What is Shakespeare’s First Folio and Why Should I Care?

October 25, 2023 (Wednesday) / 5:30 pm

Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, 6th floor
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts
Van Pelt Library, 3420 Walnut Street

What is Shakespeare’s First Folio and Why Should I Care?

Emma Smith

Professor of Shakespeare Studies, Hertford College, University of Oxford

2023 marks 400 years since the publication of the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, the book now revered as the First Folio. This talk introduces what’s significant about this book, and what copies — including the one at Penn — can tell us about the way it was put together, and the uses to which it has been put over the last four centuries. From printers’ errors to cat pawprints, and from children’s drawings to commonplacing, First Folios give us a ringside seat to view the changing status of Shakespeare, and the ways in which its cultural, literary, and economic value have become intertwined.

Sponsored by Penn’s Workshop in the History of Material Texts; Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts; Department of English; Center for Research in Feminist, Queer, and Transgender Studies; and Wolf Humanities Center.

Emma Smith is Professor of Shakespeare Studies at Hertford College, University of Oxford, and the author of two books, on the making and on the afterlives, of the First Folio. She is the 2023 Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe, an associate scholar with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is currently working on an edition of Twelfth Night for the Arden Shakespeare series.