The University Record, March 12, 2001

Campus resources help track down all things Shakespeare

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Just as the Michigan Residency of the Royal Shakespeare Company begins comes news of the availability of two more resources, one from the Special Collections Library and the other from the Internet Public Library (IPL), hosted by the School of Information.

The Special Collections Library has completed cataloging its Shakespeare Pamphlet Collection, also known as the Crosby Shakespeare Collectanea. The collection includes more than 270 records gathered by Joseph Crosby, a prominent 19th-century Shakespearean scholar.

Folio forgery

The collection features scholarly works by noted Shakespeare authorities, many in the form of copies of journal articles sent to Crosby. Works by American scholars and German academics with whom Crosby corresponded are included. While not attached to any institution, Crosby became well known for his interest in and collection of things Shakespeare. The U-M collection was purchased by Isaac Newton Demmon (1842–1920), a professor of English at the U-M.

Particularly well represented are materials related to the “discovery” of a copy of the 1632 Second Folio—with extensive marginal corrections to the text in a purported contemporary hand—and its eventual exposure as a forgery.

Crosby’s collection is a veritable cornucopia of materials, some only touching on Shakespeare, but all offering glimpses into late Victorian culture, both high and popular. Among the works is a character study of the nurse’s deceased husband in Romeo and Juliet and an analysis of whether Hamlet was insane. The collection has items on phrenology, occultism and associational life, as well as theatrical memorabilia such as playbills, seating arrangements in music halls, portraits of 19th-century stage stars and greeting cards.

Associational life, popular in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras, is illustrated by the large number of programs, newsletters and dinner menus of amateur U.S. and English Shakespeare clubs. The Mosaic Club of Jackson, Mich., was just one of many across the country.

Crosby never achieved financial success, once trying ownership of a grocery store with his brother and later selling insurance. Needing to pay off debts, Crosby brokered with the U-M and the Folger Library to sell his collection.

For more information, call (734) 936-3814 or visit the Library’s online MIRLYN catalog and use the keyword “Shakespeare Collectanea.”

More on the forgery and the career of the person who made the discovery are on the Web at www.lib.udel.edu/ud/spec/exhibits/forgery/collier.htm.

‘Shake-n-Bacon’

The IPL’s entries can take one from “Shake-n-Bacon” to paintings and illustrations of Shakespeare’s works to a postcard collection that depicts the plays, the players and the characters—some in a humorous manner and others more serious—to guides for teachers and the complete online texts of the bard’s works.

Also included are time lines, a biography quiz, genealogy charts, Shakespeare festivals and “Tales from Shakespeare,” which presents the plays in language appropriate for a youthful audience.

Of interest to the scholarly are “The Works of the Bard” and a handy guide to monologues found in the works, as well as study guides for discussion groups at Webspace.

For those looking for anything and everything about Shakespeare, IPL can direct you to “Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet,” http://daphne.palomar.edu/shakespeare/, which has “Book a Minute Classics,” Shakespeare parodies and “Green Eggs and Hamlet” by an unknown author.

Shakespeare Collectanea

No description of Shakespeare Collectanea would be complete without a transcription of the title of the most unique item in the collection, says David Richtmyer, senior associate librarian.

“Verdue from the precincts of the grave of William Shakespeare the poet of England: ivy leaves from the church walls that cover his grave & daisies, elm leaves, grasses & meadowsweet from his own Ophelia’s Avon, this 22nd of July 1861.”

“The ivy is still in good condition,” Richtmyer says, “but the daisies have seen better days.”