Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Millionaire and The Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio


Today's post is on The Millionaire and The Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio by Andrea Mays. It is 350 pages long including notes and is published by Simon & Schuster. The cover is blue with the title partiality covering a picture of Shakespeare. The intended reader is someone likes history and Shakespeare. There is no sex, no language, and no violence in this book. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the dust jacket- Today it is the most valuable book in the world. Recently one sold for over five million dollars. It is the book that rescued the name of William Shakespeare and half of his plays from oblivion. The Millionaire and the Bard tells the miraculous and romantic story of the making of the First Folio, and of the American industrialist whose thrilling pursuit of the book became a lifelong obsession.
When Shakespeare died in 1616 half of his plays died with him. No one—not even their author—believed that his writings would last, that he was a genius, or that future generations would celebrate him as the greatest author in the history of the English language. By the time of his death his plays were rarely performed, eighteen of them had never been published, and the rest existed only in bastardized forms that did not stay true to his original language.
Seven years later, in 1623, Shakespeare’s business partners, companions, and fellow actors, John Heminges and Henry Condell, gathered copies of the plays and manuscripts, edited and published thirty-six of them. This massive book, the First Folio, was intended as a memorial to their deceased friend. They could not have known that it would become one of the most important books ever published in the English language, nor that it would become a fetish object for collectors.
The Millionaire and the Bard
is a literary detective story, the tale of two mysterious men—a brilliant author and his obsessive collector—separated by space and time. It is a tale of two cities—Elizabethan and Jacobean London and Gilded Age New York. It is a chronicle of two worlds—of art and commerce—that unfolded an ocean and three centuries apart. And it is the thrilling tale of the luminous book that saved the name of William Shakespeare “to the last syllable of recorded time.” 

Review- At times a very interesting account of Shakespeare and one man obsession and at times very dry. Over all I liked this book. It was interesting to read about the rare book world. I, like many others, love Shakespeare and am very glad that he was not lost to time and back luck. Henry Folger was an interesting man with an interesting obsession. But at time Mays gets too into some of the minutiae of the deals or the books themselves. In the middle there a lot of lists about the books themselves and it did make my eyes cross. Fortunately that does not happen much. The writing is good, the research was solid, and the notes added to the overall narrative. I want to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library so much now.

I give this book a Four out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I borrowed this book from my local library.