Cover image for Shakespeare's library : unlocking the greatest mystery in literature / Stuart Kells.
Title:
Shakespeare's library : unlocking the greatest mystery in literature / Stuart Kells.
ISBN:
9781640091832
Edition:
First Counterpoint hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
Berkeley, California : Counterpoint, 2019.

©2018
Physical Description:
322 pages ; 24 cm
Contents:
William the Conqueror -- The mystery -- The quarry -- The search begins -- The master investigator -- The bibliomaniac -- The league of radical gentlemen -- The mystery deepens -- The Musikbibliothek -- Alias William Jones -- Emperor and grand lama -- The conspiracy -- The country bumpkin -- The inbetweener -- Bibliotheca Mitchelliana -- Bibliotheca Jonsoniana -- Closet games -- All perfect things -- A writer's library.
Abstract:
"Millions of words of scholarship have been expended on the world's most famous author and his work. And yet a critical part of the puzzle, Shakespeare's library, is a mystery. For four centuries people have searched for it: in mansions, palaces and libraries; in riverbeds, sheep pens and partridge coops; and in the corridors of the mind. Yet no trace of the bard's manuscripts, books or letters has ever been found. The search for Shakespeare's library is much more than a treasure hunt. Knowing what the Bard read informs our reading of his work, and it offers insight into the mythos of Shakespeare and the debate around authorship. The library's fate has profound implications for literature, for national and cultural identity, and for the global Shakespeare industry. It bears on fundamental principles of art, identity, history, meaning and truth"-- Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

From acclaimed author and ardent bibliophile Stuart Kells comes an exploration of the quest to find the personal library of the world's greatest writer

Millions of words of scholarship have been expended on the world's most famous author and his work. And yet a critical part of the puzzle, Shakespeare's library, is a mystery. For four centuries people have searched for it: in mansions, palaces and libraries; in riverbeds, sheep pens and partridge coops; and in the corridors of the mind. Yet no trace of the Bard's manuscripts, books or letters has ever been found.

The search for Shakespeare's library is much more than a treasure hunt. Knowing what the Bard read informs our reading of his work, and it offers insight into the mythos of Shakespeare and the debate around authorship. The library's fate has profound implications for literature, for national and cultural identity, and for the global Shakespeare industry. It bears on fundamental principles of art, identity, history, meaning and truth.

Unfolding the search like the mystery story that it is, acclaimed author Stuart Kells follows the trail of the hunters, taking us through different conceptions of the library and of the man himself. Entertaining and enlightening, Shakespeare's Library is a captivating exploration of one of literature's most enduring enigmas.


Author Notes

Stuart Kells is an author based in Australia. He has a PhD from Monash University. He is also an antiquarian books authority and runs Books of Kells which issues fine and rare book catalogues and exhibits at book fairs. His own books include Rare: A life among antiquarian books and Penguin and the Lane Brothers: The Untold Story of a Publishing Revolution. He has a PhD from Monash University.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Historian Kells (The Library) delivers a fascinating examination of a persistent literary mystery: William Shakespeare's library. Through careful research, Kells constructs a narrative around the centuries-long search for this elusive holy grail for scholars, interwoven with anecdotes of the author's roguish escapades and comments on the ongoing debate about the Shakespeare oeuvre's true authorship. Citing records and studies from the 16th century to the modern day, Kells discusses various potential clues uncovered by scholars, such as a 1570 Bible filled with "more than a thousand underlinings and notes," many relevant to Shakespeare plays. In addition, Kells includes his own interpretations of what can be gleaned from Shakespeare's writing, such as the playwright's "close familiarity with the physicality of books and the mechanics of their production." He also relies heavily on the legwork of John Fry, a 19th-century bookseller whose efforts uncovered many primary sources for the plays, such as the manual Practice of the Use of the Rapier and Dagger; and the Honor of Honorable Quarrels (stabbing, Kells notes, is "the principal cause of death" for Shakespearean characters). Shakespeare fans will surely be riveted by the new information brought to light in Kells's rich literary survey. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

William Shakespeare's works draw on hundreds of writers, from the classics to his contemporaries. According to Kells (Penguin and the Lane Brothers, The Library), the Bard's Stratford house, New Place, had a study with books in the 1630s. Yet none of Shakespeare's personal volumes have ever been found, and only three pages of his actual manuscripts. Kells's account of the search for Shakespeare's library leads through many fascinating bypaths of book history. He recounts the forgeries of William-Henry Ireland, who "discovered" new manuscript versions of "Hamblette" and the "Tragedye of Kynge Leare" and even an entirely new play, Vortigern. Kells discusses some of the well-known bibliophiles of the early 19th century, among them John Ker, third Duke of Roxburghe; George John, second Earl Spencer; and more obscure figures, such as the clergyman Francis Wrangham, as well as Shakespeare scholars George Steevens and John Payne Collier (also a forger). While no one has yet found Shakespeare's library, Kells hopes new leads may yet surface. The work takes an unfortunate detour into the Cloud Cuckoo Land of the authorship question, claiming Ben Jonson and John Florio greatly improved Shakespeare's mediocre plays. VERDICT Still, an enjoyable excursion into Shakespearean (and non--Shakespearean) booklore.-Joseph Rosenblum, Univ. of North Carolina, Greensboro © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. 1
Part I The First Searchers
1 William the Conquerorp. 7
2 The Mysteryp. 16
3 The Quarryp. 26
4 The Search Beginsp. 40
5 The Master Investigatorp. 53
6 The Bibliomaniacp. 66
7 The League of Radical Gentlemenp. 83
8 The Mystery Deepensp. 98
Part II The Heretical Searchers
9 The Musikbibliothekp. 115
10 Alias William Jonesp. 128
11 Emperor and Grand Lamap. 145
12 The Conspiracyp. 165
13 The Country Bumpkinp. 184
14 The Inbetweenerp. 203
Part III Visions of Shakespeare's Library
15 Bibliotheca Mitchellianap. 229
16 Bibliotheca Jonsonianap. 240
17 Closet Gamesp. 258
18 All Perfect Thingsp. 270
19 A Writer's Libraryp. 283
Epiloguep. 293
Further readingp. 297
Indexp. 305
Acknowledgmentsp. 321