With strong holdings in the works of William Shakespeare, Special Collections and University Archives at UNCG’s University Libraries has mounted an exhibit that exclusively focused on the Bard. The exhibit, “That in Black Ink My Love May Still Shine Bright:” Selections from Five Centuries of Printed Works of William Shakespeare, seeks to illustrate Shakespeare’s impact on the history of western print culture. Additionally, the exhibit reveals the Library’s own active collecting of Shakespeare since the university’s founding.
To best view the exhibit, it is recommended that visitors begin with the two horizontal glass exhibit cases to the left as you enter the Hodges Reading Room. Moving in a clock-wise direction, visitors will view printed works in five horizontal exhibits cases and then end the tour by examining the contents of two large vertical cases that stand on either side of the Reading Room’s main entrance.
The first two exhibits cases contain works that provide the visitor with a glimpse of the print revolution that was sweeping Early Modern England. With rising literacy rates and a flourishing book trade, Shakespeare’s plays and poetry were purchased and read in large numbers. On display is a wonderful facsimile of a 1609 quarto of his sonnets and a complete 1623 First Folio, both found in Special Collections and University Archives. In the accompanying vertical case, there are two of the earliest print editions found in the exhibit. The case contains a 1632 copy of Richard the Third and a beautiful and complete 1685 Fourth Folio.
The display in the next two exhibit cases is intended to transport the visitor to the 19th and 20th centuries and reveal Shakespeare’s revered place within the English speaking world. The 1850 edition of the complete works of Shakespeare is a scholarly edition that contains an essay on his genius. These editions were intended to be used for educational pursuits. In the adjoining exhibit, the visitor will view examples of Shakespeare’s works produced by high-end publishing houses such as: Kelmscott Press, Doves Press, and Cranach Press. These works were collected for both their intricate design and content.
The works found in the final two vertical cases are wonderful examples of how book artists and custom binders of the late 20th century continue to turn to Shakespeare for inspiration. The works of Ronald King and Circle Press are found in the first case. Please note the provocative custom binding design of Antony & Cleopatra by Monique Lallier. In the last case, the visitor has the opportunity to view the breathtaking woodcuts by Leonard Baskin (Gehenna Press) and Claire Van Vliet (Theodore Press).