Media Releases

‘So long lives this’: Exhibition honouring 400 years of William Shakespeare now open at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

February 2, 2016

Toron­to, ON – The only copy in Cana­da of arguably the most impor­tant book ever pro­duced in the Eng­lish lan­guage, Mr. William Shake­spear­es come­dies, his­to­ries, & tragedies: pub­lished accord­ing to the true orig­i­nall copies, bet­ter known as the First Folio, is just one of many rare print gems cur­rent­ly on exhib­it at the Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library.

The free exhi­bi­tion ‘So Long Lives This’: Cel­e­brat­ing Shake­speare, 1616–2016 was offi­cial­ly launched Feb. 1, 2016, at the Fish­er Library. Shake­speare, the son of a glove mak­er from Strat­ford-upon-Avon who became one of the great­est writ­ers in the Eng­lish lan­guage and the world’s pre-emi­nent drama­tist.

With almost 60 books on dis­play – chrono­log­i­cal­ly, run­ning from a 1548 print­ing of Gio­van­ni Boccaccio’s Il Decamerone, con­tin­u­ing with the four cel­e­brat­ed 17th-cen­tu­ry Folios, and end­ing with the sump­tu­ous fine press Play of Per­i­cles (2009–2010) from British Columbia’s Bar­bar­ian Press – the exhi­bi­tion, which marks the 400th anniver­sary of the Bard’s death, explores how Shakespeare’s works shaped ideas of the world beyond Eng­land, and how the pro­duc­tion of atlases, dic­tio­nar­ies, and his­to­ries influ­enced Shakespeare’s world-mak­ing art.

“This exhi­bi­tion pro­vides a nar­ra­tive, one that moves from ear­ly print­ing, through to the jus­ti­fi­ably famous 17th-cen­tu­ry Folios, and then into the lat­er print­ing of Shakespeare’s work, includ­ing books from this cen­tu­ry,” says Scott Schofield, the lead cura­tor of the exhi­bi­tion.

“What makes this exhi­bi­tion unique is that it shines a spot­light on the incred­i­ble col­lec­tion of Shake­speare, and mate­ri­als at the Fish­er,” adds Schofield, an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty. “Not just the Folios, but also the research mate­ri­als Shake­speare might have used, the books that would have been on his desk, through to beau­ti­ful book craft ver­sions of Shake­speare.”

The exhi­bi­tion is curat­ed by four lead­ing Cana­di­an aca­d­e­mics: join­ing Schofield are Peter W.M. Blayney, Alan Galey and Mar­jorie Rubright, all of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to.

The star attrac­tion will undoubt­ed­ly be the 1623 First Folio, which was donat­ed by Sid­ney Fish­er to the Fish­er Library in 1973, along with the oth­er three folios as part of his exten­sive Shake­speare col­lec­tion. Only 232 copies of this cul­tur­al trea­sure remain in the world today, and the vol­ume held by the Fish­er is the only Cana­di­an-held copy.

The impor­tance of the First Folio can­not be over­stat­ed, says Anne Don­dert­man, Direc­tor of the Fish­er Library. “With­out it, we would not have some of the most vital and sem­i­nal works in the Eng­lish lan­guage, includ­ing Mac­beth, Julius Cae­sar, As You like It, Twelfth Night, and The Tem­pest,” she says. “Shake­speare was an actor as well as a play­wright and he wrote his plays to be per­formed. Yet it is the plays in their writ­ten form that have large­ly shaped our under­stand­ing of Shake­speare the man and the writer, so we’re excit­ed that the gen­er­al pub­lic will be able to view these vital vol­umes.”

The exhi­bi­tion runs until May 28, 2016. There is no admis­sion fee and there is a free self-guid­ed audio tour avail­able for down­load to a mobile device. A video nar­rat­ed by Schofield on the exhibition’s gen­e­sis and its themes can be viewed via the Fisher’s YouTube chan­nel:

The Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library hous­es the Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, includ­ing books, man­u­scripts and oth­er mate­ri­als, and is the largest rare book library in the coun­try. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Libraries sys­tem is the largest aca­d­e­m­ic library in Cana­da and is ranked third among peer insti­tu­tions in North Amer­i­ca, behind just Har­vard and Yale. The sys­tem con­sists of 44 libraries locat­ed on three uni­ver­si­ty cam­pus­es: St. George, Mis­sis­sauga, and Scar­bor­ough.

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For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Anne Don­dert­man, Direc­tor, Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library

Tel: 416- 978‑5332