UofSC chosen to host Shakespeare’s First Folio

The University of South Carolina will host a traveling exhibit of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s works published in 1623 that includes 36 of his plays including “The Tempest,” “Macbeth” and “As You Like It.”

“First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” is a national traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books. In 2016, the Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, will tour a First Folio of Shakespeare to all 50 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico. The University of South Carolina, and its partner in programming Richland Library, was chosen as the only display site in South Carolina, the Folger Shakespeare Library announced Thursday (Feb. 26, 2015).

“Having a First Folio come to Columbia provides an exciting opportunity to bring Shakespeare to life for a South Carolina audience.  Even many of those who have studied the Bard have never seen a First Folio,” said Tom McNally, dean of University Libraries. “This exhibit not only celebrates the 400th year of Shakespeare's death, it offers the opportunity to learn why Shakespeare is known to us all as the greatest writer in the history of the English language."

The exhibition includes one copy of the First Folio of Shakespeare’s work and supplementary materials supplied by the Folger Shakespeare Library. It is part of an international commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and it is expected to provide hundreds of thousands of visitors across the country with the rare opportunity to view the book. The touring dates for the 2016 Columbia exhibition are expected to be released in April.

Published seven years after his death, “Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies” — now known as the First Folio — saved 18 of Shakespeare’s plays. According to the Folger Shakespeare Library, the First Folio of 1623 was not only the first collected edition of Shakespeare — it was the first folio book ever published in England that was devoted exclusively to plays. Of the plays written wholly or partly by Shakespeare, 18 have survived only because they were published in the First Folio.

Many of Shakespeare’s plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors compiled 46 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, the largest collection in the world. There are 233 known copies in the world today, and it is believed that 750 were originally printed.

When the First Folio arrives in Columbia, its pages will be opened to the most-quoted line from Shakespeare, “to be or not to be,” from “Hamlet.” Accompanying the book will be a multipanel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare with digital content and interactive activities.

University Libraries will use the exhibit as a chance to showcase its holdings of the works of Shakespeare and works related to his life and time. The exhibition will be on display in the Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library on the UofSC campus for four weeks.

“It is a tremendous honor for the University of South Carolina library to be awarded the opportunity to host Shakespeare’s First Folio. We are excited about the prospect of mounting a major exhibition drawing on our holdings of material by and about Shakespeare, his life and time,” said Elizabeth Sudduth, director of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at Carolina.  

Among the events planned at Carolina are an exhibition of materials from the university’s special collections, theatrical performances, lectures by prominent Shakespeare scholars and opportunities for classes and groups from the community to see these treasures first-hand.

Richland Library, as a partner with UofSC, will also develop and host free programming for the community, in particular programming for children and families.

“As a hub of community engagement, Richland Library provides diverse and enriching programming for all members of our community, but especially children and families. We look forward to introducing a new generation to the wonders of Shakespeare, and expanding the context for those who already know and appreciate his talent,” said Sarah Gough, programs and partnerships librarian at the Richland Library. “We will offer several free public programs that emphasize Shakespeare’s enduring relevance and inspire our community to learn how Shakespeare still influences today’s art, culture, and society; create their own Shakespeare-inspired works; and share their newfound knowledge and passion with others.”


“First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. Sponsorship opportunities of this major exhibition and the Folger’s other Wonder of Will programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death are available; learn more at Folger Shakespeare Library.

About Folger Shakespeare Library

Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-renowned center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500-1750). The Folger is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs—theatre, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures and family programs. Learn more at Folger Shakespeare Library.

About Cincinnati Museum Center

Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) at Union Terminal is a nationally recognized institution and national historic landmark. Dedicated to sparking community dialogue, insight and inspiration, CMC was awarded the 2009 National Medal for Museum and Library Service from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and received accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums in 2012. CMC is one of only 16 museums in the nation with both of these honors, making it a unique asset and a vital community resource. Union Terminal has been voted the nation's 45th most important building by the American Institute of Architects. Organizations within CMC include the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX Theater and Cincinnati History Library & Archives. Recognized by Forbes Traveler Magazine as the 17th most visited museum in the country, CMC welcomes more than one million visitors annually. For more information, visit CMC's website.

About the American Library Association

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with approximately 58,000 members in academic, public, school, government and special libraries. The mission of the American Library Association is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all. ALA’s Public Programs Office provides leadership, resources, training and networking opportunities that help thousands of librarians nationwide develop and host cultural programs for adult, young adult and family audiences. The mission of the ALA Public Programs Office is to promote cultural programming as an essential part of library service in all types of libraries. Projects include book and film discussion series, literary and cultural programs featuring authors and artists, professional development opportunities and traveling exhibitions. School, public, academic and special libraries nationwide benefit from the office’s programming initiatives. Additional information can be found at the ALA website.

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at the NEH's website.

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