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Friday, April 14, 2006

First Folio


Our Librarian, Elizabeth E. Fuller, recently wrote up these notes about the upcoming sale of one of the last Shakespeare First Folios left in private hands:

[Note-the image here is of the Rosenbach's copy of the third folio!]

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Sotheby’s recently announced that it will offer a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio at auction in London on July 13. Because of the mystique this book has for collectors, and because of its significance in Dr. Rosenbach’s career, we can expect questions about it from visitors and others. Especially since the Shakespeare Association of America will have its annual meeting in Philadelphia this weekend (April 13-16), we may have more visitors than usual with a special interest in this area. Here’s a little background information:

What it is

  • First collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published 1623 (7 years after his death)
  • In large (folio) format
  • Proper title: Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies
  • First collection of plays in large format to be published in England
  • 3 more collected editions (2nd-4th Folios) published before end of 17th century

The numbers

Contains 36 plays, half not previously published

No more than 750 copies printed

228 surviving copies known, most incomplete, many fragmentary

Folger Shakespeare Library has over 80 copies

Only one is left in private hands (estate of Paul Getty)

Dr. R. and the First Folio

  • Bought and sold six copies during his career
  • Named his boat First Folio and its successor First Folio II. (Second Folio just doesn’t have the same cachet.)
  • His own Shakespeare collection (all 4 folios, first quarto (single) editions of all plays), sold to Martin Bodmer of Geneva in 1952
  • RML today has 2nd (2 copies), 3rd, & 4th Folios; one 1st quarto (Merchant of Venice, 1609); and about 140 later editions, mostly single plays from late 17th & 18th centuries

The copy for sale

  • Property of Dr. Williams's Library, an independent theological research library in London, which has owned it since at least 1716
  • In especially fine condition, with extensive early annotations of great interest to scholars
  • Estimated to fetch £2.5-£3.5 million (about $4.4-6.1 million); nearest comparable copy sold at Christie’s New York in 2001 for $5.6 million
  • To be exhibited at Sotheby’s New York April 19-23

More details here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Black and White

Truman Capote is in the air these days. (I really liked Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, though I do have a small gripe with the Academy giving Oscars to actors playing celebrities -- e.g. Hoffman, Reese Witherspoon, Jamie Foxx, Cate Blanchett, etc. -- but that's another post on another blog.) Forty years ago this November Capote hosted his legendary Black-and-White Ball. All of the press surrounding the film describes In Cold Blood as Capote's masterpiece. No argument here. But some folks contend that the Black-and-White Ball should be included on the list of his greatest works, too. Before you get tired of hearing about it, the Rosenbach has decided to get out ahead of the reminiscing about that most fabulous of evenings by showing off this bit of memorabilia:



A knowledgeable colleague related the legend of the invites: Tiffany printed them and even though this event was destined to be the "party of the century,"
they botched the job. Mention of Katharine Graham, the guest of honor, was left off the invite. The RSVP address was misprinted. Capote didn't have enough time to have the invitations reprinted, so the corrections were made by hand.

Still, the people came. They wore black and white and masks. Most loved it. Some, like Frank Sinatra, apparently hated it. Here's our favorite guest showing off her get-up at home:


Miss Moore surely didn't get into any fights with Norman Mailer, but we trust she had a good time anyway.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

when it rains...


The Sunday New York Times will have another Rosenbach-associated piece, this time about Ben Katchor's opera The Rosenbach Company. The opera was commissioned by the Rosenbach in 2003, and performed at the Philly Live Arts/Fringe in 2004. If you missed it then, it's being performed at Joe's Pub at the Public Theatre in New York April 10, 17, and 24. Thus the article.

One crucial point not mentioned there--the whole thing was funded by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative. PEI, which is in turn funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, has helped the Rosenbach do some of its best programs in the last few years & we are particularly indebted to Paula Marincola, its director, for all her help and advice.