In Spring of 2016, parties from across Texas will come together to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare with an ambitious schedule of free events.
A copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623 will be the centerpiece for the events. The Folio will be on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, as part of the First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare traveling exhibition, which has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the Human Endeavor, and by the generous support of Google.org,Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, and other generous donors. These organizations have selected one institution in each state, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico to host this landmark of English literature and book production.
Texas A&M University, the winning representative for the state of Texas, will display the volume and its accompanying exhibition in the J. Wayne Stark Galleries at the Memorial Student Center. Other exhibitions and events will be held at Cushing Memorial Library & Archives, the Liberal Arts and Arts & Humanities building, and throughout the community.
The First Folio of Shakespeare, published in 1623, is one of the most famous books in the world— and for good reason. Published seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio was the first collected edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare’s fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell put together the text of the First Folio.
Folios are large books, created by folding printed sheets in half to create two double-sided leaves, or four pages per sheet. They were usually reserved for important matters—Bibles, history, and science—a category that typically did not include plays. In 1616, Shakespeare’s friendly rival Ben Jonson published a folio of his own writings, including plays and poems. The 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare is the earliest folio made up only of plays.
When Shakespeare died in 1616, only about half of his plays had been published. Most of them were in small, one-play editions called quartos. Another 18 are known today only because they were included in the First Folio; without it, they would have been lost. Among them are Macbeth, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, and The Tempest.
The First Folio also includes a title-page portrait of Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout. This engraving is one of only two likenesses of Shakespeare that are considered authentic, because it was approved by those who knew him. The other is the bust from his memorial in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.