Shakespearean Insults: The Editorial Edition

Recount, O Muse, the editors who fell during the epic battle for Shakespeare’s words three centuries ago. Pope, that poetic genius, was blinded by Shakespeare’s meter; Theobald, may he rest in peace with his dictionaries, died of dulness; Johnson, the father of our language, was cut to the core by the Bard’s vulgar words; and Malone, the lone Irishman, lost his ear. In this, the battle of Shakespeare editions, each editor thought he was victorious. But alas! they all cried “huzzah!” too soon, for each editor soon felt the perfectly timed twist of the rhetorical knife or the slap of a rhetorical glove.

In all seriousness, over the course of the eighteenth century, editors battled with each other over the words of Shakespeare. The complicated work of editing Shakespeare began in earnest, arising from both the Enlightenment spirit of scholarship and a growing recognition of Shakespeare’s importance. Each editor sought to claim the “true” Shakespeare. Yet before the days of the First Folio’s renown (which Samuel Johnson first suggested editors use in 1765), editors typically used their predecessor’s editions as their base texts. They did not start with early folios or quartos, which were difficult to locate. For various reasons, each editor asserted the rightness of his own edition of Shakespeare, and as a result, each edition was met by equally strong criticism. Perfecting the noble art of the insult, editors padded their own editions with criticisms of their predecessors. In a few cases, they were so fired up they wrote entire books dedicated to explaining how their predecessors were wrong.

Our current exhibition, Shakespeare by the Book, has an entire section entitled “We Quarrel in Print: Editing Shakespeare.” Alongside books, it features a listicle of our favorite editorial insults from the eighteenth century, mined from the footnotes and the books in the exhibition. Read on to see the list in its entirety!

Editorial Insult Wall

Editor William Warburton on Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

A Wit indeed he was; but so utterly unacquainted with the Business of Criticism, that he did not even collate or consult the first Editions of the Work he undertook to publish; but contented himself with giving us a meagre Account of the Author’s Life, interlarded with some common-place Scraps from his Writings.

Editor Lewis Theobald on Alexander Pope’s 1725 editing of a passage in Hamlet (1726):

[N]o Body shall perswade me that Mr. Pope could be awake, and with his Eyes open, and revising a Book, which was to be publish’d under his Name, yet let an Error, like the following, escape his Observation and Correction.

Theobald's Shakespeare Restor'd

Lewis Theobald’s Shakespeare Restored is a  book entirely dedicated to criticizing Pope’s edition of Shakespeare.

Editor William Warburton on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on; and by that means got a Character of Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a better Talent.

Editor William Warburton on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition of Shakespeare (1747):

Mr. Theobald was naturally turned to Industry and Labour. What he read he could transcribe: but, as what he thought, if ever he did think, he could but ill express, so he read on; and by that means got a Character of Learning, without risquing, to every Observer, the Imputation of wanting a better Talent.

Critic Thomas Edwards in a satirical “supplement” to William Warburton’s 1747 edition of Shakespeare (1748):

Poor Shakespear! your anomalies will do you no service, when once you go beyond Mr. Warburton’s apprehension; and you will find a profess’d critic is a terrible adversary, when he is thoroughly provoked: you must then speak by the card, or equivocation will undo you. How happy is it that Mr. Warburton was either not so attentive, or not so angry, when he read those lines in Hamlet,

Give me that Man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core; aye, in my heart of heart—

We should have then perhaps heard, that this was a way of speaking, that would have rather become an apple than a prince.

Alexander Pope satirizing the voice of Lewis Theobald in The Dunciad, who pays homage to the goddess Dulness with his edition of Shakespeare (1728):

Here studious I unlucky Moderns save,
Nor sleeps one error in its father’s grave,
Old puns restore, lost blunders nicely seek,
And crucify poor Shakespear once a week.
For thee I dim these eyes, and stuff this head,
With all such reading as was never read;
For thee supplying, in the worst of days,
Notes to dull books, and Prologues to dull plays;
For thee explain a thing ‘till all men doubt it,
And write about it, Goddess, and about it.

Samuel Johnson first on Alexander Pope’s 1725 edition of Shakespeare…

This was a work which Pope seems to have thought unworthy of his abilities, being not able to suppress his contempt of the dull duty of an editor. He understood but half his undertaking.

…and then on Lewis Theobald’s 1733 edition (1765):

Pope was succeeded by Theobald, a man of narrow comprehension and small acquisitions, with no native and intrinsick splendour of genius, with little of the artificial light of learning.

Critic William Kenrick on a footnote in Samuel Johnson’s 1765 edition of Shakespeare (1765):

Had our editor nothing to offer better than this? And hath he so little veneration for Shakespeare, as so readily to countenance the charge against him of writing nonsense? Did you, Dr. Johnson, ever read the scene, wherein this passage occurs, quite through?

Critic Joseph Ritson on Edmund Malone’s 1790 edition of Shakespeare (1792):

But it is not the want of ear and judgement only of which I have to accuse Mr. Malone: he stands charged with divers other high crimes and misdemeanors against the divine majesty of our sovereign lord of drama; with deforming his text, and degrading his margin, by intentional corruption, flagrant misrepresentation, malignant hypercriticism, and unexampled scurrility. These charges shall be proved—not, as Mr. Malone proves things, by groundless opinion and confident assertion, but—by fact, argument and demonstration. How sayest thou, culprit? Guilty or not guilty?

Critic John Collins accusing George Steevens of bribing the printers to show him proof sheets so he could plagiarize Edward Capell’s 1768 edition of Shakespeare (1779):

You will then find, my Lord, a regular system of plagiarism, upon a settl’d plan pervading those later editions throughout, and that,—not [Doctor Johnson’s] former publication, as one would naturally suppose, but—Mr. Capell’s, in ten volumes, 1768, is made the ground-work for what is to pass for the genuine production of these combin’d editors, and is usher’d to the world upon the credit of their names…But I cannot help observing, —that such injustice, as requir’d the united efforts of effrontery and falsehood to conceal it, amounts to a full acknowledgement of the superior worth of the person injur’d, and is an undeniable argument of as much indigence on the one hand as of abundance on the other.”

Editor Thomas Caldecott on the whole lot of his predecessors, in a review of Thomas Bowdler’s Family Shakespeare (1822):

In spite of the national veneration universally felt for our great bard, he has been subjected, amongst us, to a series of more cruel mutilations and operations than any other author who has served to instruct or amuse his posterity. Emendations, curtailments, and corrections (all for his own good) have been multiplied to infinity, by the zeal and care of those who have been suffered to take him in hand. They have purged and castrated him, and tattoed and be-plaistered him, and cauterized and phlebotomized him, with all the studied refinement, that the utmost skill of critical barbarity could suggest. Here ran Johnson’s dagger through, “see what a rent envious Pope has made,” and “here the well-beloved Bowdler stabbed:” while, after every blow, they pause for a time and with tiresome diligence unfold the cause why they that did love him while they struck him, have thus proceeded.

If you would like to see more editors behaving badly, come see Shakespeare by the Book in person. The exhibition runs through December 29th, 2016, with the Folger Shakespeare’s Library’s First Folio making its appearance for the month of October.

Three Elizabeths: Shakespeare Criticism by Women in the Eighteenth Century

Our current exhibition at the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library, Shakespeare by the Book, focuses on the history of Shakespeare as a book. As a result, the exhibition showcases mostly male editors and publishers until we reach the twentieth century. (Hannah Whitmore, our widow publisher of The Merchant of Venice, is a notable exception.) However, this is not to say that women were not involved in building Shakespeare in the early modern era. In fact, it is said that the first critical essay ever written on Shakespeare was by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, in 1664. In the eighteenth century, a number of other female critics published works on Shakespeare, some of which are held here in the Small Library.
Elizabeth Montagu
Out rush’d a Female to protect the Bard,
Snatch’d up her Spear, and for the fight prepar’d:
Attack’d the Vet’ran, pierc’d his Sev’n-fold Shield,
And drove him wounded, fainting from the field.
With Laurel crown’d away the Goddess flew,
Pallas contest then open’d to our view,
Quitting her fav’rite form of Montagu.
The stanza above is how David Garrick, famous Shakespearean actor, characterized Elizabeth Montagu on the occasion of the Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, the same year that Montagu’s An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespeare was published. Montagu is perhaps best known for being “Queen of the Bluestockings,” a group of women who held a literary salon where they engaged in “rational conversation.” Her essay on Shakespeare is an important moment in Shakespearean criticism. This Bluestocking had the audacity to “protect the Bard” from the famed French critic Voltaire, and from her good friend, Samuel Johnson, whose preface to his edition of Shakespeare (1765) she felt neglected Shakespeare’s genius. In her essay, Montagu emphasizes Shakespeare’s understanding of human nature and his genius despite his lack of education.


Montagu’s essay sold exceptionally well: it went through seven editions and was translated into French and Italian. Shown here are first English and Irish editions. (PR 2975 .M7 1769, PR 2975 .M7 1769a)

Significantly, Montagu calls the playwright “Our Shakespeare” almost immediately in her preface. What follows is an apotheosis of William Shakespeare. As if warring with all of France and not just Voltaire (whose terrible translations she ridicules), she defends Shakespeare for not following all the rules of classical drama, declaring that his plays are more natural for their irregularities than the artificial plays of the French. Additionally, she is one of the earlier critics to take his history plays seriously, arguing that they are excellent vehicles for moral instruction, which, in her view, is the aspiration of all drama. Unlike many of the male editors represented in our exhibition who tried to “fix” or find the “true” Shakespeare, Montagu understands that Shakespeare’s dramatic irregularities are what make him a genius.
Elizabeth Griffith
Another Elizabeth picked up the “spear” and rushed out to protect Shakespeare a few years later: Irish playwright, novelist, and actor Elizabeth Griffith. Griffith debuted on the stage as Juliet at Dublin’s Smock Alley theatre in 1749, eventually specializing in tragic roles like Cordelia and Ophelia. Inspired by Montagu’s work on Shakespeare’s genius, she set out to defend his morals in The Morality of Shakespeare’s Drama Illustrated (1775). Griffith wanted to illustrate a system of “social duties” that Johnson claimed could be culled from Shakespeare’s plays in his preface: “I have ventured to assume the task of placing his Ethic merits in a more conspicuous point of view, than they have ever hitherto been presented in to the Public.” She contends that Shakespeare’s plays are effective because the morals arise naturally out of the play’s action and his characters are so attuned to human nature that audiences promptly grasp the lesson.


Note that unlike Montagu’s Essay, Elizabeth Griffith’s title page lists her name. (PR 3007 .G7 1775)

Griffith’s emphasis on the naturalness of Shakespeare’s characters brings us to her radical reading of drama. Like Montagu, she also defends Shakespeare from Voltaire, who criticizes Shakespeare for breaking from the classical unities of time, place, and action. In response, Griffith invents a fourth unity: character. For her, Shakespeare’s consistency in character is more important than whether his plays take place in one day or in one place because character is what makes the plays, as well as morals, succeed. Griffith’s work, moreover, is radical in its own right: she is the first woman ever to emend Shakespeare’s plays. While her work is not an edition, she includes passages with her own textual alterations and she explains Shakespeare’s language in her own footnotes. When coupled with her popular plays and novels, it should come as no surprise that this work earned her a spot next to Elizabeth Montagu in the famed portrait, “The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain” (1779).

The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain by Richard Samuel, oil on canvas, 1778

The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain by Richard Samuel, oil on canvas, 1778. Elizabeth Montagu is on the right, wearing a red cape with a cup in her hand. Elizabeth Griffith is seated on the right in white with a hand on her cheek. (NPG 4905: Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Creative Commons Licence).

Elizabeth Inchbald
Our last Elizabeth is an author, playwright, and actor who was perhaps a little too outrageous to be considered one of the nine living muses of Great Britain, but she and Shakespeare have that moral condemnation in common. Elizabeth Simpson ran away from home at the age of nineteen to become an actor despite having a stammer and no place to go. After marrying fellow Catholic actor Joseph Inchbald, she eventually made her stage debut as Cordelia to her husband’s Lear in 1772. Not only did she continue to act in Shakespeare’s plays for some time (she acted in the production of The Merchant of Venice represented in the Hannah Whitmore edition in our exhibition), she also began to write her own plays: Lovers’ Vow features prominently in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (1814). Yet today, she is best remembered for her novels, particularly A Simple Story (1791).

After her reputation was well established, publisher Joseph Longman asked Inchbald to write prefaces to The British Theatre, a collection of plays in twenty-five volumes, five volumes of which were Shakespeare’s plays (1806–1809). It is for this work that Inchbald has been labeled Britain’s first professional theater critic. Like Montagu and Griffith, she argues for Shakespeare’s morality in her prefaces, but notably she traces his morality and his realism to the way he mixes vice and virtue in some characters. In her analysis of Shakespeare’s morals, she also offers commentary on contemporary social mores, as in her preface to I Henry IV:
This is a play which all men admire , and which most women dislike. Many revolting expressions in the comic parts, much boisterous courage in some of the graver scenes, together with Falstaff’s unwieldy person, offend every female auditor; and whilst a facetious Prince of Wales is employed in taking purses on the highway, a lady would rather see him stealing hearts at a ball, though the event might produce more fatal consequences.
In addition to her hint about the problems of the sexual double standard here (“more fatal consequences”), we also see Shakespeare described in terms of performance (“auditor”). Inchbald’s prefaces are the first critical works to appreciate the theatrical as well as literary value of Shakespeare. She even criticizes some of her editorial predecessors for not addressing the role of performance and the pleasures we glean from Shakespeare’s language. Unlike the other Elizabeths, who mostly focused on morality and genius, Inchbald was condemned for daring to be a female critic: as her male biographer, James Boaden, wrote, “there is something unfeminine, too, in a lady’s placing herself in the seat of judgment” (1833).


These beautiful bindings of the first edition of Inchbald’s British Theatre feature her name in equal prominence with the subject of the books. (PR 1243 .I4 1808, v.1-5 shown)

As the works of all three Elizabeths shown here intimate, Shakespeare’s education was closer to their own than it was to Voltaire’s or Johnson’s. His work and success, like theirs, trespassed social and moral boundaries. Shakespeare’s rise to “genius” glimmered with the possibility of their own fame.

Open Now!: Shakespeare by the Book

This year, libraries, museums, theaters, and universities across the globe are marking the four-hundredth anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death by celebrating his life and works. In our small corner of the world here at UVA, the Albert & Shirley Small Special Collections Library is making its own unique contribution to the festivities with the exhibition, Shakespeare by the Book: Four Centuries of Printing, Editing, and Publishing.

Few literary works have been preserved, transformed, or reinvented in print as often as the plays of William Shakespeare. From the First Folio to YOLO Juliet, this exhibition of over one hundred items shows how shifting assumptions, expectations, aesthetics, and needs have determined what it means to print Shakespeare “by the book.”

All Gallery The exhibition is broken up into three “acts.” The first, “Scarcity & Excess,” investigates the tension between the very few extant texts of Shakespeare’s work from the seventeenth century and the many variants that exist in the volumes that do survive. Highlights include the Library’s First Folio fragment of Much Ado About Nothing and Love’s Labour’s Lost (1623) and our quarto of King Lear (1619). As part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s First Folio tour, a complete First Folio will join the exhibition for the month of October.

The Handmade Book

Folio editions printed around the same time as the first two Folios of Shakespeare, including two books printed at the same printing house as the First Folio, reveal some of the characteristics of English printed books in the 1620s and 1630s.

The second act, “We Quarrel in print,” traces how editors have transformed the text of Shakespeare  at two key moments: the eighteenth century  and the mid-twentieth century. In the latter period, UVA English Professor Fredson Bowers and UVA English Ph.D. Charlton Hinman played a pivotal role in Shakespearean scholarship. Highlights include landmark editions of Shakespeare, two videos about Bowers and Hinman’s contributions to bibliography, our research into a minor–but majorly interesting–edition of Shakespeare from the 1780s, and a “listicle” of the best editorial insults by the first generations of Shakespeare editors.

Shown here is Lewis Theobald’s book-long attack on Alexander Pope’s edition of Shakespeare, Shakespeare Restored.

The final act, “Friends, Romans, countrymen” explores the myriad ways Shakespeare has been transformed for a variety of audiences in the modern era, from the child to the bibliophile. Miniature books abound in this section, as do gorgeously illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s plays. Blinking beautifully over this section of the exhibition will be our famous watch ticking out Sonnets 18 and 130 in Morse code.

Shown here are photographs of famous Shakespearean actors whose performances also inspired textual editions of the Bard.

Shown here are photographs of famous Shakespearean actors alongside books associated with them.


One of more almost 150 miniature volumes of Shakespeare in the exhibition. This example is from the 1904 Ellen Terry edition of Shakespeare.

Other highlights include images from the monumental Boydell Shakespeare and a how-to-collate Shakespeare workstation.

Our miniature Boydell Shakespeare Gallery with prints of Shakespeare's The Tempest, Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, and King Henry VI, Part Two.

The exhibition includes a feature on how technology of the mid-twentieth century allowed editors to compare copies of Shakespeare’s works with greater accuracy and speed. While we pay a great deal attention to Charlton Hinman’s collating machine, we have installed a more user-friendly Lindstrand Comparator in the gallery so visitors can try to compare two pages themselves. It takes a bit of time to see comfortably through the lenses, but soon you will see variants pop off the page! Come check it out.

The exhibition runs through December 29, 2016, with the Folger Shakespeare’s Library’s First Folio making its appearance for the month of October. A public reception will be held on Friday February 26th from 5–7 PM. All are welcome and encouraged to attend!

Exhibition Prep Special: Translating Shakespeare’s Sonnets into…Morse Code?

This week we are pleased to feature the third guest blog post from graduate curatorial assistant Kelly Fleming, who will be sharing selected treats from our upcoming exhibition, “Shakespeare by the Book,” over the coming months. The exhibition opens February 22, 2016.

Most readers of Shakespeare’s sonnets associate his poetry with love. In films and literary works of all kinds, Shakespeare’s sonnets are quoted and used to confirm the love between two people. Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds”) is probably one of the most popular readings on the wedding circuit. As much as Shakespeare’s sonnets are about love, time is more likely to be the subject of the poet’s meditations. The first seventeen—“the procreation sonnets”—urge a young man to make much of time, to get married, and to procreate so that he can live forever through his children. Many of the sonnets after 17 continue to address, to personify, and to apostrophize time, as these first lines illustrate: “Against that time, if ever that time come” (Sonnet 49); “That time of year thou mayst in me behold” (Sonnet 73); “No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change” (Sonnet 123).

Knowing the sonnets’ preoccupation with time, I completely “nerded out” when I discovered that someone had turned Shakespeare’s sonnets into a watch. My own scholarship has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but every time Molly, our curator here at Special Collections, mentioned the watch to me, I would get so excited that I would say in a high-pitched voice, “But Shakespeare’s sonnets are all about time!” I cannot imagine a more perfect way to represent his sonnets than a watch.

Pictured here is the watch with the instructional booklet open to the title page.

Pictured here is the watch with the instructional booklet open to the title page.

The Sonnets Watch Book is book inside a watch; it is a watch that ticks out Shakespeare’s sonnet 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”) and sonnet 130 (“My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun…”) in Morse code. It was dreamed up and built by three Seattle teenagers (credited on the watch as “Alex, Clara, and Nicholas”) and published by miniature-book publisher and technologist Robert Orndorff (who happens to be the father of two of the makers). Only eighteenth copies of The Sonnets Watch Book are in existence and number eighteen will appear in our exhibition. Bright lights flicker out the letters and punctuation marks of each sonnet. Even though I can’t understand Morse code, there is something incredibly moving about watching the lights change and knowing that Shakespeare’s words are still slowly being repeated throughout time.

Here is an image of the watch as it ticks out one of Shakespeare's sonnets in Morse code.

Here is an image of the watch as it ticks out one of Shakespeare’s sonnets in Morse code.

Last week, I spent a full hour close reading Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65 and talking about time with my ENGL 3810 students. We were stuck on the following lines for a while:

O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wreckful siege of battering days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?

Shakespeare’s answer to this question is his sonnet. Unlike the sea, stone, or shining metals, his “black ink” may be able to withstand the rages of time. His “black ink” will continue to “shine bright” and tell of his love. As my students will tell you, this is exactly what happened. We spent twenty-five minutes of our class on four lines because his “black ink” does still “shine bright” in the history of literature.

Imagine, then, an object that literalizes the hope, the wish of this sonnet. Shakespeare’s words, his “black ink,” actually “[shining] bright” in little yellow, green, and red blinking lights on the face of a watch.

Now, who is excited?

Click on the link below for a video of the watch in action and proof that Shakespeare’s sonnets are now more portable than ever before. The Sonnets Watchbook will be on view—alive and ticking—in “Shakespeare by the Book: Four Centuries of Printing, Editing, and Publishing,” which runs February 22-December 2016 at the University of Virginia Library. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the history of literature translated into code, perhaps you would like to see Monty Python’s take on the topic. They  start with Wuthering Heights and go on from there…make sure to stay to the end!:


Exhibition Prep Special: Searching for Shakespeare in Booksellers’ Records

This week we are pleased to feature the second guest blog post from graduate curatorial assistant Kelly Fleming, who will be sharing selected treats from our upcoming exhibition, “Shakespeare by the Book,” over the coming months. The exhibition opens February 22, 2016.

My first two weeks at Special Collections were spent hoisting hulking ledgers from the stacks and placing them gently onto cradles to investigate whether two early booksellers in Virginia sold Shakespeare. After the first day, I found my legs covered in wisps of binding and my hands stained with “red rot” from the ledgers’ leather bindings. Thank goodness for gloves.

Here's what my gloves looked like after several ledgers. Imagine what my bare hands looked like before I put them on.

Here’s what my gloves looked like after several ledgers. Imagine what my bare hands looked like before I put them on.

I combed through the account books of Bell & Co., a printer in Alexandria, Virginia active in the nineteenth century and the Virginia Gazette, a newspaper and printer active in Williamsburg, Virginia in the eighteenth century. My eyes sought any spelling variation of the name “Shakespeare” amidst endless purchases of envelopes and paper. Despite our modern perception that Shakespeare’s works are “classics” and that he is a father of the English language, his place in the literary canon was yet to be defined in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As my findings attest, Virginians chose to read a myriad of other things more frequently than Shakespeare.

Only one copy of Shakespeare was sold by the Virginia Gazette in the years 1750–1752 and 1764–1766. Even though David Garrick was busily working to increase the popularity of Shakespeare in London at this time, the colonies seem to have been a step behind. Since Williamsburg was home to the Virginia legislature and the College of William & Mary, it is not surprising that the books sold by the Virginia Gazette were largely educational: Latin grammar textbooks, dictionaries, and religious texts like the Book of Common Prayer. Despite the fact that Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (a book the Virginia Gazette also sold) marks Shakespeare’s works as the first usage of many English words, students were not studying Shakespeare. The education system in the eighteenth century trained students (that is to say, young men) in what they considered the “classics”: philosophical and literary texts from ancient Greece and Rome. When students did read literary texts in English, it seems that they read English epics, which use classical elements to describe contemporary England. The epic works of Milton, Dryden, and Pope, for example, appear numerous times in the accounts of the Virginia Gazette. In addition to English epics, we find our copy of Shakespeare alongside another genre excluded from the education system: the novel. In the ledger in our exhibition, we find popular English novels such as Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and Tobias Smollett’s Roderick Random.

Page of Virginia Gazette Day Book showing the purchase of Theobald's edition of Shakespeare (MSS 467)

Page of Virginia Gazette Day Book showing a purchase of Theobald’s edition of Shakespeare (MSS 467)

Joseph Hutchings purchased 8 volumes of of Shakespeare "for [his] self" (MSS 467).

The Virginia Gazette records show Joseph Hutchings purchasing 8 volumes of Shakespeare “for [him] self” (MSS 467).

Alongside Shakespeare in the Virginia Gazette Daybook, I found a recorded purchase of two of Samuel Richardson's novels, "Clarissa: Or, the History of a Young Lady" (1747-8) and "The History of Sir Charles Grandison" (1753).

Alongside Shakespeare in the Virginia Gazette records are two of Samuel Richardson’s novels, “Clarissa: Or, the History of a Young Lady” (1747-8) and “The History of Sir Charles Grandison” (1753). (MSS 467)


Alongside Shakespeare in the Virginia Gazette records are many educational texts such as Lilly's Latin Grammar. (MSS 467)

Alongside Shakespeare in the Virginia Gazette records are many educational texts such as Lilly’s Latin Grammar. (MSS 467)

Thanks largely to new performances of Shakespeare plays, Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee, and new editions of Shakespeare works in the eighteenth century, Shakespeare’s words come alive by the nineteenth century. The accounts of Bell & Co. reflect this increasing popularity. I found seven copies of Shakespeare sold at Bell & Co. over the course of the nineteenth century (1809–1899). The specific ledger we are using in the exhibition shows Shakespeare alongside Susanna Rowson’s novel Charlotte Temple, Wordsworth, Cooper’s Virgil, and the Bible.

Bell & Co. sold Shakespeare for "6.50" (MSS 2989).

Bell & Co. sold Shakespeare for “6.50.” Different types of currency were in use in the colonies at this time. Without further research, all we can tell from this record is that it is expensive and suggests that the reader bought a multi-volume set (MSS 2989).

On the same page, Bell & Co. recorded the purchase of Susanna Rowson's novel "Charlotte Temple" and two grammar books.

On the same page as Shakespeare, Bell & Co. recorded the purchase of Susanna Rowson’s novel “Charlotte Temple” and two grammar books. (MSS 2989)

Finally, in the twentieth century, Shakespeare begins to be studied and to be studied as a father of the English language. Today, Shakespeare is probably the most often memorized, most often recited English author in schools. I still can recite the famous speech of Titania’s from A Midsummer’s Night Dream that I memorized in the tenth grade and that begins “Set your heart at rest.” But as the exhibition at the Special Collections Library will show us in February, our hearts do anything but rest when we hear the heartbeat of Shakespeare’s iambs, even four hundred years after his death.


This Just In: Disability in the Archives

"Disability in the Archives," case 1

“Disability in the Archives,” case 1

On February 27-28 U.Va. hosted “Disabling Normalcy,” an interdisciplinary conference organized by Christopher Krentz, Associate Professor of English and Director of American Sign Language.  In conjunction with the conference, Prof. Krentz and graduate student Philip Timmerman prepared an exhibition, “Disability in the Archives,” which is on view in the first floor gallery of the Small Special Collections Library through April 26. Drawn entirely from our holdings, the exhibition features books, manuscripts, and photographs relating to the deaf, blind, physically handicapped, and mentally ill.

"Disability in the Archives," case 2

“Disability in the Archives,” case 2

The exhibition includes several recent acquisitions, some obtained before Prof. Krentz proposed the exhibition and others acquired since, partly with the exhibition in mind.  In this post we feature a few of these items, including several omitted from the exhibition for want of space.

Efforts to educate the blind and vision-impaired received a major boost in the early 19th century with the invention of various tactile reading systems. Although Louis Braille’s dot system has become the international norm, raised letter systems were standard in the United States until the early 20th century. The first to be introduced was “Boston line,” an adaptation by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe of a Scottish raised-letter alphabet. Much as a type designer adjusts letterforms for legibility, Howe adapted the shapes of letters and numerals so that, when embossed in paper in high relief, they could be more easily distinguished by touch. In 1835 Howe established a press at the New England Asylum for the Blind in Boston (now the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass.), where he proceeded to print many raised-letter books for the blind.

Cast list for a benefit performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice,  by the "Perkins Players" of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., May 1917  (HV1796 .M46 P4 1917)

Cast list for a benefit performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, by the “Perkins Players” of the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Mass., May 1917. This raised-print program was set in Boston line and printed at the school.  (HV1796 .M46 P4 1917)

We recently added an unusual Boston line imprint to our Joseph M. Bruccoli Great War Collection: a theater program for two benefit performances of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, held in May 1917 at the Perkins School and featuring Perkins students as actors, musicians, and dancers. Proceeds went to the American, British, French, Belgian Permanent Blind Relief War Fund, which assisted Allied soldiers blinded in battle.

Hans Christian Andersen's The Ugly Duckling, from Fancies of Child-Life (Louisville, Ky.: American Printing House for the Blind, 1877).  (PZ7 .F1997 1877)

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, from Fancies of Child-Life (Louisville, Ky.: American Printing House for the Blind, 1877). (PZ7 .F1997 1877)

Following the Civil War, the American Printing House for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, became the leading American supplier of raised-letter texts. The APHB employed a modified form of Boston line for its publications until 1893, when Braille was first introduced. At the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair we acquired a copy of the 1877 APHB edition of Fancies of Child-Life, a collection of children’s stories by Hans Christian Andersen and Harriet Beecher Stowe. This copy was sent to the Virginia Institute for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind in Staunton, Va., where in 1893 it was presented as a school prize “For learning to read in one Session” to Edgar Hickam. A blind resident of Maces Spring, Va. (in the extreme southwest region bordering Tennessee), Hickam was well known locally as a musician and piano tuner, though celebrity would fall, not to him, but to his neighbors, the Carter Family.

The Rev. William Moon's simplified manual alphabet, in Light for the blind: a history of the origin and success of Moon's system of reading (embossed in various languages) for the blind (London: Longmans & Co., 1873).  (HV1678 .M84 1873)

The Rev. William Moon’s simplified manual alphabet, in Light for the blind: a history of the origin and success of Moon’s system of reading (embossed in various languages) for the blind (London: Longmans & Co., 1873). (HV1678 .M84 1873)

Perhaps Boston line’s primary shortcoming was that it adopted essentially the same rather complex letterforms employed for written and printed texts. Hence publications in Boston line are more easily read by eye than by touch. In 1847 the Rev. William Moon of Brighton, England, invented a simplified alphabet better suited to touch. It consisted of “six of the roman letters unaltered, twelve others with parts left out, and six new and very simple forms, which may be easily learned by the aged, and persons whose fingers are hardened by work.” Moon’s Light for the blind (London, 1873) describes his invention, provides a list of available publications, and chronicles his labors on behalf of the blind.

We know far less about the history of mapmaking for the blind, and embossed maps are very uncommon.  Hence we were delighted to acquire at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair a fine copy of a world atlas for the blind published in Germany in the mid-1930s. The challenge was a straightforward one: how to convert two dimensions into three so that cartographic information could be conveyed by touch?  Here the solution was to emboss maps in high relief on durable kraft paper. Geographic and topographic features are differentiated as follows: coastlines by dotted lines, political boundaries by dashed lines, rivers by solid lines, oceans by a uniform pattern of small dots in low relief, and so on, with captions added in Braille.

A manual alphabet from a collection of ornamental alphabets, Recueil d'alphabets, dedié aux artistes (Paris & New York: L. Turgis jeune, [ca. 1845?].  (NK3600 .B65 1845)

A manual alphabet from a collection of ornamental alphabets, Recueil d’alphabets, dedié aux artistes (Paris & New York: L. Turgis jeune, [ca. 1845?].   (NK3600 .B65 1845)

Last month we acquired a rare mid-19th century alphabet book, with a dual Paris & New York imprint, consisting of 24 lithographic plates bearing elaborate ornamental alphabets. These were intended as inspiration for artists, signmakers, and others seeking out-of-the-ordinary letterforms. Imagine our surprise to find on the penultimate plate the standard manual alphabet on which various sign languages used by the deaf (including American Sign Language) are based.

Nervous disorder conveyed in verse, in Miscellaneous reflections. In Verse (Greenfield, Mass.: Thomas Dickman, 1792)  (BD420 .F52 1750 no. 2)

“Nervous disorder” conveyed in verse, in Miscellaneous reflections. In Verse (Greenfield, Mass.: Thomas Dickman, 1792)   (BD420 .F52 1750 no. 2)

Early autobiographical accounts of battles with mental illness are quite rare, and recently we acquired one for the Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature. In 1792, in the small town of Greenfield, Mass., Thomas Dickman printed Miscellaneous reflections. In verse. Mostly written at sundry times, when under long confinement by a complication of nervous disorders. Only three copies are recorded of this 40-page pamphlet, written “by a valetudinary” (whose identity remains unknown) and “printed by request of friends of that class.” Most of the poems are religious in nature, but the initial poems are extraordinary for attempting to convey, in verse, the author’s experience of being in a state of “nervous disorder.”