Armstrong Browning Library features Shakespeare exhibit

The Shakespeare anniversary exhibit will be on display at Armstrong Browning Library until Dec. 22. Photo credit: Timothy Hong

By Kayla Farr | Reporter

In honor of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the Armstrong Browning Library is holding an exhibit featuring some of the great writer’s works. The exhibit opened in August and continues until Dec. 22.

There are many early editions of Shakespeare’s work, according to Jennifer Borderud, interim director of Armstrong Browning Library and assistant librarian.

“Lots of libraries around the world are doing Shakespeare exhibits this year kind of in recognition of that anniversary,” Borderud said. “The Armstrong Browning Library has a small collection, which is a little unusual for us because our collection usually focuses on the 19th century, and Shakespeare lived in the late 1500s or early 1600s. It is a little out of the scope of our collection.”

Weatherford junior Hannah Schwartz curated the exhibit during her internship at the library.

“My task was to design an exhibit to showcase the library’s collection of 18th century editions of Shakespeare’s collected works, which are part of the Stokes Shakespeare collection,” Schwartz said. “After doing some research on the books in the collection, I decided it would be most interesting to tell the stories of the different editors who had produced the series of editions and to explore the impact that their editorial work had on Shakespeare’s works.”

The collection was given to the library’s founder, Dr. A.J. Armstrong, from a former student named William N. Strokes Jr., according to the library’s website.

“[He] was interested in book collecting, probably inspired by Dr. Armstrong, and he was really interested in Shakespeare,” Borderud said. “He collected rare editions of Shakespeare’s work – primarily 18th century editions – and he gave those to the Armstrong Browning Library. That’s what we have displayed here.”

Some people, like Tom Davis and his wife, who are from Fort Worth, traveled to Waco specifically for the exhibit.

“If you are into the historiography of Shakespeare’s exhibits, it is very cool,” Davis said. “It is rare to see that many [pieces] combined together. My wife heard about it. She is a big fan of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, and we looked on the web and saw it so we thought, ‘Let’s go check it out.’”

Schwartz said her favorite piece was the first volume of the 1788 Bell Edition.

“The books in John Bell’s edition are tiny and illustrated, so they were neat to look through,” Schwartz said. “The first volume is my favorite because it has portraits of several of the editors who preceded Bell. It was a fun surprise to open the book and find engravings of the men I’d spent so much time researching.”

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s works that were published after his death, according to Armstrong Browning Library’s website.

“[The pieces in this exhibit] represent a significant period in Shakespearean scholarship,” Borderud said. “There were these 18th century editors that came by later who were looking at his printings, and they wanted to correct the errors they saw in them, so errors that the earlier compilers or editors would’ve made. They were trying to get back to what Shakespeare was really trying to say. They wanted a version of Shakespeare’s works how he intended them to be.”

Davis said he and his wife adored the exhibit.

“I think I enjoyed seeing the collections,” Davis said. “The Boswell edition was fun; he is a character himself and the biographer of Samuel Johnson.”

Borderud said her favorite exhibit piece was published in 1739 by Nicholas Rowe.

“What I think is really neat is that it was the first illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s works,” Borderud said. “The illustration from Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’ is what I think the most interesting illustrations. It really brings you right into the drama immediately.”

There are additional editions of Shakespeare’s work on display in the Hankamer Treasure Room of the library.

“There is an edition that has an illustration of Shakespeare’s house,” Borderud said. “There is also one by Samuel Johnson which contains Shakespeare’s will.”