The theme of this month’s post, which features two questions regarding 19th-century sources, is “We have materials beyond the early modern period!” As our collection development policy states, in addition to seeking primary source material on English and continental civilization in the early modern period, we also collect materials on “English drama in the eighteenth century” and “Shakespeare-related material to the present.” Hmm, perhaps we should add a tag-line—Folger Shakespeare Library: More than the long 16th century.
1. Edinburgh Literary Gazette
This request came from a reference librarian at Cornell University. One of her students was looking for a travel diary, published in the Edinburgh Literary Gazette in 1829–30, that documented a trip from Glasgow to Bombay. Unfortunately, they had neither the title under which this diary was published, nor any specific dates or page numbers. Could we, perhaps, take a look through our copy of the Gazette and see what could be found?
I was a bit concerned when I looked up our Hamnet record for the publication. I could only hope that the bulk of the diary had been published in the second half of 1829, as we only had issues from August 1829 to July 1830.
However, I now at least had the title under which the diary was published, the publication dates, and the page numbers for the first twelve installments.
But what about 1830? According to the limited information that the librarian had, this diary was published “in serial form in the Edinburgh Literary Gazette, 1829, 1830.”
Unfortunately, there was no index for the 1830 issues—which made perfect sense when I stopped to think about it. Our volume contains Vol. 1, no. 12 (Aug. 1, 1829) to v. 2, no. 61 (July 10, 1830), all bound together. Of course the index for 1830 would not be published until all of the issues for the year were out!
However, that did pose a challenge to me: lacking both the 1830 index and the knowledge of how many parts the diary was published in, I was left with the tried and true method of “flip through every issue and see if there is an installment.” (A particularly difficult task when there was no clear publication schedule—the 12 installments in 1829 appeared anywhere between every two and six weeks, presumably according to when there was physically room in the issue.)
Fortunately, the layout of the Gazette was relatively consistent, so I knew approximately where within each issue my story might be found. Ultimately, there turned out to be only two more installments, both published in January of 1830. As I told the librarian, the end of Part XIV didn’t seem particularly ending-like to me, but I was unable to find any more installments in the issues we have. I would be curious to know if the hand-written diary (from which this tale was published) trailed off, as so many diaries do, or if there was a specific decision not to publish any further installments.
By the end of this research excursion, I did find myself with a new appreciation for the serial format of publication. As I was searching for the 1830 installments, I felt some of the anticipation that contemporary readers must have felt each time they picked up a new issue: has my favorite story been continued? What’s going to happen this time? What new adventure will I be taken on today?
2. John G. Murdoch’s The complete works of Shakespeare
This question came via posted letter, from a gentleman who wished to know if we had both the first and second editions of John G. Murdoch’s The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and if so, whether the illustrations were the same in each.
This turned out to be one of those deceptively straightforward questions. While we do, indeed, have both the 1876 edition and the 1877 edition, the answer regarding the illustrations was a resounding no.
Not only do the two editions not have the same illustrations, they don’t have illustrations in the same places. I ended up doing a systematic play-by-play search to try to assess the differences. Here is some of what I found.
Totals for the 1876 edition:
- 38 works total (including the poems as “one” work)
- 17 works with one illustration
- 3 works with two illustrations
- 18 works with no illustrations
Totals for the 1877 edition:
- 38 works total (including the poems as “one” work)
- 19 works with one illustration plus a frontispiece that is not duplicated elsewhere in the book
- Zero works with two illustrations
- 19 works with no illustrations
Between the two editions, Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labor’s Lost, Winter’s Tale, All’s Well That Ends Well, King Lear, Coriolanus, Richard II, 2 Henry IV, 2 and 3 Henry VI, Pericles, and the poems had no illustrations.
The following plays were illustrated in both editions: Tempest, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Julius Caesar, King John, 1 Henry VI, and Richard III. But even among these 13 plays, only Hamlet depicted the same subject matter (both editions show a portrait of Ophelia). In all other cases, the characters and/or scene depicted differs between editions.
The style of illustrations between the two editions is also drastically different. The 1876 edition contains mostly static portraits of characters, and many seem to be based on the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery paintings. In contrast, the 1877 edition has illustrations that depict specific scenes from the plays, and overall are in a much darker, more dramatic, style.
There seems to be a wealth of information here for a comparative analysis of the illustrations in these two editions, and a host of questions: Who did the illustrations in the first edition? Why did Murdoch decide to so drastically change the illustrations within a year? Why and how were these particular illustrations chosen?
There was one last surprise for me waiting in these volumes, in a research excursion full of surprises. As I was paging through the 1876 edition, I started to notice something:
Flowers. Pressed and dried between many of the pages. Nearly forty of them, at various points in the text.
Sadly, they did not seem to correspond to any particular passages in the plays (no rosemary or rue for Ophelia, alas). Still, they are a tangible reminder that someone once owned this book, and that it was an integral, physical part of someone’s life—even if it was only to press wildflowers gathered on a summer’s walk.