Tag Archives: shakespeare

Cataloguing about Corn

This guest post comes from Keeley Durnell, a postgraduate student in the school of English, Communication and Philosophy, and who has been cataloguing Early Modern books from the Cardiff Rare Books collection as part of a Project Management module. 


Well, not just about corn. Corn and religion. These are the sorts of topics that I have come across since I began cataloguing some of the vast array of rare books in Special Collections. The Rare Books section at Cardiff University boasts a fantastically diverse range of material with which to satisfy anyone’s scholarly interests.

One which I had the privilege to work on this week was The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher, bound with A Poem on the Redeemers Work; or Christ all in all, and our complete redemption (1647) and No Salvation without Regeneration (1647). This was a fascinating volume for many reasons.

Marrow Jaunty Title Page

The Title Page of The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher (London: Giles Calvert, 1647)

Firstly, the texts that were bound together were all religious in nature, but they were from at least two separate authors. Completing the records for these texts was therefore difficult, because only the first text had a title page to glean information from, and the other two texts did not even have so much as a named author, let alone imprinting or publication information.

Merged Title Pages

Titles Pages of ‘A Poem on the Redeemers Work’ and ‘A Poem on the New Birth’, both bound with Fisher (London: Giles Clvert, 1647).

There were also several ownership inscriptions from different years accompanied by some interesting upside down pen trials (the technical term for doodles) which could be found on the inside of the back end paper in this particular book.

Marrow Pen Trials

The pen trials found in The Marrow of Modern Divinity.

Getting glimpses into previous centuries and lives so far from my own is one of the things I find the most intriguing about being able to catalogue the rare books.

I have had the opportunity to see leather bound books and hand sewn text blocks with sprinkled or dyed edges and they are sometimes so different to the type of books that are commercially available today. As part of my studies are concerned with print culture, getting to examine texts that went through the original printing presses and seeing engraved plates and woodcut borders is just fascinating. To know that in just a few centuries that books have changed so much in terms of their production and distribution is incredible.

Marrow Binding

The Binding of The Marrow of Modern Divinity

Comparing modern imitations of old styles, such as this version of The Complete Works of Shakespeare that was published in 2004, with original copies from across the centuries is indescribably useful when thinking about modern print culture and how it has changed and is still changing.

Shakespeare_book

The 2004 Edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (New York, Barnes and Noble Inc, 2004)

There is so much that the Rare Books Collection can offer to students of literature, history, religion and numerous other subjects. But, even if there is nothing there which is relevant to your research interests, I would definitely recommend popping down and taking a look at all the beautiful items that make up the Special Collections. It is any book lovers dream.

 

Edition fever: Charles Knight’s illustrated Shakespeare

Reading Andrew Prescott’s excellent blog post on 19th century Shakespeare editions, ‘Why every copy of a book is different’, inspired me to find out more about our extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere (1839-43).

Special Collections' extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight's Pictorial Shakspere, enlarged from 7 to 15 volumes with the addition of almost 1,500 engravings.

Special Collections’ extra-illustrated set of Charles Knight’s Pictorial Shakspere, enlarged from 8 to 15 volumes with the addition of almost 1,500 engravings.

Knight’s edition was originally issued in 56 monthly parts between 1838-43, and simultaneously, as material became available, released in 8 bound volumes between 1839-43, (7 volumes of plays, with a biographical volume authored by Knight). This ambitious illustrated edition was a product of the Victorian cult of Shakespeare, prevalent among all social classes, as well as emerging technologies which made the mass-production of affordable, wood-engraved books possible for the first time.

Knight was acutely aware of the power of illustrated works to attract and educate new readers. His previous projects, the Penny Magazine (1832-45), and the 27-volume Penny Cyclopaedia (1833-44) contained hundreds of cheap woodcuts. He went on to produce ‘pictorial editions’ of the Bible, a history of England, and a Book of Common Prayer.

He rejected the approach made by Nicholas Rowe, in the first illustrated Shakespeare edition, Rowe’s works of Mr. William Shakespear (1709), in which copper engravings depict key scenes within their theatrical setting, complete with stage sets and contemporary costume.

Illustration from Nicholas Rowe's 1709 edition, showing a scene from Hamlet in its theatrical context (typically featuring a draped curtain, and actors in contemporary eighteenth century dress).

Illustration from Nicholas Rowe’s 1709 edition, showing a scene from Hamlet in its theatrical context (typically featuring a draped curtain, and actors in contemporary eighteenth century dress).

Instead, he desired to depict with historical accuracy:

‘the Realities upon which the imagination of the poet must have rested…the localities of the various scenes, whether English or foreign; the portraits of the real personages of the historical plays; the objects of natural history, so constantly occurring; accurate costume in all its rich variety,’ (Knight, 2:284).

Considering his background in encyclopedias and miscellanies, it is perhaps not surprising that he sought to surround the literary works with images of real locations, and real persons, ‘which imparted a character of truthfulness to many scenes, which upon the stage had in general been merely fanciful creations’.

Extract from Knight's 'introductory notices' to Romeo and Juliet, which places the play in its historic context.

Extract from Knight’s ‘introductory notices’ to Romeo and Juliet, which places the play in its historic context.

Compared to earlier editions by Nicholas Rowe and John Boydell, which featured expensive and laboriously-produced copper engravings, Knight capitalised on the economy of wood engraving, a quick and affordable technique perfected by Thomas Bewick (1753-1828), which allowed text and image to be printed simultaneously.

Knight’s printer, William Clowes and Sons, operated the largest printing works in the world at that time, and in 1843, owned 24 steam-driven printing presses, reducing mass-printing costs even further (Weedon, p. 158).

Steamprinting machine used by The Illustrated London News, 2 Dec 1843.

Steam-printing machine used by The Illustrated London News, 2 Dec 1843.

Boydell’s 1802 edition cost £42, compared to just £7 7s. for Knight’s some 40 years later. Knight’s edition was cheaper, but not yet within the reach of the working-class mass market. He continued to make edits and alterations, which saw a proliferation of new Shakespeare editions hit the market:

• Library edition (1842-4) in 12 volumes at £6
• Cabinet edition (1843-4) in 11 duodecimo volumes at £1 7s. 6d.
• A single volume edition of 1,084 pages (1845) at £1 1s.
• Standard edition (1846) in 7 volumes at £4
• National edition (1851-2) in 8 volumes at £3

These were followed by a Students’ edition (1857), and finally, dispensing with Knight’s extensive notes and essays, a single volume People’s edition (1864) for 2 shillings, or if bought as a serial, just:

‘two plays for one penny! … Sixty-four well-printed double-column pages containing Hamlet and Othello complete, for one penny, is really a wonder, even in this cheap-printing age… our greatest poet [is] thus brought within the reach of all, in a style fit for any home and illustrated with two woodcuts, but unencumbered with the ‘readings’ and ‘notes’, which only puzzle readers and too often interfere with the full enjoyment of Shakespeare’s immortal works’. (Birmingham Daily Post, 18 April 1864, p. 5).

A bibliographic tangle it may be, but the proliferation of editions is testament to the enduring popularity of the work, and the breadth of the potential market for illustrated Shakespeare.

Title page of Charles Knight's Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere.

Title page of Charles Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere.

Special Collections and Archives’ set of Knight’s Pictorial edition of the works of Shakspere has every appearance of being a first edition, though this is difficult to verify conclusively without comparison with others. New digital databases such as the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive have vast potential to aid researchers in comparing editions and tracing source texts. Our copy is undated, re-bound, and most remarkably, has been extended to almost twice its original length by the inclusion of 1,495 additional engraved plates, and 26 original drawings by William Harvey (1796-1866).

Nicholas Harvey's original sketch for the Comedy of Errors frontispiece, bound in opposite the final engraving.

Nicholas Harvey’s original sketch for the Comedy of Errors frontispiece, bound in opposite the final engraving.

A pupil of Thomas Bewick, Harvey was employed to create a series of frontispieces, ‘which, embodying the realities of costume and other accessaries [sic], would have enough of an imaginative character to render them pleasing,’ (Knight, 2:284). His original drawings in pencil and ink, with a brown wash to indicate desired areas of shading, have been bound into the work alongside his engraved frontispieces.

One of the 1,495 extra illustrations added to our Knight edition. The same Hamlet scene as depicted Rowe's edition, this rendering features the same Regency dress and set design that Knight rejected in favour of historical accuracy.

One of the 1,495 extra illustrations added to our Knight edition. The same Hamlet scene as depicted Rowe’s edition, this rendering features the same Regency dress and set design that Knight rejected in favour of historical accuracy.

The work now stretches to 15 volumes rather than the original 8, and to what would surely be Knight’s dismay, contains many of the ‘artistic’ theatrical scenes from 18th and early 19th century editions, of which he disapproved so strongly, as well as illustrations from rival mid-19th century wood-engraved Shakespeare editions.

In the first volume, a bookseller’s catalogue listing is pasted onto the front free endpaper, with the price given as £35.label

An inscription records, ‘I give this book to my dear son Trevor / 22 April 1889, John C. Bigham’.

Inscription from John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) to his son Trevor (1876-1954).

Inscription from John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) to his son Trevor (1876-1954).

The son of a merchant, John Charles Bigham (1840-1929) trained as a barrister and rose quickly through the ranks to join the Queen’s Bench. In 1912, he was appointed commissioner to inquire into the sinking of the RMS Titanic, and was created the first Viscount Mersey in 1916. His third son, Trevor, to whom the book is inscribed, became Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (the second-in-command of London’s Metropolitan Police Service) in 1931.

Bookplate of John Charles Bigham (1840-1929)

Bookplate of John Charles Bigham (1840-1929)

Each Knight volume contains a bookplate belonging to John Charles Bigham, dated 1897. The pasted bookseller’s record suggests that neither Trevor Bigham nor his father were responsible for constructing this densely extra-illustrated work, and we may never know who was. Prescott writes ‘each copy of a book bears the imprint in different ways of its previous owners and can act as an archive of the owners’ interests, enthusiasms and preoccupations as much as their personal papers’. There could be few better examples of this than this handsome work, more scrapbook than book, and all the more fascinating for researchers as a result.

Further reading:

  • Knight, Charles, Passages of a working life during half a century, with a prelude of early reminiscences. London: Bradbury & Evans, 1864.
  • Weedon, Alexis, Victorian publishing: the economics of book production for a mass market, 1836-1916. Aldershot: Ashgate, c2003: 158.
  • Young, Alan R., ‘Charles Knight and the nineteenth-century market for Shakespeare’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 103, no. 1 (March 2009), pp. 19-41.

The Shakespeare Manuscripts of William Henry Ireland

2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and Shakespeare-related exhibitions have been popping up across London and beyond. Although Shakespeare’s work is known and loved throughout the English-speaking world, we have surprisingly little material evidence about his life. Only six documents bearing his signature survive. This lack of evidence, combined with his humble origins, has led some people to believe that he could not have written the plays and poems which bear his name. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there have always been those who are only too eager to believe even the most dubious claims of Shakespearean authorship.

shakespeare-william-original-mortgage-deed-egerton-ms-1787-f001r

This mortgage deed, owned by the British Library, is one of only six documents known to bear William Shakespeare’s signature.

In 1623, a group of friends and admirers published a large-format edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays: the First Folio. The book sold well enough to merit a second edition in 1631, and a third in 1663. By that time, the public was mad for all things Shakespeare, and the third edition included seven new plays: Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Locrine; The London Prodigal; The Puritan; Sir John Oldcastle; Thomas Lord Cromwell; and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Of these seven plays, only Pericles is now widely accepted as part of the Shakespearean canon.

Every time a new piece of Shakespeareana surfaces, it attracts plenty of media attention. Most recently, in 2014, two New York booksellers, George Koppelman and Daniel Wechsler announced to the world that they had found Shakespeare’s dictionary: a copy of John Baret’s Alvearie with anonymous handwritten notes in which they found parallels to certain lines in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Unlike the media, however, the scholarly community is often reluctant to accept any but the most definitive proofs of authenticity, and for good reason. The popularity of all things Shakespearean (and our willingness to pay top dollar for them) has led to the “discovery” of several new Shakespeare manuscripts down through the ages. Sometimes, these discoveries are made in good faith by over-enthusiastic or gullible collectors, while others are deliberate forgeries.

Perhaps the most famous of these cases is that of William Henry Ireland, who in 1794 presented his father Samuel Ireland with an antique deed bearing the signature of William Shakespeare. William Henry claimed that it had been found in an old trunk belonging to a wealthy gentleman who wished to be known only as “Mr. H.” Mr. H. purportedly had no interest in old documents, and invited William Henry to take whatever interested him. Samuel Ireland, who was an antiquary and a devoted admirer of Shakespeare’s work, was overjoyed, and other documents soon followed. He proudly displayed the papers for the likes of James Boswell, Henry James Pye, and John Pinkerton, who inspected them and deemed them genuine.

In early 1796, Samuel Ireland published Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare. It contained transcriptions and detailed reproductions of several of the documents, including a letter to the earl of Southampton, a confession of faith, theatrical contracts, a love letter and poem to ‘Anna Hatherrewaye” accompanied by a lock of hair, a letter from Queen Elizabeth, an original manuscript of King Lear, and various other business receipts. Ireland even went so far as to produce a deed which ceded all property in Shakespeare’s papers to a fictional ancestor, also named William Henry Ireland, as a reward for saving the poet from drowning. Another deed of gift mentioned an illegitimate child, hinting that Ireland himself might be a blood relative of the poet.

seals

To create his forgeries, Ireland cut seals from other Elizabethan documents.

The volume sold so well that it went through a second edition that same year. A “lost” play, entitled Vortigern and Rowena, was performed at Drury Lane on 2 April. By then, however, rumors had begun to circulate that the documents were forgeries, and the play failed catastrophically. On 31 March, two days before the performance, Edmond Malone had published An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers, an exhaustive 424-page critique which pointed out anomalies in the language, orthography, and palaeography of the documents.

 

King_Lear

Ireland’s forgeries included an “original manuscript” of the Tragedye of Kynge Leare

Later that year, in an attempt to restore his father’s reputation, William Henry Ireland claimed full responsibility for the forgeries in An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts, &c. In spite of this account, sceptics doubted that William Henry, only 19 years old when he produced his first forgery, could have so successfully imitated Shakespeare’s language and handwriting. His own father insisted that the manuscripts were genuine, on the grounds that his son was too stupid to have fabricated them.

In 1805, William Henry published one further attempt to set the record straight, entitled The Confessions of William Henry Ireland. In this autobiographical account, he explains how he became familiar with 16th century handwriting and language by examining old documents in the legal office where he worked. From that same source, he cut out blank endleaves from antique books and removed wax seals from authentic documents for use on his fabrications. He experimented with various formulas for “Elizabethan” ink and methods of making it appear darkened with age.

Hathaway_letter

Ireland’s love letter from Shakespeare to “Anna Hatherwaye.”

Following his exposure as a forger, William Henry Ireland gradually fell into poverty, working as a hack writer and producing some ninety literary works in various genres—this time under his own name. In spite of the scandal, he looked back on his forgeries with considerably more pride than contrition, fondly remembering a time when his own writing was (mistakenly) praised as that of the greatest English poet. Throughout his life, Ireland continued to produce “Elizabethan” documents on demand as curiosities, and to authenticate his claim that he alone was responsible for the manuscripts.

Cardiff University holds a copy of the 1795 first edition of Miscellaneous papers and legal instruments under the hand and seal of William Shakspeare (London, 1796). It is an impressive volume measuring nearly 43 cm tall, with wide margins and painstakingly detailed engravings. More than 120 names appear in the list of subscribers, many of them bearing titles of nobility. When originally published, it cost four guineas, approximately two months’ wages for a working man. In the preface, Samuel Ireland states that, “It might have been produced at a lower price; but it was his [i.e. Samuel Ireland’s] earnest desire to give such a variety of fac-similes of the hand writing, as to enable the reader to form a complete judgment of the general character of the manuscript.” Incidentally, a mere seven paragraphs are spent sincerely reassuring the reader as to the authenticity of the manuscripts.

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Exhibition: Illustrating Shakespeare

Guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman, Illustrating Shakespeare focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Read more about the background to the exhibition, and Michael’s wider research on Shakespeare illustration, in our interview. The exhibition will be on display in Special Collections and Archives until 6 May 2016.


Richard III

Richard the Duke of Gloucester: hunchbacked, ‘deformed, unfinished,’ beguiles and appals the audience with his desire to ‘prove a villain’. One of the most psychologically complex characters to be realised on the stage, Richard is a performer, an actor, confiding in the audience his darkest intentions: manipulating them into sympathising with him, as he manipulates the characters on the stage into carrying out his instructions, including murder.

The illustrations presented here of Richard range from the familiar depiction of him as hunchbacked King (the Dalziel frontispiece, illustrated by John Gilbert), an attempt at historical accuracy (the aquatint portrait) through to three images that illustrate events taken from Richard’s nightmare before the Battle of Bosworth’s field. In one powerful depiction, a terrified Richard is confronted by the Ghost of Lady Anne. By way of contrast, the illustration of Richard by Johann Joseph Zoffany, whilst technically more accomplished, loses much of the visceral horror that is apparent in the image with Lady Anne: Richard here is securely lying in bed and this is very clearly a dream, with the threat of physical or psychological violence neutered.

The final image of this sequence is taken from the famous Hogarth painting, which sees Richard awakening from the nightmare, holding his hand aloft as if to defend himself from the viewer/audience who he has worked so hard to charm for the duration of the play. But, like the ghosts, the audience has begun to turn on him. Zoffany presents Richard in the last moments upon the battlefield before he is slain, crying, notoriously, ‘A horse! A horse! My Kingdom for a horse!’

Richard Knight 1

Frontispiece, Richard III. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, frontispiece.


Richard Knight 2

Aquatint portrait of Richard III. Artist unknown.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 238.


Richard III’s nightmare. Artist unknown.

Ghost of Lady Anne: Richard, thy wife, that wretched Anne thy wife,
That never slept a quiet hour with thee,
Now fills thy sleep with perturbations
To-morrow in the battle think on me,
And fall thy edgeless sword: despair, and die!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 251.


Richard Knight 4

‘Garrick in the character of Richard III’. Engraved by E. J. Portbury, after William Hogarth.

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 309.


Richard Dowden 1

‘König Richard III ~ King Richard III’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after August Friedrich Pecht.

Richard III. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 49.


Richard Knight 5

‘Garrick as Richard the Third’. Engraved by Henry Edward Dawe after Johann Joseph Zoffany.

King Richard: I think, there be six Richmonds in the field;
Five have I slain today, instead of him: —
A Horse! a horse! my Kingdom for a horse!

Richard III. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. IV, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 311


Lady Macbeth

Here, we can examine variations on the same scene presented by different artists. The images of Lady Macbeth by John Gilbert, George Henry Harlowe and Alfred Edward Chalon are all taken from the first time Lady Macbeth appears on stage in Act I Scene V, after she has read Macbeth’s letter that informs her of the witches’ prophecy that Macbeth will become King. In all three images she is presented as being rather masculine, a direct visual correspondence to her line ‘Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here’. In the image by Harlowe, of the actress Sarah Siddons playing the role, the pattern on her dress even looks like a sword. This is Lady Macbeth as a warrior.

The final two images are taken from Act V Scene I or, as it has become popularly know: the sleepwalking scene. Consumed by guilt, a somnambulant Lady Macbeth confesses to the crimes she has committed throughout the play and attempts to wash the imaginary blood from her hands: ‘Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!’ Harlowe’s image, here, contrasts remarkably with his first. Lady Macbeth is no longer warrior-like, she is dressed in white and is greatly reduced in stature, looking vulnerable and, even, holy. It is the last we shall see of Lady Macbeth in the play, she will die off-stage by ‘self and violent hands’. Or, rather, suicide.

Lady Gilbert 1

Lady Macbeth holding Macbeth’s letter. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel after John Gilbert.

Lady Macbeth: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis’d: — yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full of the milk of human kindness

Macbeth. In Howard Staunton (ed.), Works of Shakespeare, vol. 3. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1866, p. 478.


‘Mrs. Siddons in the character of Lady Macbeth, Act I, Scene V’. Engraved by Charles Rolls after George Henry Harlowe (1830)

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. viii.


Lady Macbeth in Act 1, Scene 5. Engraved by Henry Cook after Alfred Edward Chalon.

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 26.


Lady Knight 3

‘Mrs. Siddons’ [as Lady Macbeth]. Engraved by Robert Cooper after George Henry Harlowe (1822).

Macbeth. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.


‘Lady Macbeth, walking in her sleep’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Lady Macbeth:  Out! Damned spot; out, I say!

Macbeth. Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. VI, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 52.


Falstaff

Sir John Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring comic characters. Described by Samuel Taylor Coleridge as a man of ‘complete moral depravity,’ but also possessing a ‘first-rate wit’ and ‘talent’, Falstaff appears in both parts of Henry IV and also, in what could be described as the Renaissance Stage equivalent of a sitcom spinoff, The Merry Wives of Windsor, where Falstaff decides to woo two married women in a fool-hardy attempt to make money.

It is the two parts of Henry IV and the powerful narrative arc that Falstaff participates in with the future King Henry V, Prince Hal, that mark Falstaff out as a character who possesses a depth more associated with Shakespeare’s tragic heroes rather than his other comic characters. When Hal succeeds to the throne at the end of Henry IV Part II, he rejects his old friend Falstaff, telling him in an electrifying piece of theatre that, ‘I know thee not old man: fall to thy prayers’.

Falstaff is not just a simple comic foil, then, and in his ‘What is honour?’ speech that he delivers at the end of Henry V Part I, he poses a question that in the context of the History Plays is analogous to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be?’ In the epilogue of Henry IV Part II, Shakespeare reassures us that he will ‘continue the story, with Sir John in it’. But it was not to be. For whatever reason, Sir John did not appear in Henry V:  his death occurs off-stage and is only reported to us by Mistress Quickly. Had Shakespeare killed off his fat Knight because his popular comic character was becoming bigger than the story he was trying to tell?

Falstaff Irving 1

‘Falstaff and his friends’. Painted by Charles Leslie.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Henry Irving and Frank A. Marshall (eds.), Works of William Shakespeare, vol. VI. London: Gresham Publishing Company, 1888, frontispiece.


Falstaff. Engraved by George Noble after Robert Smirke.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 188.


Falstaff in Act 2 Scene 4. Engraved by Charles Heath after Robert Smirke (1825).

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 190.


Portrait of Falstaff. Artist and engraver unknown.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 206.


Falstaff in Act 4, Scene 2. Engraved by Richard Rhodes after John Thurston (1813).

Falstaff: No eye hath seen such scarecrows. I’ll not march through Coventry with them, that’s flat.

King Henry IV, Part 1. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: histories, vol. III, pt. 2. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 214.


Falstaff. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Falstaff: Methinks you prescribe to yourself very preposterously.

Merry wives of Windsor. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 89.


Rosalind

‘From the east to western Inde, / No jewel is like Rosalind’. Whilst Orlando’s verse praising his love is comically turgid, it is, nevertheless a neat summation of Rosalind’s position in English Literature. There is, simply, no other character like her. Or him. For Rosalind spends most of the play dressed as a shepherd named Ganymede, and has consequently given gender theorists much material to work with.

Why, for example, when Rosalind safely escapes her uncle’s court for the Forest of Arden, does she remain as Ganymede? And what about the problem of the epilogue? Is the actor playing Rosalind meant to remain ‘in character’ or is that mask meant to drop? Confusing matters even further is when we remember that only boys and men were allowed to perform on the Elizabethan stage. In this context, then, the boy actor playing Rosalind is effectively a boy acting as a girl who is acting as a boy in order to make a young man fall in love with her (or him)?

The fluidity of gender is one of the major characteristics of Shakespeare’s comedy and it reaches its most satisfying realisation in As You Like It through the character of Rosalind, whom Harold Bloom has described as being the first modern lover.

Rosalind Dowden 1

‘Wie es euch gefällt ~ As you like it’. Engraved by Johann Bankel after Friedrich Schwoerer.

As you like it. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 138.


Rosalind Knight 1

Frontispiece, As you like it. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers after John Gilbert.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 192.


Rosalind Knight 2

Rosalind gives Orlando her necklace, Act 1 Scene 2. Engraved by William Leney after John Downman.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 216.


Rosalind Meadows 1

Rosalind in Act 4, Scene 3. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Celia: Why, how now, Ganymede! Sweet Ganymede! [Rosalind faints.
Oliver: Many will swoon when they do look on blood.
Celia: There is more in it. — Cousin! Ganymede!

As you like it. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. II. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 469.


Rosalind Knight 3

‘The bloody napkin shewn to Rosalind’ [Act 4, Scene 3]. Engraved by Charles Taylor after Thomas Stothard.

As you like it. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 249.

 

Hamlet

The scene by Kenny Meadows demonstrates traditional, wood engraved illustration. The technique allowed both word and image to be printed on a single page easily and relatively cheaply. It revolutionised printing in the Victorian period and turned illustrated media into a mass commercialised medium. The Dalziel Brothers, engravers of the Hamlet frontispiece, were one of the largest and most successful firms of Victorian engravers.

Moving on from the Victorian period, we have two compelling images taken from the early part of the twentieth-century. The first two of these are from a wonderful edition, illustrated, or, rather, ‘decorated’ (as the frontispiece says) by John Austen from 1922. The images are fascinating in their own right as visual interpretations of the play, but they also show how the art of Shakespeare illustration was influenced by technology. New photomechanical means of reproduction led to the obsolescence of manual wood engraving, and  aided the smooth, curvilinear designs of art nouveau.


Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Enter Ghost.
Horatio: Look, my lord, it comes!
Hamlet: Angels and ministers of grace defend us

Hamlet. In Barry Cornwall (ed.), Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. III. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 149.


Hamlet Knight 1

Frontispiece, Hamlet. Engraved by the Dalziel Brothers, after John Gilbert.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 84.


Hamlet Knight 2

‘Hamlet apostrophising the skull’ [Act 5, Scene 1]. Engraved by John Rogers after Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Hamlet. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: tragedies, vol. V, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 157.


 

 

Frontispiece, Hamlet. Illustrated by John Austen.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 9


Hamlet in Act 1, Scene 5. Illustrated by John Austen.

Hamlet: […] Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. London: Selwyn & Blount, 1922, facing p. 42


Beatrice

Like Benedick, during the course of the Much Ado About Nothing, we also fall in love with Beatrice. She is the most witty and vivacious of all of Shakespeare’s heroines, telling Benedick that ‘I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.’  It is this repartee that she has with Benedick that led the critic Marjorie Garber to describe the play as a forerunner to the screwball Hollywood comedies of the 1930s and 1940s such as The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday. Beatrice and Benedick are, in many ways, the Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant of the 1590s.

Beatrice Dowden

‘Viel lärmen un nichts ~ Much ado about nothing’. Engraved by Johann Tobias Bauer after M. Adamo.

Much ado about nothing. In Edward Dowden, Shakespeare scenes and characters: a series of illustrations. London: Macmillan and Co., 1876, facing p. 131.


Beatrice Knight 1

Beatrice eavesdropping on Hero and Ursula. Engraved by John Rogers after Rev. Matthew William Peters.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 94.


Beatrice in Act 5, Scene 4. Illustrated by Kenny Meadows.

Benedick: Soft and fair, friar. — Which is Beatrice?
Beatrice: I answer to that name [Unmasking.
What is your will?

Much ado about nothing. In Barry Cornwall (ed.) Complete works of Shakespeare, vol. I. London: London Printing and Publishing Company Limited, c. 1858, p. 239.


Beatrice Knight 2

Beatrice in Act 3, Scene 1, engraved by Charles Taylor after Robert Smirke.

Beatrice: What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! And maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on, I will requite thee;
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.

Much ado about nothing. In Charles Knight (ed.), Pictorial edition of the works of Shakespeare: comedies, vol. II, pt. 1. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1867. Extra-illustrated edition, facing p. 96.


 

Illustrating Shakespeare: Interview with the curator

posterOur latest exhibition, Illustrating Shakespeare, has been guest-curated by final year PhD student Michael John Goodman. The exhibition focuses on the visual representation of six of Shakespeare’s most engaging heroes and villains. Our archivist Alison Harvey interviewed Michael to find out more about the exhibition, and his wider research on illustrated Shakespeare.

A: So what was the thinking behind the exhibition?

M: Well, my PhD research is focused on Victorian Shakespeare illustration and it just seemed like the right time to do the exhibition. I’m coming to the end of my doctoral work now and this year is also the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death so I’m delighted that we can mark the anniversary in this way.

A: Ok, let’s take a step back, then. Why did you want to look at Shakespeare illustration for your PhD?

M: Shakespeare illustration is, basically, an untapped resource of vast research potential. It’s a treasure trove. When I was exploring my potential PhD ideas I couldn’t believe that hardly any work had been done in this field at all. This is amazing for two reasons: the first being that almost everything to do with Shakespeare has been covered many many times previously and, secondly, because the illustrations are hugely important culturally.

A: Why is that, do you think?

M: The images are important culturally, certainly by the time we get to the Victorian period, because these illustrated editions would have been the first encounter with Shakespeare that many readers would have had. They were sold relatively cheaply and were affordable to members of the working classes – a group of people who may not have been able to experience Shakespeare in the London theatre. Their experience of Shakespeare was based on these illustrated pages as opposed to the stage. As such these editions are significant as they played a very significant part in how the Victorians, for example, thought about and constructed Shakespeare.

A: If they are so important, then what can account for the lack of scholarly research in this area?

M: In academia there is a real fear of images. People don’t know how to read them, let alone what to do with them. So when you get a form like illustration that combines both word and image in often highly complex ways, it is easier just not to bother trying to analyse it or think about it. Historically, illustration has been considered as mere decoration, subservient to the words that it is simply embellishing. Illustration does not have the capacity to create meaning in and of itself, we seem to be told through the brevity of work that has been done. Obviously, I am coming at this from an English Literature perspective, but even in disciplines like Art History, the focus is on painting and ‘high art’; illustration isn’t considered ‘serious’ enough. These problems are magnified further when we start working with Shakespeare, because for many people, Shakespeare’s words are considered almost sacred. So we have two situations combining to create a situation where these illustrations have been ignored: the academy’s fetishisation of the word as the sole source of knowledge, and the Shakespeare scholar’s obsession with the written word itself.

A: But surely without the written word, there would be no Shakespeare to study?

M: That’s not quite what I’m saying. What I mean is that Shakespeare’s plays create meanings that aren’t confined to verbal discourse alone. They are plays: by their nature, they rely on an interplay between visual and verbal modes of communication. A vast industry has grown up around Shakespeare scholarship that looks at the most tiniest details of the text to explain what Shakespeare meant. As if having textual validation about Shakespeare’s intentions is a desirable thing to have. It is not. I really do not care what Shakespeare meant, but what I do care about is how, to quote the late Terence Hawkes, we mean by Shakespeare. In short, if a comma in a speech creates meaning, and is worth so much time agonising over, then surely so does placing an illustration next to that speech? And if that is indeed the case (as I suggest it is) then we need to begin to rethink how we consider the Victorians’ relationship with Shakespeare.

A: This would be a good time, then, to talk about your big project that you have coming out in the next few months, the Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive?

M: The Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive is an open access database that contains over 3,000 Victorian illustrations of Shakespeare’s plays. As it has a Creative Commons license by attribution, any user will be able to take any of the images and do whatever they like with them. The archive is the practical part of my PhD. The other part is the more traditional thesis aspect that explores how I have gone about setting up this resource in the first place. The archive came about when I was discussing this work with my supervisor, Professor Julia Thomas, and, as I have said, because the illustrations that I found were so rich, compelling and interesting, we decided I should build an archive and share them with the world!

A: And when will you be launching?

image1M: Early summer. Stay tuned.

Michael John Goodman is in his final year of his PhD at Cardiff University’s School of English, Communication and Philosophy. His research focuses on Victorian illustrated editions of Shakespeare and how digital technology is changing our relationship to research and Shakespeare himself. He is the RA on Cardiff University’s brand new Digital Cultures Network and can be contacted at GoodmanMJ@cardiff.ac.uk.