The Shakespeare Thefts by Eric Rasmussen (Brief Thoughts)

I am not personally attached to any physical volume or edition of literature, but I certainly appreciate a nicely bound book, and the history (or marginalia) of old works can be quite interesting.

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios by Eric Rasmussen (Palgrave Macmillian 2011) is a personal account of Mr Rasmussen’s work with a committee to track down and record the condition of the less-than-300 remaining first portfolios of Shakespeare (originally printed 1623)  in the world. The book is part general history of the creation and issue of Shakespeare’s folio (including a history of the thefts of this most expensive book), part detective work in trying to determine which copies are genuine and where they are (including the personal histories of the owners over the past four centuries), and part bibliophilic adoration of 400 years of marginalia on one of the world’s greatest writer’s first edition (this discussion of the marginalia was the most interesting to me).

It sounds like a lot to cover, but the author’s personal tone (he regularly refers to himself and the things he loves about searching and examining these Shakespeare volumes) gives it a memoir-ish feel, all the while imparting a general appreciation for 400 years of history as found in a particular first edition (or, rather, in the many different first editions that still are in existence). It’s a rather brief work (less than 200 widely spaced pages), but not much more is needed to infuse the reader with a greater appreciation of Shakespeare and where we’ve come since he first was writing. If anything, I wish some of the stories were a bit more drawn out. Most of the chapters were just a few pages long so the stories tended to run together in retrospect. But in general, it was fascinating to learn a bit more about the first readers of the author who would become legendary.

I received a complimentary review copy The Shakespeare Thefts from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

A post for Allie’s Shakespeare Month.

2011 in Review

I  love charts and graphs, and I’ve loved seeing the rest of yours, so here it’s time to review my reading history for 2011 and look at where Rebecca Reads has been. First, we’ll go graphs and charts! Click on an image to see it larger.

Compare these stats with 2008 (mostly favorite books read lists), 2009, and 2010.

Also, I sincerely apologize that I haven’t linked to my review posts for the favorites books mentioned below. I have not even updated the archives for months either! I’ll try to get caught up one of these days. If you want to know my thoughts about a book, do a search in the search bar on the right…

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Birth Day by Mark Sloan

Awwwww … newborn babies! I am a bit excited by the image of an innocent, soft, wrinkly newborn baby these days, for obvious reasons. Less than eight more weeks until a newborn daughter joins my family!

I found Birth Day by Mark Sloan (published 2009) one day when I was browsing the shelves looking for something about pregnancy or babies, and it was just perfect! Dr. Sloan is a pediatrician, regularly on rotation at the hospital to care for the newborns who may need a little assistance getting started in the world. But Birth Day is far more than a memoir of doctoring: it’s a reflection on his own experiences as a husband to a laboring woman, a personal account of his own experiences as a man becoming a father for the first and then second time, and a researched history of childbirth practices throughout history. The subtitle is “a pediatrician explores the science, the history and the wonder of childbirth” and that is an apt description. All those aspects are central to the book, and Dr. Sloan’s casual voice and personal presence makes it a pleasant read.

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Henry VI Part 1 by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part 1 (written maybe 1588 or 1592, possibly revised 1594) dramatizes the beginning of the War of Roses (which lasted from 1455 to 1485). It portrays the animosity between the leaders of the House of York and the leaders of the House of Lancaster as they bickered amongst each other for power, even as England continued the quest to control France, whose army was led by the warrior Joan of Arc.

Does that sound like a lot going on? It felt like it was a lot as I read it. My main problem was remembering who was who, and I found myself frequently referencing the cast list as I read the play. Henry VI Part 1 is commonly named as one of Shakespeare’s poorer plays1, and I’m not surprised. I am fascinated by Joan of Arc and for personal reasons I was intrigued by the historical aspects of the play, but nothing truly remarkable made Henry VI Part 1 stick out for me. I do look forward to reading the next two parts, because I’m hoping my greater familiarity with the characters, plus the “better written” reputation, will make it a more satisfying read.Continue Reading

  1. Harold Bloom, in his volume Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, uses terms like “bad” “botched” and “crude,” but of course we know we must take Professor Bloom with a grain of salt