The first complete collection of Shakespeare's plays was almost never printed. Only the machinations of several wealthy donors and publishers brought it into existence, and even then it was practically unnoticed. Many of the original 750 copies of Shakespeare's First Folio were gone before the turn of the 18th century. But a hundred years later, the greatest plays in English were rediscovered, revamped, and re-publicized, beginning the long and surprising process that secured the legacy of Shakespeare. Broken down into five sections, each tied to a different location and century, The Book of William explores the curious rise of the First Folio: Frankfurt (17th century), Fleet Street (18th century), the British Museum (19th century), the Folger Shakespeare Library (20th century), and Meisei University of Tokyo (21st century). It recounts the book's remarkable journey, as it lies undiscovered for decades, burns, sinks, is bought and sold, and ultimately, becomes untouchable. Finally, Collins speculates on Shakespeare's cross-cultural future as more and more Folios migrate to Japanese buyers, who are entering their contents into the electronic ether.

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