The Bard and the Book: How the First Folio Saved the Plays of William Shakespeare from Oblivion

Cover of the Bard and the Book
The Bard and the Book by Ann Bausum

By Ann Bausum
Illustrated by Marta Sevilla
Peachtree, 2024
103 pages

Age 12 and older

“Act I: William Shakespeare Becomes Brilliant, Then Dies.” A captivating account details how the works of Williams Shakespeare were saved from obscurity thanks to the First Folio, printed seven years after his death. The creation of this first compilation of Shakespeare’s plays was far from an easy feat, this history makes clear. The idea of printing a play as a literary work was relatively new. Quarto editions of some of the Bard’s plays existed (not all of them reliable), but the effort of compiling whole plays, let alone his body of work, was enormous. The spirited narrative touches briefly on the life and work of Shakespeare, and practices in Elizabethan theater that clarify why there weren’t handwritten editions of each play to draw upon, before describing efforts that likely went into creating the First Folio. This includes a detailed account of the printing process, which explains why there are differences among various printings (referenced in the playful title to Act III: “Romeo and Juliet Tussle with Their First Teen Reader”). The author’s fascination with her subject shines in a work that illuminates much that is known and how we know it, but also how much is still unknown about Shakespeare and the First Folio, 235 copies of which are known to have survived the centuries. (Others may still be undiscovered!) Appealing design elements include large font, diagrams, photographs of artifacts, and whimsical spot art. A marvelous author’s note, source notes, and more follow the closing curtain. ©2024 Cooperative Children’s Book Center