Bodleian takes a byte at the Bard

Bodleian takes a byte at the Bard

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Plans by Oxford University’s Bodleian Library to make Shakespeare’s first folio available on the internet would surely have had the approval of the scholarly Humphrey Lancaster, first Duke of Gloucester.

On his controversial death in 1447 Humphrey bequeathed his fine collection of books and manuscripts to Oxford University where they helped form the nucleus of the library later named after benefactor Sir Thomas Bodley.

The Bodleian Library plans to raise £20,000 to fund the first folio internet project. If successful, it’s hoped that 1,000 pages will be available on line by the end of this year.

Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Humphrey Duke of Gloucester made a dangerous enemy of Cardinal Henry Beaufort and fell out disastrously with Margaret of Anjou, the domineering and manipulative wife of his nephew King Henry VI. Humphrey died suddenly in prison at Bury, following his arrest on the orders of the High Constable of England who was in league with Margaret’s champion the Duke of Buckingham.

Shakespeare, in Henry VI part II, makes it clear that Humphrey was murdered, although a stroke or heart-attack are plausible explanations. But without the first folio, compiled by John Heminges (also spelled Hemmings) and Henry Condell, this play and over a dozen others by the Bard may have been lost forever.

Join one of Footprints of London’s three Shakespeare walks to hear lots more about the London life of the Bard. Act II on Bankside includes (services permitting) a short tour of Southwark Cathedral where Cardinal Beaufort’s coat of arms and stone carved image in the Great Screen can be found.

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