Fun at the Folger, part 3: Hidden Gems

Last week I gave you an introduction to the Folger Library and a sneak peek at what's inside the Folger vaults. Today we wrap up my tour of the vaults.

Besides the shiny King Lear quarto and the obligatory First Folio and the Queen Elizabeth Bible, my noble guides Abbie and Alan had selected a number of other items from the collection that they thought would be of interest to me. This included a transcription of Shakespeare long-lost and totally-not-forged play King Vortigernseveral comic book adaptations of Shakespeare, and...

Flipping through comic book adaptations of Macbeth and Twelfth Night. I am part of a noble tradition.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Flipping through comic book adaptations of Macbeth and Twelfth Night. I am part of a noble tradition.  (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Shakespeare rubber ducky. This is how cool the Folger is: this ducky is part of their collection. It's in the vaults. It has a call number. It's in the original packaging.

Shakespeare rubber ducky. This is how cool the Folger is: this ducky is part of their collectionIt's in the vaults. It has a call number. It's in the original packaging.

The Shakespeare ducky is probably as good a symbol as any for one of the things I loved most about the Folger Shakespeare Library. Yes, they have unparalleled collections and resources and knowledge and scholarship in the field of Shakespearean studies. They also appear to have a sense of humor, or, at the very least, an appreciation for the lighter side of Shakespeareana, and are happy to add an anime adaptation of Twelfth Night and a rubber ducky with questionable facial hair to the same collection that houses the most First Folios in the world. Pop culture Shakespeare is not shunned here - it is embraced, and that makes me so very happy.

Anyways... let's get back to the tour. After working our way through the table of wonders, Abbie and Alan led me back into the stacks, so I could see some volumes in their natural habitat. This, unsurprisingly, led to several more magical encounters.

My intrepid guides, posing with me and a Shakespeare rubber ducky. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

My intrepid guides, posing with me and a Shakespeare rubber ducky. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

You see, there are 234 surviving copies of First Folios on this earth. Each one is unique and magical and sparkly ponies and all that. BUT there is only ONE surviving first quarto of Titus Andronicus in the whole world, and IT WAS JUST SITTING THERE ON THE SHELF IN FRONT OF ME. I kind of lost control.

All the quartos, just hanging out on a shelf together, like NO BIG DEAL. Surviving quartos are, by and large, even rarer than Folios - the disposable paperbacks of their day.

All the quartos, just hanging out on a shelf together, like NO BIG DEAL. Surviving quartos are, by and large, even rarer than Folios - the disposable paperbacks of their day.

In case you've ever wondered what I look like when I realize that I'm staring at the only first quarto of Titus Andronicus in existence... I look like this. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

In case you've ever wondered what I look like when I realize that I'm staring at the only first quarto of Titus Andronicus in existence... I look like this. (Photo by Kate Pitt.)

Of course, the Folger has a lot of stuff that is unique. I'm kicking myself now about not asking about the False Folio or some of Shakespeare's legal documents or other gems of the Folger collection, but there was a lot to process at the time and I was really busy bouncing up and down in excitement. Speaking of which...

Again, I must note that Abbie and Alan were, in fact, very supportive of me making "EEEEEEE" noises. 

Alan, just casually browsing the shelves of Folios. I know several of them are out on tour, but that's STILL A LOT OF FOLIOS.

Alan, just casually browsing the shelves of Folios. I know several of them are out on tour, but that's STILL A LOT OF FOLIOS.

Selfie with Folios. 

Selfie with Folios. 

That wraps up my tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library vaults! Many thanks, again and always, to Alan and Abbie for being such fantastic, enthusiastic, and good-humored guides. Thanks also to the other assorted Folger staff members that I met on my tour, who all made me feel incredibly welcome. And thanks especially to Kate Pitt, for arranging all the details of this fantastic day for me.

Possibly the only time I thought about the benefits of a selfie stick. Hard to fit all this education awesomeness into a single frame.

Possibly the only time I thought about the benefits of a selfie stick. Hard to fit all this education awesomeness into a single frame.

Also, I wasn't able to make a comic of this, because sitting around a table having an excellent discussion about Shakespeare education in schools is hard to turn into a comic, but extra-special thanks to the Folger Education Department for meeting up with me and giving me a lot of exciting things to think about. 

Tune in Thursday for a re-cap of my talk at the Folger Theatre!