A rarity most beloved at Cornell University, Shakespeare’s four folios – VIDEO

Media Note: A video of the folios can be viewed on YouTube and can be downloaded at https://cornell.box.com/shakespeare

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Cornell University is one of the few places in the world to have the four original 17th-century editions of the dramatist’s plays. William G. Mennen, Cornell Class of 1908, donated the folios to Cornell’s library in October 1953.

Lance Heidig, outreach and learning service librarian at the Cornell University Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, explains what the folios represent and how they made their way to Cornell.

Bio: https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/lance-heidig

Heidig says:
“What we have is William Shakespeare’s first folio – the first time that Shakespeare’s plays were collected in a single volume and published. Folios were handmade, and expensive to produce, but it was indeed a best seller and it was produced three more times in the 17th century.

“William G. Mennen, Cornell class of 1908, walked into the library with a very simple package wrapped and said that he had some books for the library that he’d like to donate. Seeing the simple packaging the university librarian at the time assumed that these were just old books that someone was just trying to discard. At the end of the day the librarian opens up the package and discovers that he has the four Shakespeare Folios sitting on his desk.”

Bruce Levitt, professor of performing and media arts, comments on Shakespeare’s command of language as well as his insights into humanity.

Bio: http://pma.cornell.edu/bruce-levitt

Levitt says:
“The entire world turns to Shakespeare again and again in the theatres of widely different cultures, to find the highest form of expression of dramatic literature in the Western Canon. There are a number of reasons for this but among the most important are:

Shakespeare was ‘of the people,’ not from the university or the court. He transformed drama, and all of literature, by creating characters such as Hamlet who bring to the stage an unprecedented inwardness.

“Shakespeare was extremely productive, writing as many as four or five plays in one year. He is credited with inventing hundreds of new words and phrases. He had the largest vocabulary of any writer writing in English – somewhere near 23,000 separate words. Joseph Conrad is thought to have the second largest vocabulary at 6,000 words.

“Finally, Shakespeare is always the touchstone for human behavior, creating many separate selves and exploring the uses and misuses of power in almost every human endeavor from family to politics to gender. No one has yet surpassed the scope of his insights into humanity.”

For interviews contact:
Rebecca Valli
O: 607-255-7701
M: 607-793-1025

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.

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