet Street machinations of the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century quest for lost Folios, the obsessive acquisitions by twentieth-century oilmen, and the high-tech hoards of twenty-first century… See more details below
A tri-continental travelogue in five acts, The Book of William traces the history of one of the world's most hotly pursued literary treasures, encompassing the Fleet Street machinations of the eighteenth century, the nineteenth century quest for lost Folios, the obsessive acquisitions by twentieth-century oilmen, and the high-tech hoards of twenty-first century Japan. Collins weaves a captivating narrative as Folios are dearly bought, preciously guarded, and more dearly sold; dusted off in attics; lost in oceans and fires; facsimiled; scanned; and - ultimately - immortalized.
The New York Times
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 copyright law. A 20-page "Further Readings" section is by itself a sheer delight. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Collins (Banvard's Folly; Not Even Wrong) has done it again. This historyspanning the globe and 400 years in the life and fortunes of one of the most famous books in the English languageis not the dry province of historians, bibliophiles, and antiquarians. Collins relates the series of near-disasters of the folios' inception (lack of intact manuscripts left by the Bard; Heminge and Condell's blind printer) and continued existence (folios stolen, burned, lost at sea, left to molder in ruined estates, ripped apart and used to wrap fish), which gives readers a renewed appreciation for the rarity and value of the folio. VERDICT There are other authoritative works on Shakespeare's folios, including W.W. Greg's The Shakespeare First Folio and Edwin Eliott Willoughby's The Printing of the First Folio of Shakespeare, but Collins's is a welcome addition to this group. Witty, detailed, and highly entertaining, it will be appreciated by fans of Shakespeare, history, or human folly.Felicity D. Walsh, Emory Univ., Decatur, GA
Felicity D. Walsh
- Bloomsbury USA
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