“To be or not to be” – that is the question that Hamlet asks on the open page of Shakespeare’s First Folio in its display case at The Durham Museum.
A Folio is an old style of book that was used to print texts such as Bibles and manuscripts. They seem to be identifiable by the golden edges to their pages.
Being the literature nut that I am, getting to see one of Shakespeare’s original Folios in person was pretty exciting. There was something incredibly powerful about reading the Old English script and thinking of the hundreds of people who have probably touched those pages over the centuries.
The First Folios – the first editions of Shakespeare’s complete works, published in 1623 – are touring the United States this year, courtesy of the Folger Shakespeare Library as part of “The Wonder of Will,” a celebration honoring 400 years since Shakespeare’s death.
Next to the Folio is a wall of several panels depicting photographs of modern actors portraying Shakespeare’s famous characters. Each panel details a different piece of history concerning the First Folios and how they came to be a part of the Folger library.
Accompanying the First Folio display is The Durham Museum’s own exhibit, “A Thing Inspired: The Enduring Legacy of William Shakespeare.”
“A Thing Inspired” features more recent historical pieces related to Shakepeare’s works, including an old newspaper page advertising Edwin Booth – the brother of John Wilkes Booth – portraying Hamlet, a handwritten note from a 19th century literary critic, and a much more recent edition of Shakespeare’s Folio from 1876.
This exhibition is a must-visit for any history or literature buff. Seeing such an important piece of literary history was a timeless experience.
The First Folio will be on display at The Durham Museum, located at 801 S 10th St., through May 1. A full list of tour dates and locations can be found here.
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