The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Special Collections and University Archives Celebrates Shakespeare’s Work at ‘Four Folio Fest’

Colgate University

Archivists with Colgate University’s Special Collections and University Archives hosted the Shakespeare “Four Folio Fest” event in the Batza Room at the Case-Geyer Library on Tuesday, Sept. 12. The archivists at the event, which was designed to explore the history and artistry of Shakespeare’s Folios from Colgate’s collection, were joined by Artistic Director Emeritus of the Royal Shakespeare Company Gregory Doran.

Shakespeare’s folios, which contain his original written works and plays, were published throughout the seventeenth century, shortly after his death. At the time of their publication, folios were seen as large and expensive books that displayed a sort of prestige and exclusivity in the literary world.

Coordinator for the Special Collections and University Archives Morgan Elmore spoke about the creation of Shakespeare’s folios. 

“What’s interesting about the folio printings of Shakespeare is that there was a fellow playwright, Ben Johnson, who published his own collective works before he died and was one of the first playwrights to do that,” Elmore Said. “So, when Shakespeare died, his friends decided they needed to collect and memorialize his works so that he would not be forgotten, so the project was launched immediately after his death by those who had worked on his plays.”

Since Shakespeare’s death, his works have been published in four folios in broadly chronological order. While all folios compile Shakespeare’s work, there are some differences between each of the folios. Marisa Modungo ’23, a recent graduate who works in the archives on campus, detailed the characterizations and history behind each folio, including what makes each entry unique.

“The first folio is the original and had the most editorial oversight by those who had worked in the plays and overseen them,” Modungo said. “This folio contains the first iteration of each play, the ones that made it to an early stage performance. The following folios, while containing similar information, use different linguistic tools and words to describe Shakespeare’s plays and writings, which is really interesting. Each folio – all that exist – are unique because they had mistakes within them, as they were written by hand, which truly shows the human process it took to publish this work, as well as the extent that Shakespeare’s work touched others.”

Shakespeare’s folios have retained his writings for nearly 400 years. Today, many of these folios remain intact and in exemplary condition due to preservation tactics. 

University Archivist and Head of Special Collections and Archives Cara Howe has prior knowledge about specific tactics that are used to preserve older works, such as Shakespeare’s folios.

“Preservation-wise, the work that we can do to prevent damage can take many forms,” Howe said. “We interact with the books carefully by placing them in [book cradles] to prevent the spine of the book and pages from breaking; we have clean, washed hands and don’t wear gloves due to the nature of paper to ensure that the pages do not tear. Additionally, the folios live and are stored in special, soft boxes that ensure safety. The most important thing we can do is store the books in climate-controlled environments, which all go a long way towards preserving these books.”

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