tv Tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library CSPAN April 23, 2016 11:00am-12:01pm EDT
>> even if your letter doesn't get in, they count the number of letters from a particular perspective, and they will publish letters from that perspective. so it means, it means demonstrating, it means first amendment protected activity, it means going to the trone base, hancock drone base and protesting in upstate new york, it means going to outside -- i know it's not convenient, but if you have the opportunity -- going to creech air force base where the drones take off outside of las vegas. it means working in any way you can, organizing and pressuring the government. that's the only way that this is going to stop. >> well, i think that is a wonderful question and a comment to end our discussion because,
again, when i -- before i read this book, i mean, i've gotten another book on drones, and i hadn't, you know, there are drones and things that are going on out there, somebody else is doing it, doesn't affect me. but then when you say what are we doing with these drones, what is happening and what is being done in our name, you know? and then you see how horrible, as dr. cohn said in her first chapter, these are a dark new weapon of war. you know? it's a dark weapon. and we really need to realize this, how dark these things are. thank you so much for coming, and thank you so much for your questions and your comments. and i do hope that you'll get this book. we've got copies up here that you can, that you can buy. and, please, fill out the
evaluation form and say what you thought about this thing because, as i said, this'll strengthen the festival of the book. and, please, line up if you want to get your book autographed by dr. cohn. thank you. [applause] >> well, saturday, april 23rd, is the 400th anniversary of william shakespeare's death. the folger library here in washington, d.c., which has the largest collection of shakespeare documents and memorabilia in the world, will be hosting an event commemorating his life and his impact on our literature, our language, our politics and our history. booktv will be covering that event life. it begin -- live. it begins at noon eastern time. and afterward we'll have a live, nationwide call-in with shakespeare scholars so you can join in the conversation as well. henry folger was the president of the standard oil company and a shakespeare buff. so he and his wife spent many
years and many dollars collecting shakespeare artifacts, documents, memorabilia. it's the world's largest collection of shakespeare-related documents. so join us today. we'll be live beginning at noon for 400 years of shakespeare on booktv. >> host: michael witmore, what is the folger shakespeare library? >> guest: the folger shakespeare library was created in 1932 by henry folger and his wife, emily. they had a big idea that the sources of shakespeare and his world would be of value to everyone in perpetuity. so they collected those materials, and they put them here, two blocks east of the
capitol, for the benefit of the world. this was truly a national and international asset. so in addition to putting this marvelous collection here, they created this remarkable building which has the first north american tudor theater, it has the beautiful great hall that we're in which is modeled on hampton court and then another beautiful, almost medieval reading room. >> host: who were the folgers? >> guest: mr. folger was president of standard oil, and he made his fortune as an oil man. he then, while he was running standard oil, very quietly acquired the greatest shakespeare collection in the world, bar none. including 82 copies of the 1623 first folio. >> host: okay. we're going to hear that term throughout this tour, first folio. >> guest: yes. >> host: what is that? >> guest: so the first folio is a collection of 36 shakespeare plays that were published by two of shakespeare's friends who knew him. without that book, which was
published in 1623, we probably wouldn't have 18 of shakespeare's plays including macbeth and twelfth night and the winter's tale. it's probably the most studied single edition of a book in the world. and it's also a great connection to shakespeare, this writer that is still used by scholars today to understand his writings. >> host: so that was put together seven years after his death -- >> guest: exactly right. >> host: and how many of those exist? how many were printed, how many exist in the world today? >> guest: there were probably 700 copies of the first folio printed, and there are 233 known copies of this book. one just turned up last year in france. but the folger has 82 in its collection. that's by far the largest number in any one place. and the folgers collected the book because they knew that every copy is different. the printers corrected this book
as it was printed, and then when they put the books together, they just took from this file and that file. so mr. and mrs. folger knew that if we wanted to get at the best version of shakespeare's plays in this book, we'd have to compare them. >> host: michael witmore, here at the folger are the items that you have displayed, are they open to the public? >> guest: yes, they are. >> host: such as the first folio? >> guest: anyone can come and see a first folio at the folger. we are free, and we are open to the public on holidays, but we were created in order to share this remarkable collection. and so that's what we do. >> host: and so do people come? how many people do you have come a year here? >> guest: so we have about 80,000 people come a year, and when you come here, you can see a first folio in the corner of our great hall. you can also see one of our exhibitions, you can see a shakespeare play performed in the first elizabeth january
theater in north america, and if you are a qualified reader, you can come into our reading room and request items from the hundreds of thousands of items that we have in our rare collection. >> host: is the reading room restricted to scholars? >> guest: the reading room is restricted to people who have a good reason to use the collection. so often that's dollars, but if you're not -- scholars, but if you're not a professional scholar, we would open our materials to you. >> host: is the folger collection online? >> guest: about 60,000 items, we would call them page openings from the collection, are online in these beautiful, high quality digital images. so one of our missions is to open that collection to people who want to visit us virtually. we're also starting a project to make searchable about 130,000 pages of our manuscript collection. so a manuscript is handwritten material. it's hard to decipher, and we're inviting others to join in a
crowd-sourcing initiative to look at some of those pages online, and then we will teach you how to decipher the writing. you'll decipher it, and then you're going to add to our collection. >> host: michael witmore, was william shakespeare well known? first of all, when did he live, when did he die, and was he well known? >> guest: he was born in the mid 16th century, and he died in 1616. that's why this year we're celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death. he was well known. there are hundreds of references to shakespeare that occur during his lifetime, and one of the things we've done this year is to gather the documents that really connect us to shakespeare, the man, the talk of people about shakespeare whether it's in print be or whether it's in gossip that they've noted on a piece of vellum or paper. we wanted to get that all in one place. so this year our show, called life of an icon, is our attempt to bring that together so that people really can see what an
impact this writer had on the people around him. >> host: well, we are in the display hall right now. >> guest: we are. >> host: what's the architecture of this hall, and then let's walk through the display. >> guest: what you're looking at is a tudor great hall. it's the kind of room you would put in a large family estate. it's actually something you would use for exercise. that's why it's long. usually windows would be open to a garden, and you would put your painting collection in this room. that was actually what this room was designed to look like. but after 1932 we realized that full daylight is not good for rare materials. and so we decided to limit the amount of light in this space. and so it's different from what you would see in england, but it's still grand. you've got this very high ceiling, it's a city block length. it's also got tudor -- [inaudible] work on the plaster above. >> host: would william shakespeare have been
comfortable in this room? would it have been familiar to him? >> guest: yes, he would. he would have known exactly what kind of room this is. and one thing we're learning about him, he did purchase a home in stratford called new place which is quite a fancy pile in his hometown. and one of the things the archaeologists suspect that he did was knock down some of the bedrooms so that he could create a long gallery or a great hall. and he must have liked rooms like this. it was either he who did it, or it was a member of his family. but he would have recognized this kind of room. >> host: well, let's look at some of the display items you have here. >> guest: sure. >> host: what have you got? >> guest: we're going to walk over first, i just mentioned new place which was this grand house in stratford. shakespeare actually needed to do something that we would call today, i think, a title search, which is to make sure that he had clear title to this property that he bought with the earnings
he had from his theater career. and so we're going to go over here. these are two halves of something that is called an indenture. and when this document was executed, the two sides of the deal or the agreement look at either side which has the identical terms on each side. one is read out aloud, and the other is checked to make sure that the terms of the deal are identical. and then the indenture cut with a wavy line so that if there's ever a dispute, you say show me the other side of this, and we'll check it. but it was a fascinating early-modern anti-fraud device that was used when shakespeare decided to check whether he had clear title to this property. and here is a third piece that was -- these two were kept by shakespeare and the other party in the agreement. shakespeare would have held one
of these pieces of vellum in his hands. he would have kept it in his home with all of his other important -- >> host: basically, a title to the house. >> guest: an important document, and this is one of the things -- >> host: did he sign it? >> guest: he didn't sign this because he didn't need to. the scribes had to create this other counterfoil which is probably in 400 years never been next to the original piece of vellum that it was a part of. this came over to us from london, and we're now bringing these pieces together for the first time x. it's a nice symbol for what this exhibition is, because never have are so many documents directly connected to shakespeare ever been in one place. and this is in centuries. and i doubt they will ever be gathered together again. so the ability to bring together a kind of congregation or fellowship of documents is this remarkable moment of connection with this writer. and that's why we really wanted to share it, because it's so precious to have this ability to
show them. the other thing i would say is we've chosen to create this online resource with the assistance and permission of our partners, almost 30 other institutions, so that we can show 400 of these documents in high quality digital images, and we've actually transcribed them so that you can search them. it's called shakespeare documented, and i think it will be the first and most important stop for people trying to understand shakespeare's biography. we've made this freely available with the help of our partners, and that's going to be one of the surviving kind of legacies of this particular initiative. >> host: what do some of your british partners think about the fact that the folger shakespeare library in washington, d.c. has the largest shakespeare collection in the world? >> guest: well, i think it's a mixture of feeling, this is their writer, but shakespeare is probably one of the most important not the most important cultural export from great britain. shakespeare is a global phenomenon.
there are more films made about shakespeare in india than there are in the united states and britain combined. so the ability to make the connection with the united states and to -- it's a way of embodying this ongoing relationship between the two countries. turns out to be important. so we do have regularly diplomatic gatherings here at the folger. the british ambassador is often here, the ambassador's spouse customarily serves on our board. but it's important because it shows this ongoing cultural connection. the other thing i would say is that americans really discovered shakespeare in the 18th and 19th centuries and made this writer their own. he was like someone you could turn to when you were in uncertain times. you're trying to think about your aspirations or these tough decisions that americans were making after the civil war or during civil rights. and there's something about this
writer, the way he tells stories, the way his characters are so vivid, the powerful language that meant that americans felt like they could just grab that and use it themselves. and i think of shakespeare as the kind of uncle that we turn to when we need to have a conversation that we can't have with family, with our closest family. there's something good about the fact that shakespeare wasn't an american. he never came to this country. and that gives us a lot more latitude when we want to say i think this reminds me of macbeth or when we watch, say, the house of cards, and we think, oh, that's macbeth, you know, lady macbeth married to richard iii. or when a member of congress like senator byrd will quote shakespeare on the floor of the senate. >> host: who was king or queen during shake -- shakespeare's life for the most part, and did that influence his writingsome. >> guest: shakespeare was alive
during the reign of queen elizabeth and the reign of king james i. and when those reigns kind of, when the succession happened, a scottish king came. it used to be james v. and shakespeare had to change his theatrical practice. now there was a different monarch on the throne, and he needed to flatter that monarch. so, for example, in the play macbeth, there's a procession of kings. and when james watched that performance -- and we belief he did -- believe he did -- he would have been seeing his own ancestors in this play, and they would have reflected well on him. so shakespeare was really aware of his political audience. and that's interesting because we live in washington, and washington is a political city which you know so well. shakespeare was careful as a writer. he didn't want to offend his noble patrons or the monarch.
but he also was such a good storyteller that he could get himself into territory that might have been uncomfortable for someone who was directly addressing the king or the queen. there are some things you just can't say to a monarch. but shakespeare wrote a play could richard ii about a monarch who has to give over his crown to someone who has forced him to be deposed. now, talk about a controversial idea. you couldn't suggest that about a sitting monarch, but you could show it in a play. and so shakespeare had a way of getting into that tricky territory by using storytelling and theater. >> host: what else do you want to show us here -- >> guest: let me show you -- >> host: by the way, this is open to the public through march 27th. >> guest: correct. >> host: this may air after march 27th, but if people wanted to come and see this after march 27th -- >> guest: well, that's why we created shakespeare documented, because that is an even more comprehensive record of this exhibition.
there are 50 very rare documents in this exhibition physically, but there are 400 items that are on shakespeare documented. so if you go to shakespearedocumented.org, you'll be able to see all of this material. >> host: great. >> guest: let me show you another item which i think is very interesting. over here we're going to have to watch out for the light here. this is a page of what many believe to be shakespeare's handwriting. it's called the sir thomas moore manuscript. it's written in something called secretary hand which is a particular type of scribal handwriting that shakespeare knew. it's also difficult to decipher if you haven't had experience looking at that type of writing. it's part of a play called sir thomas moore that we think shakespeare wrote because of the style. and there's been computer tests to can ask how much does this particular style resemble shakespeare or other candidates. but what's remarkable about it
is, it is a beautiful passage about refugees. and it's so timely as you think about the e.u. struggling to accommodate all of these people who put their lives and their children on the sea in the hopes of fleeing a very dangerous place. this speech from sir thomas moore asks the question why would you put your family at risk and bet on the sea when it turns out that staying on land might even be more dangerous. so we've got this marvelous, really powerful passage that was written by shakespeare on a piece of vellum that is possibly written in his own hand. it is one of the most valuable documents in the world, and we're very lucky to have this document here in the united states. it has never traveled out of the u.k., and it's here until end of march. >> host: and now you say this document may have been written -- >> guest: right. >> host: -- by william shakespeare himself. why don't you know?
does his writing exist anywhere? >> guest: that's a really good question. we have confidence that we have six signatures of shakespeare. >> host: in the world. >> guest: in the world. >> host: not at the folger, but -- >> guest: not at the folger. the folger does not own any signatures. our colleagues in britain have different documents. they're legal documents that have shakespeare's signature on them. when you think about that, there are only so many letters in someone's signature, and when you sign your name, you may not sign it in the same way that you would write a letter to someone, because you do it often. that means that if you want to authenticate a whole page of writing and say that it's shakespeare's writing, you really only have a couple of letters to work with for your comparison. and for that reason, we would say that it is very tough to establish that a particular piece of writing is beyond a doubt by william shakespeare. but this is a very suggestive example.
it's hard to rule it out, and it is stylistically, looks a lot like shakespeare, so we tend to think of it as one of those world treasures that just very well might be his handwriting. >> host: who was sir thomas moore? ing. >> guest: so sir thomas moore was a humanist who was active in the 16th century, and he was catholic. he wrote the book that we now call utopia. so he thought about politics, he thought about rule, and he was someone that shakespeare knew from history and someone that he wrote about. >> host: and this here is part of a play, correct? >> guest: that's right. it's the play, and this is a speech from that play. the reason why the light is so low here is that for our own books and for the books of our lending partners, we have what's called a light budget. that means we will not expose a given item to any more than a certain amount of light, and we're constantly monitoring how much height is around -- how
much light is around this book. >> host: you're monitoring this in realtime? >> guest: we are. and we have computer readouts that show us the average amount of light, when it starts, when it stops. because this writing, which is in a kind of iron gall ink, is going to fade if you put it under light. and the reason why we want to limit it is we want people to be able to read these pages centuries from now. >> host: where's the monitor? >> guest: the monitor is under that particular flint -- >> host: okay. >> guest: and the readout -- >> host: so does an alarm go off if our crew put the light right on that? >> guest: we would know, and we know enough about our collections to say we don't allow flash photography in this case, and when you do illuminate an item, we just limit the amount of time. it is important, peter, for people to see these. so as an institution that takes care of these treasures, we're always thinking about the trade-off between providing access and then saving the item. >> host: i want to ask you about this. who wrote the plays?
the authorship question, did william shakespeare from stratford upon avon really write all these plays? that's fascinated people, you write, since the 19th century. >> guest: so people have been debating shakespeare's authorship for over a century. we see no reason to doubt that he was the man from stratford, the son of a glover, man from the countryside who went to london and became a very, very successful writer. it's really hard to explain the quadruple lightning strike that was william shakespeare. how could someone be so good at reading human emotions? how could he be so well read about everything that was happening in the world? how could he do this political balancing act? how could he be so successful in the theater at a moment when that was the industry that was kind of developing in london? so he is a remarkable figure. and i think his outsized effect on the world has created a lot
of passionate interest in who he must have been and what his life must have been. so we actually have a lot of information about him in comparison to other people who lived during the period. and that's why we've assembled these documents. but it's interesting to us that there's always something more you can learn about writer. and even in the course of assembling this exhibition, our curator has discovered errors in how letters were transcribed, she's asked basic questions such as what's on the back of that piece of paper? where did it come from? and those questions, which are the kinds of questions that an experienced document person would ask, someone when knows a lot about handwriting and how people created and stored documents, has led us to take a really long look at this record. it's probably the first time anyone has looked at almost all
of the evidence at once. so we feel very confident that shakespeare was the man from stratford, but we are also a resource for people who are curious about this writer. and you don't have to swear an oath of allegiance when you come in to use our collection. there are plenty of things that you can still find. our collection is still not fully explored. so we welcome people who may think in their hearts that this was the earl of oxford or christopher marlowe or francis aiken or queen elizabeth i. inquiry into these documents is always good. >> host: what do you say to folks like me or others who are not terribly dim, but haven't been able to access shakespeare? understand him? >> guest: you know, i would say two things. first is you can access shakespeare, and he may know more about you than you do yourself.
there was an editorial in "the new york times" today about the importance of the humanities. and one of the things this writer said was that there are insights into who we are and how we think that shakespeare captured. and he didn't write them in obscure treatises. he put them on as plays. so plays are the oldest interactive art form we have. they're participatory. and if you can see one of these plays, you will see people you recognize. now, maybe you'll only understand 20%, 30% of the language. join the club. the language is 400 years old. it's beautifully dense and has lot of really energetic expressions. even if you only get that 20%, that 20% ising fantastic -- 20% is fantastic, and you may already know some of it. because so many phrases that shakespeare used are actually her in our vocabulary.
and that's one of the great things about this writer, is he somehow managed to get into our bloodstream. once those words became famous on stage, people repeat them. and, you know, you could look at a political headline, "joe biden has his hamlet moment." is he going to join the race or is he not? well, that's a very famous play. and even though you may not have read hamlet really carefully, you understand that biden has this heart-searching decision to make and that it's a big one. >> host: are you a shakespeare scholar? >> guest: i am. so before i came here, i was a professor who -- and i taught shakespeare classes to undergraduates and graduate students. i've written several books about shakespeare's plays. one of the reasons why i came to the folger is because this is a great place to share what is so exciting about the humanities. and i hope i write more about shakespeare in my career.
but here we are two blocks east of the u.s. capitol. our middle name is shakespeare is the most widely-read author on the planet, and we can show people why this writer's ideas and characters and stories still matter. >> host: you've mentioned the reading room. why don't we go on in? >> guest: we're going to have to be quiet because active readers are working here. this is late medieval or renaissance architecture. on one side we have the seven agents of man, it's a speech from as you like it, and the patterns in the stained glass are modeled on the stained glass in the church of shakespeare's hometown in stratford. and on this far side, we have a bust of shakespeare which is, again, a model of the one from trinity church where he is buried. and then just below it is a brass plaque. behind that plaque is the ashes,
are the ashes of mr. and mrs. folger. and this is interesting because that makes -- [inaudible] exactly right. that makes them the only people who are buried on capitol hill. and that is important because we are a republic, and we don't bury americans next to the seat of power as is done in westminster abbey. we like to keep people away from the center of power, to it's kind of ironic because they own the building, and this was their gift to the nation. they chose to have their ashes placed here. >> host: what goes on in this room, and who can access it? >> guest: so this is a room that is filled with researchers who are working with our original source materials, and they're coming from universities, they're writers who are writing books for the trade press, but they're digging in. i mean, i like to think of people in this room as going on a 400-year submissioner dive --
submersion dive. and one of the most amazing things about the space is you'll look around, and you'll see someone who's got their head down just go -- ah. and that person is surfacing from a four-century dive into the past and just kind of emerging. but the intensity of the connection and the imagination you've got to have to construct this world, i always find it so inspiring. you can't really show it because it's happening in here. but it's happening. >> host: michael witmore, if a tourist came by and wanted to come in here and pick one of these books off the shelf -- >> guest: uh-huh? >> host: -- is that possible? >> guest: you could come for a tour on saturday afternoon and see this space, but if you really want to handle the collection, we would need to give you permission. >> host: and what does it take to get that permission? a couple letters? >> guest: you need two letters
of reference to say this person really does need to use the collection. we realize that it has to last another four centuries. so we should have a good reason to take it out -- >> host: well, there's a lot in this room, but you've got some hidden that -- hidden stuff that you're going to show us down in the vault. >> guest: i am. thank you, betsy. >> host: you're signing out the keys. >> guest: i am signing out the keys. >> host: betsy is the keeper of the keys? >> guest: no one receives keys unless they need to go down to the vault. and no readers in this space will be going to the vault because we provide readers access, but the vault is a secure space that we need to control very carefully. >> host: i see you have a friend here with you. >> guest: yep. officer baylor is here for security. he'll be walking us down.
>> host: so we're going below ground now, correct? >> guest: we will be going several floors below ground level. we have a vault that runs the, almost the full length of a city block. and that is where we keep our rare books and our manuscripts. >> host: now, michael, were all the rare man manuscripts and bos that we're going to see, were they collected by the folgers during their lifetime before they died? >> guest: they started it, but we as an institution have been collecting for around 80 years. so it is a growing and dynamic collection. we acquire it, and then we give it to psychological hards or take pictures of it -- scholars or take pictures of it and put it online. >> host: that's quite the door. >> guest: we are now at the vault. >> host: literally, at the vault. >> guest: this is the 1932 bank
vault door which is extremely heavy. i don't think i could start it moving unless i had help. we're going to pass through now -- >> host: and this is usually not open, correct? >> guest: officer baylor just opened it with his keys, and i have my own when we need to get out. >> host: okay. we'll bring our crew here. and that's scarlett who's been helping us. >> guest: we have the whole team here. >> host: oh. there we go. >> guest: so we're going to go, peter, right into this elevator which will take us yet another floor below. >> host: so let's give everybody the experience of what it's like to go into the vault. >> guest: and let me take this to dixie. one of the amazing things about being in this space is in addition to being chilly and highly controlled, it's also within, you know, only several
hundred yards' walk from this spot are, for me, probably 95% of the documents i will read in my working life. for a shakespeare scholar or someone who studies the renaissance, once you're standing here you have to contemplate your mortality because there's so much that you could read. and, in fact, peter, you know, a book that could be so important to me could just be 15 yards down here on the right, but unless i know it's there, i will never see it. and so everyone who comes and works in this collection faces that challenge. there's an infinity of doors and pathways you could go down in your research, and the challenge is to resist all of those opportunities or almost all of them and just take the ones that really matter to you. >> host: now, i presume there are cameras on us at this point. >> guest: yes, there are. >> host: besides the c-span cameras. >> guest: there are. [laughter]
turn on the light here. we control this space for temperature and humidity. one of the challenges for rare materials is that we need to keep them dry, and that's one of the threats to rare materials. a major threat to a book is for it to get wet. and, in fact, one of the ways we deal with that threat is were there to be a water incident, we would freeze the books. and that's because it's easier to thaw a book out page by page and to control how those materials are changing than it is to make a quick pile and hope that they don't get any more wet. so we have protocols for how we would deal with that particular type of emergency or mold, which would be another threat to rare materials, or smoke or fire. but that's something that we actively plan for. >> host: michael witmore, have you ever had an incident like that here at the folger? >> guest: we've not had an incident like a fire, but we did have a leak in our underground vault, and that was a real
threat to our collection. we had to move collection material, and then we needed to insulate this vault because there's -- turns out there was an underground river that was going around that area. so the vault had to be resealed. and we actually received some money from the federal government, from the institute for museum studies and libraries, to help us make that transition. so that helped save our collection. >> host: what are you going to show us today? >> guest: so i'm going to show you several items that i thought you and your viewers would enjoy. the first one i'll start with is a first folio. that's this book here. >> host: now, can you show the cover? can we see the cover? >> guest: i can show you the cover. >> host: i'll let you do the touching. this was, again, the first folio published seven years after his death. >> guest: that's correct. it's the most complete single-volume record of shakespeare's work, and it's important that his friends assembled it because they probably had a better idea of what shakespeare thought was important. and they actually did a
wonderful thing. they said here are the three types of plays, comedies, histories and tragedies, which helps us as lit tear critics. -- literary critics. this is an engraving that's part of the book. it's missing from some copies. it's very valuable in and of itself, but ben johnson, who knew shakespeare, says this is a likeness of that man. and that's important because it's once again one of those person-to-person familiar connections to shakespeare. and so we would say that this has real authority as a likeness of this writer. >> host: so if 82 folios in the shakespeare collection, correct? >> guest: correct. >> host: how many worldwide again? >> guest: 233. >> host: 233. if somebody wanted to buy one, what would it cost them? >> guest: well, there are very are few first folios in private hands, and complete first folios can go for somewhere between $5-$6 million. so it's a very valuable book. >> host: and currently you have
first folios going around the country. >> guest: we do. well, one of the things we realized is that it really matters when you come face to face with one of the sources of shakespeare. we realized that we could safely take a first folio to all 50 states and two territories which is what's happening now, and the response has been just tremendous. someone proposed marriage, successfully, on the occasion of the first folio's visit in oklahoma. someone -- there's a jazz funeral coming for shakespeare in new orleans. >> host: a jazz funeral. >> guest: there's a great indie rock band there is doing a concert in duluth. so the ways people react are very different, and we've been inspired by the fact that people want to see this book face to face. >> host: what else do you have? >> guest: let me show you a smaller version of a shakespeare play. this is what's known as a cordo. and you might wonder why we call
this a folio and this a cordo. so folio really means that a single sheet of paper has been printed on one side and then the other, and then the bookmaker folds that sheet into a set of choirs, and then they're sewn together. but it's one fold. a cordo is actually folded twice x hen you cut the -- and then you cut the edges so that you can thumb through them. this is a smaller format, it's cheaper to produce. but half of shakespeare's plays appeared in this format before the first folio was printed. so that means there are multiple editions of shakespeare's plays, and there are real differences between the cordo editions and the folio editions. >> host: you mean in the language? >> guest: in the language and also in some of the stage actions. so here we have mr. william shakespeare, his true chronicle history of the life and death of king lear and his three daughters. in the first folio, this may is not described as a history are,
but as a tragedy. so if you're creating an edition of this play, you have to decide for yourself what to call it, because there are two conflicting versions of what this play is. if you're doing an edition of hamlet, you've got several cordo editions and then the folio. and in one of those cordo editions, to be or not to be speech reads to be or not to be, aye, that's the point. it's so different from the one that we recognize. and that's because there were different ways of capturing the performance and, you know, perhaps that version is from a series of scribes who were "strange inheritance" -- transcribing it in the audience in realtime. scholars are really interested in that, and they should be, because ultimately you want to create different editions of this may because people want to use it. we've created the folger
collection using this edition. and almost 90% of american high school students are reading a shakespeare play. but what we found was that we could also share these plays online. so we put them into digital form, and they are now freely available, all of the plays and all of the poems from the folger edition, which means we've put a copy of the complete works of shakespeare in every person's backpack all around the world. >> host: what's your favorite play? >> guest: i have two favorite plays. my first favorite play is twelfth night was i think -- because i think it is a beautifully built play. each little bit work, it's like clockwork. i love the main character, vie owe la, who is -- psi owe la who's a great improviser, and that's what gets her through the tough spots. so i think that's a great virtue. i like her. i love the winter's tale.
that's a play that was written late in shakespeare's career, and i think it is a really beautiful play that is really meant for adults, although it sometimes feels like a fairy tale. and it tells the story of why people should continue to have hope for love and reconciliation and forgiveness even if experience tells them it's probably not going to happen. >> host: michael witmore, to be or not to be, that is the question. what does that mean? [laughter] where was he going with that in. >> guest: i actually struggled with that, because i had to write a panel for our traveling exhibition. i think what hamlet is saying there is i wake up every day, and every day i have to ask myself why do i keep going. and that's a question that deserves some careful attention. and i think any person who has made it to this point in their lives where they can ask big questions has to at some point say what is it tt makes me get up?
and what are the -- why is it that i would keep going when i very easily could become a person who doesn't exist anymore? now, maybe that speech is about suicide, maybe it's just a kind of a thought experiment that he's doing. i tend to think it's a thought experiment. but he's really talking himself into keeping going with life. and it's really interesting, because you're hearing a very smart person talk himself through that decision. and it's almost as if you're able to overhear the process that he goes through to make that decision. >> host: what else do you want to show us here from the archives? >> guest: so this is, this is another version of the folio. it's the second folio that was printed in 1632, but this is an edition that was, that was censored by a jesuit who went through and said these passages are fine, but these are somewhat
challenging. and so the -- >> host: this is his writing? >> guest: this is his writing right here. the society of jesus. >> host: we're okay -- [inaudible] >> guest: as long as we don't do it for a long time, we're fine. >> host: great. >> guest: and if i have the right page highlighted here, i'm going to the take off the snakes that are holding this page opening, and now i'm going to carefully open the book to another page opening. and you see that these foam cradles are here. that's to make sure that we don't stress the binding. that's where a book would break. >> host: right. >> guest: and if you come here and look at these passages, these have been expunged by the censor. and this is the end of a play called the life of king henry viii. this is a set of speeches -- or the passages here are are praise of the new princess, elizabeth, who will become queen elizabeth. and queen elizabeth, if you're catholic, is a controversial
figure because of how she sides in the post-reformation fall ott ott -- fallout. so that's something the jesuit censors said we don't need that. but you notice that the rest of it, so much of the play is perfectly fine. so that shows us someone who says this is a marvelous document and a marvelous play, i just can't handle or i can't sanction this particular bit. >> host: moving on -- >> guest: and people have been censoring shakespeare for a long time. >> host: is he, is he lewd? does he play blue? >> guest: oh, he plays blue and purple. [laughter] i think shakespeare has laid out some of the most challenging pictures of what humanity is capable of; what our loves are, what our desires are. good or bad, it's out there. and that's what makes him a challenging writer. if you read a play like king lear and you want to wake up the next day and eat your wheaties and be an optimist, i don't
think you can. i think that play shows humanity at its worst, and it really raises basic questions about is there a god, is there a force for good in the world? shakespeare looked that one right in the eye, and the answer is maybe not. so it's not the answers that you get from these plays that make them powerful. it's the big question. why do people love, lead or follow one another? why do they get up in the morning? why is it that the things they think they want are really not things that they want? and why are people so successful sometimes in leading others to a place where everybody needs to go? be why are people so self-defeating? for example, in love. i mean, so many of shakespeare's plays are about the ways in which people set out to fall in love with someone or to create this happy marriage-union, and the path is rocky because people seem to do the same thing over and over again that puts their
beloved object out of reach. and shakespeare got that. it's a fascinating thing about human beings, and he didn't hold back. he wrote about it. he wrote about all kinds of people too. so you've gotter whos and pros -- got whores and prostitutes, you've got fairy spirits, you've got people who turn into donkeys, you get a hot. [laughter] so i want to show you this book. our collection, peter, covers much more than shakespeare. it's really a collection of the entire english renaissance, and it extends through the european renaissance. so we really cover the introduction of print in the 1470s through about the 1730s which is the full emergence of the atlantic world which includes the part of the world we're standing in now. this is a copy of cicero which is a schoolboys' book, but this copy happened to belong to henry viii. and henry viii -- >> host: king henry viii?
>> guest: king henry viii -- >> host: off with their heads. >> guest: you know, this copy of cicero is one that henry annotated, and he says here in his early-modern spelling this book is mine, prince henry. just is so you know. >> host: who can access this besides you, a c-span camera crew, actually see this -- >> guest: well, you can see this online by visiting our web site. but if you're a reader here, you can learn so much by looking at a digital scan, but upstairs you're going to find people who have handled a hundred books or five hundred early-modern books. and being able to look at the paper and the ink and how to it's annotated gives them all this extra information. you know, it's like if you were
to do a job interview face to face versus on the telephone, you would prefer face to face because there's so much more information there. and it's exactly the same way with historical materials. the more you've worked with them, the more you get a sense from the feel and the touch in just how things are put together. so we'll move around a little bit more. i want to show you a couple more things. let's jump here. this is a copy, it's called the bishop's bible. this is queen elizabeth i's bible. >> host: this is her bible. >> guest: this is her bible. this was given to her by matthew parker. and it was probably used in her chapel. so the readings during those celebrations in her chapel would have come from this book. and you can see it has the beautiful red velvet cover. this is clearly a very expensive book. it has the tudor roses here x it has her -- and it has her identifying mark here, elizabeth regina, saying that she's the queen.
you can also see on this side, if the cameras can come in, this has actually been textured on the fore edge of the book. so even the side has had a set of patterns carved into it. when i think about this book, peter, this is the equivalent of a cathedral. in the sense that it's tremendously complicated. the amount of learning and craft that you have to develop as a community to get to the point where you can create a book like this is just tremendous. and that's why it's created in this way, because it's given to elizabeth, and it's a monument. it's one of those -- it's not made out of stone, but it's fabulously complicated object. and you have to learn how to set type. you have to learn how to handle classical languages, because the sources for these are greek and latin. and all of that learning goes into creating this beautiful object. >> host: well, michael witmore,
when you see this beautiful -- >> guest: yes. >> host: -- i want to say print or maybe, you tell me what it is -- >> guest: sure. >> host: the colors are still so vivid 400 years later. >> guest: this is a wonderful example of hand-colored or hand-tinted early-modern print. so this is an atlas, the lasting title here -- latin title here, the theater of the world or the globe, and you've got this figures representing africa here, another figure here. you've got some pretty grisly stuff down here. and then you've got probably something like the goddess wisdom on the top or a monoaverage who's got the -- monarch who's got the accept to have. actually, that's probably a monarch here. what's done here is that they made a beautiful printing using a copperplate that's been etched. so it's a high quality print. and then someone has hand-colored the page itself.
and this edition is wonderful because the hand coloring extends to every, every plate in the edition. so i just would show you this one. this is a, this is europe. and, you know, some of this is known well and some of it's not known well. but you can see the cathedrals, the national borders at the time this was created. you've got the three kingdoms here, edge land, ireland -- england, ireland and scotland. and there's wales here in the west. >> host: pretty accurate map. >> guest: this is pretty accurate. and, of course, the way in which the atlantic world takes shape is through exploration and mapping. and so our collection holds a large quantity of items about that exploration moment which includes the moment when elizabethans and jacobeans come
to the new world. that is shakespeare's world planting itself in north america. and that's a complicated history. it's part of the history of this country, it's also part of what was good and bad about colonialism. >> host: was william shakespeare aware of the new world? >> guest: yes, he was. when he wrote the tempest, he clearly, pretty clearly read a pamphlet which was about a ship wreck in bermuda. but he makes reference to stories about the new world that were coming back. and so he never visited it. he probably didn't have great information about it. but when he uses a phrase like "brave new world," he's saying that there's this place that we haven't explored and that is of overturning our expectations about what human beings are like and what nature is like. that's something that is just kind of fighter his imagination. >> host: how about -- firing his imagination. >> host: how about one more -- >> guest: sure. >> host: -- from the archives
here, and then i want to go up to the theater. >> guest: so this is a copy of the shooting script for henry v. this was lawrence olivier's film, 1945. this gives us olivier's notes to how he wanted, how he wanted this shot. and it's interesting because the film, maybe you've seen it, is created during the second world war. here's this famous frame from one of the battle scenes. this was viewed as a piece of propaganda during the second world war because it is so stirring, and so much of this play is quoted many support of the idea that england -- in support of the idea that england is going to be triumphant. but that's part of the history that we hold too with the library of shakespeare. so any expression of shakespeare's work, whatever the language, is something we're interested in collecting.
that means we even have a kling-on translation of hamlet. hamlet has been translated into a lot of different languagings. that has also been added to our collection. perhaps my favorite item, this is perhaps my favorite item in the collection. this is a modest copy of shakespeare's poems from the 19th century. you can see that it's portable. you could keep this in your pocket. what's important about this copy though is that it's the copy that walt whitman kept in his pocket. and this particular book, which was inexpensive when it was purchased, i think represents the direct connection between the renaissance lyric tradition and the kind of poetry that whitman and others were creating as an american id idiom in the 19th century. so this is really one of those
reasons why the two cultures are connecting, and it's an important reason why this collection is here in washington. >> host: we very much appreciate your sharing this with us. and our viewers, let's go up to the theater. >> guest: shall we go up to the theater? >> host: let's go ahead. >> guest: great. >> host: michael witmore, is this in any way a public ?iewtion so what is your budget? employees? how are you funded? >> guest: we are a public institution. and, in fact, the congressional record -- i'll tell you a story about our kind of birth certificate. when mr. and mrs. folger wanted to create this library, they had bought the property for this parcel which is across from the future supreme court and next to the jefferson building. he learned in "the new york times" that the congress was about to take over this whole block for the purposes of another building for the library of congress. and he wrote to the librarian and said i have a collection of shakespeare materials that you could not afford to create.
it is the best in the world, and it is my intention to make a gift to the american people of this collection. and so the librarian went to the congress and said we need to exempt that part of the parcel so that the folgers can build this library. and in the congressional record, it says that the folgers have created an institution that is dedicated to the public. and it also says that they're doing the work that even the library of congress at point it's just in the depression, that they can't do. so we were born as an institution that serves the nation, but what's interesting about us is that we don't have federal funding. mr. and mrs. folger created an endowment for us managed by 'em amherst college. but because we're not a college or university, we can't charge tuition. and because we're not a federal institution, we don't get federal funds unless it's a grant. so that means we have to be self-sustaining.
and about half of our $19 million operating budget comes from the endowment, a little more. and then we raise or earn the rest of that budget. so philanthropy, continuing philanthropy is really important, and it gives us the ability to really be the public institution that we were created to be. we've got about 120 full-time employees. our building was probably created for a quarter of that. so we really do have space needs, and one of our challenges is how to keep this growing collection here and just share it with the public. >> host: and you've been watching a recent tour that booktv took of the folger library near washington d.c. now, today marks the 400th anniversary of the death of william shakespeare. and starting in just a minute, the folger library hosts a program called "the wonder of will." and it's filled with performances and remarks from actors, community leaders, politicians, artists and scholars. this will be live on booktv.
and following that program, it's your opportunity to ask questions or make comments about william shakespeare. we'll be joined by shakespeare scholar ellen mckay and folger library director michael witmore. and now, live coverage from the folger shakespeare library. ♪ ♪ >> hello, and welcome to the wonder of will live. i'm michael witmore, director of the folger shakespeare library, and today you are joining us on a very special day. we're broadcasting here from the historic pastor reading room where for the past 80 years scholars from around the globe have come to use the largest shakespeare collection in the world. ..