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