Forgotten Treasures: The World's First Great Shakespeare Library

Forgotten Treasures: The World's First Great Shakespeare Library


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Sir Kenneth Brannagh
‘This book unlocks the far-too-little-known phenomenon of the Birmingham Shakespeare Library – the first great Shakespeare Library in the world, and one which has always belonged to all the people of the city.  It’s amazing, truly full of forgotten treasures. Everybody should know about it!’ 

Sir Kenneth Branagh

The world’s first great Shakespeare library was founded to international ac- claim in Birmingham in 1864, on the occasion of Shakespeare’s 300th birthday. It was still central enough in 1964 for a delegation from the Soviet Union to bring to Birmingham more than 300 Shakespeare treasures of their own. Thereafter it steadily faded from view. On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016, it was painfully apparent that it had been al- most entirely forgotten.

This book marks the beginning of its rediscovery and the renewal of its reputation as the largest Shakespeare collection in any public library in the world. Beautifully illustrated, it showcases 50 forgotten treasures from a library comprising more than 40,000 books, 17,000 production photographs, 2,000 music scores, hundreds of British and international production posters, 15,000 performance programmes and 10,000 playbills. The collection also boasts a full set of First, Second, Third and Fourth Folios of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as around 70 further rare and early editions. Materials come in more than 90 different languages, including an 1880s complete edition in Braille. There are Shakespeare-related artworks by Dali, Picasso and Kokoschka, as well as costume designs by Jean Cocteau. Also featured are unique Shakespearean scrapbooks, annotated scripts, prompt-books, television and radio adaptations, and newspaper cuttings, in addition to unique material relating to the greatest Shakespeareans from Ellen Terry to Laurence Olivier. 

Forgotten Treasures: The World's First Great Shakespeare Library includes brief, entertaining and insightful commentaries from the cream of leading Shakespeare scholars as well as Birmingham historians and cultural leaders.

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