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The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilization and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitized collection items and over 40 million pages. 

Terms of use

The British Library has graciously contributed the images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Public Domain Mark.

Copyright status of the manuscript and unpublished Materials: The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (as amended) states that unpublished literary and artistic works remain in copyright in the UK until at least 31 December 2039. Therefore important parts of the library’s collection remain in copyright, including very old manuscripts. However for unpublished material created many centuries ago and in the public domain in most other countries, the Library believes this material to be very unlikely to offend anyone. As an institution whose role it is to support access to knowledge, we have therefore taken the decision to release certain digitised images technically still in copyright in the UK under the Public Domain Mark.

Events at The British Library

Exhibition
Shakespeare in Ten Acts
April 15—September 06, 2016

To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this exhibition will reveal ten performances that have made Shakespeare the cultural icon he is today. It is often said that Shakespeare’s work is universal, but this is to ignore the fact that his plays have been constantly reinvented to suit the times.

Documents contributed by The British Library

ca. 1598
The scholar and writer Gabriel Harvey was known and mocked in his lifetime for making copious notes in the margins of printed books. An inventor of words, friend of Edmund Spenser, and rival of Thomas Nashe, he constantly sought to improve himself through note-taking and repetitive reading.
1598
Richard III was an immediate success in the bookshops of London. Andrew Wise published the first edition in 1597, and copies seem to have sold out very quickly, since he published the play again the next year, in 1598, as shown here.
ca. 1599
William Scott’s The Modell of Poesye, a treatise on poetics, includes the earliest literary criticism of Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name in the manuscript, two of his works are.
1600
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
ca. late 1500s or early 1600s
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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