Shakespeare treasures, up for adoption

A 1957 The Taming of the Shrew with beautiful lithographs and a text translated by Victor Hugo’s son. Song lyrics from 1769 extolling the goblet carved from a mulberry tree supposedly planted by Shakespeare. These and other recent additions to the Folger Shakespeare Library collection will be up for adoption later this month at Acquisitions Night. At this annual event, friends and supporters of the Folger gather to interact with curators, collectors, and other Folger experts. Take a closer look at some of the collection items, with notes from Folger curators.

A French translation of The Taming of the Shrew

William Shakespeare, 1564-1616. [Taming of the Shrew. French] La sauvage apprivoisée / Shakespeare ; lithographies originales de Paul Aïzpiri; traduction de François-Victor Hugo. [Paris]: Les Francs-Bibliophiles, 1957.

An inspiration for this book was the influential “livre de peintre” Eaux-fortes originales pour des textes de Buffon with Picasso’s lithographs published in 1942. The printed wrapper and the case are an integral part of the book, which is made of a group of unbound sheets. The color lithographs are by the Basque artist Paul Aïzpiri (1919-2016) whose work in the 1950s was exhibited with artists such as Bernard Buffet. The French translation of The Taming of the Shrew used for this edition was the one written by François-Victor Hugo (1828-1873), Victor Hugo’s son.

Song lyrics from 1769, celebrating Shakespeare’s life and work

Shakespeare’s Mulberry Tree. [8 verses of lyrics to a song performed at David Garrick’s Stratford Jubilee celebrating Shakespeare’s life and work.] 1769.

An early manuscript copy of the lyrics to a song from David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee celebration in 1769. The Jubilee, meant to celebrate Shakespeare’s 200th birthday (five years earlier), was a bit dismal – on the day of the celebration, it rained heavily, the townspeople were resentful, and the Avon flooded everything. Despite the catastrophes, this festival is a landmark event in the rise of ‘bardolatry’ and the worship of Shakespeare. This song shows how deeply this worship began to run, as it fetishizes a goblet carved from a mulberry tree that the Bard supposedly planted:

Behold this fair Goblet, ‘twas carved from the Tree,

Which, O my sweet Shakespeare, was planted by thee…

Federal Negro Theatre’s ‘Romey and Julie’ (1936)

Federal Negro Theatre. Federal Negro Theatre [Project Number Three] Presents “Romey and Julie”… a romantic comedy by Robert Dunmore, Ruth Chorpenning, Sames Norris. Musical settings by Margaret Allison Bonds at the Ridgeway Theatre. Chicago: The Modern Printers, [1936.] Poster and program.

Acquisitions Night

A poster and a program for a Chicago performance of a play produced by the Federal Negro Theatre Project – the African-American unit of the WPA Federal Theatre Project. Robert Dunmore, Jr. wrote and directed this romantic comedy set in Harlem and loosely based on Romeo and Juliet. Margaret Allison Bonds composed the music. Both Dunmore and Bonds were natives of Chicago. Bonds was one of the first African-American composers and performers to gain recognition in the United States.

A book that Malvolio would appreciate

John Hart. The dreadful character of a drunkard, or, The most odious and beastly sin of drunkenness described and condemned… by Andrew Jones, a lover of sobriety. London: Printed for John Andrews, 1660.

Acquisitions Night

This is the earliest known copy of The dreadful character, an early chapbook on temperance. Although not opposed to drinking, the author advises against excess by telling stories about the dreadful fates of several hardened drinkers. The satirical tone of the title page woodcut representing drunken men as various animals would eventually become a standard trope of temperance depictions in the 18th century.

Interested in coming to Acquisitions Night and seeing more recent additions to the Folger collection? Become a member by Feb. 16 to receive an invitation.

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