Bard brought back to Lambeth

Bard brought back to Lambeth

Rare and valuable copies of Shakespeare’s Second, Third and Fourth folios have come back to Lambeth Archives after almost 75 years in the British Library.

Word from the Cabinet

Cllr Anyanwu signs for the return of Lambeth’s Shakespeare Folios

Cllr Donatus Anyanwu, Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, signed the paperwork to confirm the safe return of the books. He said: “Recovering these outstanding treasures is a wonderful way to celebrate the reopening of our Archives in the heart of Lambeth.

“These precious books reflect Lambeth’s commitment to creativity, and our belief in valuing the past as a pathway to  building the future.

“Our gratitude goes again to the British Library for keeping these historic Lambeth documents safe since 1950. I also thank our Archives team including our valued volunteers who discovered them”.

The proof in print

Philip Norman, a volunteer researcher at Lambeth Archives, found the evidence that the folios were still in Lambeth ownership.

South London Press press cutting showing original loan of Shakepeare's Folios to the British Library

South London Press cutting – 1950 loan of Shakepeare’s Folios to the British Library

“I was researching something completely different in Lambeth newspapers, starting from 1900 and came across a December 1, 1950 South London Press story showing the Mayor of Lambeth handing over the Shakespeare folios to the British Library. I cross-checked the Council records for the date and it clearly read ‘Lambeth will retain ownership’ of the books.

The return

“After many emails, Lambeth Archives went in person to the British Library. They asked, “Do you want to borrow them?”. We said, “No, you borrowed them from us, we’d love to have them back to celebrate Lambeth Archives’ move from Minet Library to Brixton Hill.”

“The British Library checked their own records, which also proved our Shakespeares were simply on long loan – there’s no record of any sale or transfer of ownership.”

Shakespeare in Lambeth

The three folios will be the centrepiece of Lambeth Archive’s exhibition “Shakespeare in Lambeth”, opening this September as part of the Lambeth Heritage Festival, tracing four centuries of when, where and how the works have been performed in the borough.

More information

Shakespeare’s First Folio, printed in 1623 –  seven years after Shakespeare’s death – was the first collection of all Shakespeare’ s plays. The Second, Third and Fourth were all published within 65 years. The Third Folio is very rare and valuable because so few copies survived 1666’s Great Fire of London.

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