Skip to Main Content

Thomas Pennant Barton Collection (Rare Books & Manuscripts)

Special Collections Lobby (2023)

In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio, one of the most significant volumes of the Thomas Pennant Barton Collection was on display in the Special Collections lobby during 2023.

The First Folio (officially titled, Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copiesG.174.1 FOLIO) was published in 1623 and contains 36 of Shakespeare's plays. It is the first collected edition of his works and contains multiple plays that were never published during his lifetime, including Macbeth and The Tempest. BPL's copy is one of roughly 230 surviving copies and is "set apart by its virtually unmarred text" (Rasmussen and West, 2012, #150). The book is on display in our exhibit to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the printing of the First Folio and will remain on display until Fall 2023. 

The Special Collections Sampler for April 2023 highlighted other Shakespeare-related materials in our collections, including an 1858 facsimile of an early printing of The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke with an alternate version of Hamlet's soliloquy (G.166.5). 


Shakespeare Unauthorized Exhibit (2016-2017)

To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016, the Boston Public Library developed a months-long citywide initiative called All the City’s a Stage: A Season of Shakespeare at the Boston Public Library. As part of this initiative, the library presented a major gallery exhibit called "Shakespeare Unauthorized" that ran from October 14, 2016 to March 31, 2017 at the Central Library. Visitors had the opportunity to see many rare first and early editions of plays, including The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and all four folios of Shakespeare's works. The exhibit appeared in conjunction with system-wide public programming, including lectures and dramatic performances aimed at connecting patrons with Shakespeare and the theatre. 

For more information about the exhibit and to see related videos, please visit the Associates of the Boston Public Library website.