Volumes That I Prize Above My Dukedom
August 4, 2005 2:47 AM   Subscribe

Page through the entire first quarto of Hamlet, or the second quarto of King Lear, or any one of dozens of other precious rare editions of Shakespeare, courtesy of the British Library. Clicking on a page brings up a bigger view of the page, which is handy for taking a closer look at lines like "To be or not to be, I, there's the point". There's also some brief background on the various editions.
posted by yankeefog (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this. Very helpful resource.
posted by meh at 3:05 AM on August 4, 2005

"For this relief much thanks ... "
—Hamlet I:i
posted by RavinDave at 3:24 AM on August 4, 2005

If you just want to read the works, and you're using a text browser or don't really care what 400-year-old dead trees look like, they've long since been public domain. This is one good source, and the Gutenberg Project has a lot, too.
posted by Plutor at 4:48 AM on August 4, 2005

Though this seems largely for those directly interested in comparing the text of varieous older editions; something it has been difficult to do without actually going to the British Library.
posted by Dr_Johnson at 5:02 AM on August 4, 2005

Nice link. I do care what old dead trees look like, and these look good. There have been a lot of good old manuscript links around here lately, from LeeJay's Beineke link to the Gauman Poma post to the posts from last month on illuminated manuscripts. Awesome.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 AM on August 4, 2005

this is great! It's really interesting to see how the text has changed from these first editions.
posted by gwildar at 5:43 AM on August 4, 2005

To die, to fleepe, is that all? I all:
No, to fleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,

Fleepe is my favorite new word. old word.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:26 AM on August 4, 2005

This is actually a double post, but I'm not complaining -- it's a great resource, and I'm very pleased to see it getting some attention.

Another excellent site, if you're interested in this sort of thing, is Shakespearian Prompt-Books of the Seventeenth Century, which allows you to look at some of the early copies of Shakespeare's plays that were actually used in the theatre. It's fascinating to see some of the passages that were cut in early performances: e.g. from Hamlet, 'Neither a borrower nor a lender be' and 'I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space' both get deleted.
posted by verstegan at 6:37 AM on August 4, 2005

dances_with_sneetches, note that those F-like characters are really just elongated S'es.

Sorry if you were joking...err.... right.
posted by odinsdream at 7:32 AM on August 4, 2005

Well, JRun ate my comment, but I wanted to chime in & tell Plutor that there's a big difference between a modern edition of an author and direct access to the original sources on which all such editions must be based. For example, Plutor's MIT link gives us the familiar version of what comes after "To be or not to be," but yankeefog's link (whose punctuation we can correct by our own autopsy) gives us "To be, or not to be, I there's the point." In this case your familiar version might be the better reading. But the modern edition is not always reliable, and in Hamlet you'll find equally valid modern editions that differ not just in little points but significantly in length and therefore mood of the play!
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:54 AM on August 4, 2005

So is it common for the British Museum to stamp "British Museum" over old manuscripts?
posted by geoff. at 8:25 AM on August 4, 2005

Oops. As everybody who has ever double posted says, "All our service in every point twice done and then done double were poor and single business!"

Or, wait. Maybe "I swear I did a search before posting" is what everybody says. I always get those two phrases confused.

Either way, sorry about the double post, and I'm glad folks are enjoying the link the second time around.
posted by yankeefog at 9:22 AM on August 4, 2005

Fascinating to see the original quarto, but I wish for some (like "Troilus and Cressida") they included every single page of the edition. For example, in that play the "From a never writer to an ever reader" prologue is important information that puts the play in a specific context.

I know, I know, overly academic of me.
posted by Joey Michaels at 9:24 AM on August 4, 2005

I believe Octavo includes every page in their versions, but of course you'll have to pay for them. The scans are much higher-resolution, though.
posted by luriete at 12:13 PM on August 4, 2005

Another Shakespeare page of extremely wide scope, including easier-to-read original-spelling renditions, and so forth. It's worth navigating around its somewhat clunky interface.
posted by Rumple at 1:20 PM on August 4, 2005

Well, you know that pretty much everything printed in English/England before 1700 is already on line at EEBO (and a bunch of things there are viewable for free).

But not everything is on-line, sadly. Annoyingly for the study of Elizabethan drama, Henslowe's diary, for example, is still locked-away in a private grade-school.
posted by washburn at 2:50 PM on August 4, 2005

washburn: I was just thinking that that should be online. Now I know why it is not. Thank you for the links.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:31 PM on August 4, 2005

If you ... don't really care what 400-year-old dead trees look like...

or 400-year old recycled clothing...


washburn: EEBO is indeed great...if you're lucky enough to be enrolled at a major research university that subscribes to it. (It would be even better if, like ECCO, it offered keyword searchability, but whatever.)

Annoyingly for the study of Elizabethan drama, Henslowe's diary, for example, is still locked-away in a private grade-school.

...Except for the major editions by W. W. Greg and most recently R. A. Foakes, and the excerpts in Malone's 1790 edition of Shakespeare, etc. etc.

Seriously, I think there's a major case for an editor's expertise with this one. It's a little unrealistic to put something on-line written haphazardly in late sixteenth-century handwriting with late sixteenth-century spelling rules (i.e. no spelling rules at all), and expect it to be immediately transparent to anyone who wants it.

The thing's confusing and ambiguous enough in a type-set transcription with scholarly notes -- especially considering the ravages of time, and John Payne Collier's, um, imaginative contributions.
posted by Sonny Jim at 5:16 PM on August 4, 2005

So is it common for the British Museum to stamp "British Museum" over old manuscripts?

Yes, absolutely. Most priceless old books have at least one owner's mark. It kind of galled me, too, to see it at first — but now I like to valued objects that bear the signs of the history of their use.
posted by Zurishaddai at 6:57 PM on August 4, 2005

Joey Michaels, I think they actually do have all the pages available--it's just that sometimes, for some reason, the default starting page isn't the first one. But you can still use the arrows to page backwards from the default start page to see a prologue (if one is included in the edition), a title page, and even the cover.
posted by yankeefog at 4:48 AM on August 5, 2005

It hasn't been mentioned here, but this first quarto of Hamlet is known as the "bad quarto" because it is believed to be a pirate copy composed mostly from memory, as they explain (and here) on the site.
posted by wheat at 11:16 AM on August 5, 2005

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