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Australia’s own Shakespeare now online!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Shakespeare fans can now read Australia’s only original copy of the first publication of the Bard’s plays ‐ known as the First Folio 1623 – fully digitised and available for the first time on the State Library of NSW’s website.

According to NSW State Librarian & Chief Executive Alex Byrne: “We were determined to digitise and bring this literary masterpiece online in time for the world‐wide celebrations of 400 years of inspiration from William Shakespeare on 23 April 2016.”

“Many people are surprised that the State Library holds such a rare global treasure in its renowned collection, and I am always thrilled to say that the Library in fact holds the nation’s only complete set of Shakespeare’s First, Second, Third and Fourth folios – an example of how we record Australia’s cultural roots,” Dr Byrne said.

The First Folio, featuring 36 plays, was donated to the Library in 1885 by two English brothers, Richard and George Tangye, who were said to be “greatly struck by the fine collection of works in the [then] Sydney Free Public Library…” during a recent visit (European Mail, 1885).

Apart from the Bible, the First Folio is considered the most influential book ever published in the English language. While 750 copies are believed to have been printed, only 234 are known to survive today and very few of these are available to access online.

The First Folio was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, by his fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell who wanted commemorate his significant productions.

Shakespeare 400 at the Library features a silent film festival, Shakespeare for shorties storytime, trivia night, free fan day and a sonnet slam. The highlight event will be the launch of a new Shakespeare‐inspired album by Australian singer/storyteller Paul Kelly.

See the full program here: 

Dr Alex Byrne and Maggie Patton are available for interviews.

Download full media release