The Folger has some really fantastic Bottoms. Seriously! Just look at these Bottoms!
Of course, all of these Bottoms come from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s one of the Bard’s most popular plays, in part because people absolutely love Bottom! In the play, Nick Bottom is a weaver who joins an ad hoc theater troupe preparing a performance for Duke Theseus’s wedding. As the group rehearses in the woods, the hobgoblin Puck stumbles across them and turns Bottom into an ass!
Ooh! Sorry, don’t mean to butt in, but this is one of our favorites. It’s a piece of cut-paper art by Paul Konewka, featuring a tasteful silhouette of Bottom.
Anyway, Bottom isn’t the only one who falls under a magic spell. Titania, queen of the fairies, has also been enchanted so that she’ll fall in love with the first creature she sees when she wakes up. Of course, she just happens to run into ol’ Nick Bottom. Many of the Folger’s images of Bottom depict the moment in Act 3 when Titania awakens, spots Bottom, and falls madly in love with him.
Some of our Bottoms were drawn by famous artists and noted illustrators. We’ve got acclaimed Czech illustrator Jiří Trnka’s Bottom! Oliver Twist-illustrator George Cruikshank’s Bottom! Jungle Book-illustrator William Drake’s Bottom! Plus at least two of W. Heath Robinson’s Bottoms and three of Henry Fuseli’s Bottoms!
The Folger’s collection includes big Bottoms, like the 69 cm print of a painting by Henry Fuseli on the left, and little Bottoms, like this tiny Russian translation of Midsummer that could fit into the palm of your hand on the right. Size doesn’t matter! We just love Bottom!
Of course, Folger Theatre has hosted some critically-acclaimed Bottoms onstage over the years. We can’t wait for you to see our Bottom in our upcoming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the National Building Museum this July.
The Folger’s collection also includes multiple early editions of Bottom. Did you know that in the first quarto of A Midsummer Night’s Dream—the first ever published edition of the play, from 1600—Bottom is spelled “Bottom”. . . but in the First Folio, published in 1623, Bottom is spelled “Bottome?” Isn’t that interesting?
You want to know the truth? Yeah, sometimes we post a picture of one of our Bottoms on Instagram when we need to boost engagement. We’re not ashamed. It’s just the reality of today’s social media landscape.
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We know this blog post has been a bit cheeky. It’s just that we’re so proud of the Folger’s huge Bottom collection. We have so many, you could even call us the Big Bottom Library. The BBL! The Folger has the world’s largest collection of materials related to Shakespeare, and each and every one of our amazing Bottoms is an important part of interpreting Shakespeare’s works, world, and legacy.
Let’s have a toast to our Bottoms: Bottoms up!