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Celebrating William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
April 21st, 2014

Portrait of William Shakespeare

April 23, 2014 will mark the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare.  Born in 1564 and considered the greatest writer in the English language, Shakespeare is the author of such well known plays as Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The WVU Libraries, the West Virginia and Regional History Center, and the Department of English will celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday on Wednesday, April 23, at 2:30 PM in the Robinson Reading Room located in the Downtown Campus Library.  The celebration includes a lecture by English Professor Dr. Sarah Neville titled, Break[ing] into this woman’s mood’: The Lab Space of Shakespeare’s Henry IV. The talk, according to Dr. Neville, will explore the ways that the current production of Henry IV onstage at WVU’s Creative Arts Center subverts the underlying patriarchal messages of Shakespeare’s play, and adapts it into a feminist tragedy for our modern age.

Portrait of Dr. Sarah Neville

Dr. Sarah Neville, courtesy of the WVU Department of English website

The birthday celebration includes an exhibit of the WVU Libraries’ collection of Shakespeare’s Folios.  The Shakespeare Folios refer to the first published collections of Shakespeare’s plays.  The First Folio, printed in 1623, is the most famous among the four folios published after his death in 1616.  Subsequently, three more printings of the collected plays were published following the first printing of 1623.  Shakespeare’s collected works are called “folio” due to the large size of the paper used in the printing process.  A folio size paper sheet is 15 inches tall; it is then folded in half to make two leaves, or four pages, producing a large book.  This exhibit will mark the first occasion that all four of WVU’s Shakespeare Folios will be on public display.  The exhibit will accompany the lecture in the Robinson Reading Room.

Shakespeare’s birthday celebration began in March when Dr. Neville brought her English 680 Research Methods class, with students Tatiana Robinson, Victoria Dickman-Burnett, Rachael Hoag, Meagan Szekely, Natalie Carpini, and Jonas Mueller, to examine firsthand WVU’s collection of Shakespeare’s Folios.  Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian, worked individually with each student as they explored the Rare Book Room’s collection of primary source materials, including the First Folio, pictured below, for their class project.

Students of English 680 Research Methods class with Stewart Plein and Shakespeare Folio

The Shakespeare Folios were a gift from alumnus Arthur S. Dayton, whose collection of works by William Shakespeare and Mark Twain established the Rare Book Room at WVU in 1951.

Blog post by Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

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