Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* NPR contributor Collins applies the template for the roving-reporter radio feature as he trails the world's most precious publication historically and geographically in one of the most enjoyable examples of a most enjoyable genre, which might be dubbed the book biography. He opens in a Sotheby's auction room on July 13, 2006, when one of the 40 known complete copies of the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays was sold for 55 times its weight in gold. And on the page, at least, he almost immediately leaves to tell the story of how Shakespeare's two surviving theater-owning partners brought all his plays they could corral to print as very few other writings and only one playwright's, those of Ben Jonson, who oversaw the job himself had been before; that is, at the largest regular size of volume, called folio. Collins returns to Sotheby's for the sale in reasonably short order, and then he's off through centuries and around the world, telling the stories of individual Shakespeare first folios, their owners, their uses, and their travels. It's a supremely enlightening journey that Collins' convivial, animated, knowledgeable manner (like historian Michael Wood's in the In Search of . . . TV documentaries) makes thoroughly gratifying.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2009 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Undoubtedly, the Bard himself would be amused to learn all about the fate of the book compiled after his death by fellow actors and colleagues John Heminge and Henry Condell. It was, a collector said recently, "the most important secular work of all time." Collins (Sixpence House), an English professor and NPR regular, is passionate, knowledgeable and sassy in bringing this story to glorious life. Collins divides his work into five acts, leading his reader on a whirlwind trip through the Four Folios eventually printed, into feuds between Alexander Pope and Lewis Theobald and to the opportunistic reach of a financially desperate Dr. Johnson. Over the next 200 years, there are the stories of Henry Clay Folger as well as an ingenious collating machine and related technologies for today's textual scholars. Collins's remarkable voyage through time and across the globe leads to Japan, where the most obsessive collectors of "Sheikusupia" reside. This is for anyone with an interest in how Shakespeare has come down to us, the nature of the book business, the art of editing and the evolution of copyright law. A 20-page "Further Readings" section is by itself a sheer delight. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
Collins (Banvard's Folly; Not Even Wrong) has done it again. This history-spanning the globe and 400 years in the life and fortunes of one of the most famous books in the English language-is not the dry province of historians, bibliophiles, and antiquarians. Collins relates the series of near-disasters of the folios' inception (lack of intact manuscripts left by the Bard; Heminge and Condell's blind printer) and continued existence (folios stolen, burned, lost at sea, left to molder in ruined estates, ripped apart and used to wrap fish), which gives readers a renewed appreciation for the rarity and value of the folio. Verdict There are other authoritative works on Shakespeare's folios, including W.W. Greg's The Shakespeare First Folio and Edwin Eliott Willoughby's The Printing of the First Folio of Shakespeare, but Collins's is a welcome addition to this group. Witty, detailed, and highly entertaining, it will be appreciated by fans of Shakespeare, history, or human folly.-Felicity D. Walsh, Emory Univ., Decatur, GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
The intricate, improbable story of how the first collection of Shakespeare's plays (1623) became the holiesti.e., most expensiveof grails in Biblioland. Collins (English/Portland State Univ.) comes well equipped for his peripatetic task. Having written about bibliomania (Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books, 2003) and an iconic historical figure (The Trouble with Tom: The Strange Afterlife and Times of Thomas Paine, 2005), the author also possesses a lively curiosity and, to the enlightenment of readers of this galloping, globetrotting romp, an impressive travel allowance. As the Folio publishers divided the Bard's plays into five acts, so too does Collins arrange his tale. Act One opens in a contemporary London auction rooma Folio sold for 2.5 millionbut Collins soon returns to the 1620s to watch the surviving Globe colleagues of the recently deceased Shakespeare arrange with printer William Jaggard to print the 36 plays they have assembled18 of which, Collins reminds us, didn't exist anywhere else. No Folio would mean no Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, The Tempest or other gems. Collins then follows these First Folios through the centuries, pausing occasionally to educate us about the manufacture of paper, the difference between a folio and a quarto and the reputation of playwrights in general, Shakespeare in particular. Only obliquely does Collins address the "authorship question," noting slyly that a Japanese scholar was the first to notice that all the flowers mentioned in the plays grow in the vicinity of Stratford-upon-Avon. The author also looks at the editions of the Bard's plays that appeared after 1623there were subsequent folios and editions by Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnsonand sheds some light on Bard-saving heroes unknown to lay readersnotably Lewis Theobald, who was so alarmed at the errors in Pope's edition that he prepared his own. To see the best copies of the Folios, Collins interviewed experts and traveled from the vault of the Folger Shakespeare Library to a Japanese academic library. Exemplary scholar-adventurer writing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.