Trinity College Dublin's copy of Shakespeare's First Folio is currently on display in the Old Library as part of a new exhibition.

Ireland’s only copy of Shakespeare's first edition of collected plays has also been digitized and is now available to the public online.

The highly-regarded volume is the centerpiece of a new exhibition in the Library of Trinity College Dublin entitled “Shakespeare the Irishman” marking 400 years since the Bard’s complete works were first published.

The exhibitions were launched in the Old Library on Thursday, April 13 by author Anne Enright. An online version of the exhibition is available on Google Arts & Culture.

For all our researchers, remember Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio’ is now digitised and is available online on the Digital Collections platform @TCDtheBook @TLRHub @TCD_AHSS#VirtualTrinityLibrary

— The Library of Trinity College Dublin (@tcdlibrary) April 14, 2023

Andy Murphy, Professor of English and curator of the exhibition, said: “This exhibition tells the story of Trinity’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the jewels in the crown of the Library’s collection.

"While in good condition, it’s clear that it was a much beloved and read volume. Evidence of burn marks, drink stains, paw prints, and mysterious symbols, which have yet to be deciphered, tell us that this is a book that has been used and abused, but always cherished."

As part of Trinity's contribution to Folio400 here is the link to our short online exhibition. It includes a beautiful translation into Irish of Caliban's 'The isle is full of noises' by the wonderful Irish poet Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin.

— Andy Murphy (@Murphx) April 15, 2023

The first collected edition of William Shakespeare's plays was published in 1623, seven years after his death. Surviving copies of the First Folio are among the most highly-sought after books in the world. 

Trinity’s First Folio once belonged to the late lawyer and academic Arthur Browne. Trinity acquired the volume at the auction of Browne's books after his death in 1805, purchasing it for £26 11s 6d.

Prof. Murphy added: “In Ireland, Shakespeare's plays have always been deeply intertwined with politics.

"The exhibition explores how his plays were adopted and adapted in Ireland ­focusing on his centrality to 18th-century ascendancy colonial culture; his influence on 19th-century Irish nationalists such as Wolfe Tone, James Connolly, and Patrick Pearse, and the translation of some of his work into the Irish language in the 20th century.”

Upon the launch of the exhibition, Helen Shenton, Librarian & College Archivist, said: “This exhibition is part of the global celebrations of 'the book that gave us Shakespeare' – without the publication of the First Folio we would have lost half of Shakespeare's plays.

"It's important to Trinity and Ireland because we have the only copy of the First Folio on the island." 

As part of global Folio400 celebrations, Trinity's copy of the First Folio has been digitized in its entirety and is now freely available to the public online via the Virtual Trinity Library

"It is the highlight of the extensive Shakespearean material in our Library collections. It’s fantastic that it can be seen in the exhibition here in the Old Library and in its digitized form through the Virtual Trinity Library," added Shenton.

The exhibition marks the launch of the Trinity Centre for the Book, a new research center hosted in Trinity Long Room Hub, in collaboration with the Library, which will coordinate and share research on the rich cultural and social importance of books of all types. 

Mark Faulkner, Ussher Assistant Professor in Medieval Literature and Director of the Trinity Centre for the Book, said: “As this exhibition demonstrates, Trinity’s Library has an outstanding collection of Shakespearean material; and this excellence is mirrored in its holdings of medieval manuscripts, early printed books and the archives of authors, politicians, thinkers and many others.

"The new Trinity Centre for the Book will harness these outstanding collections and the university’s significant concentration of experts across its three faculties and the Library to further our understanding of one of society’s most important technologies – the book.”

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