The Books That Made Shakespeare

Shakespeare died in 1616, but he is alive and well in our contemporary culture. In the centennial year of 2016 the University of Iowa joins in the global celebration of Shakespeare's life and works.

Shakespeare at Iowa consists of an extensive series of events arranged in conjunction with the traveling exhibition sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare. I offered a brief reflection on the connection between the Folger's exhibition and the state of Iowa here.

The Books That Made Shakespeare is an exhibition drawn from the holdings of the University of Iowa Special Collections Library, the John Martin Rare Book Room in the Hardin Health Sciences Library, and the collection of Arthur E. Bonfield. It was a privilege to serve as the curator for this exhibition.

The exhibition explores the books that made Shakespeare: the books he read and used, the books that preserved his works, and the books that shaped and reshaped his reputation and textual afterlives.

On this page you can find links to a series of online essays which further explore some of the items in the exhibition. You can find a complete exhibition catalogue, with video captions for select items, at

"Monumental Shakespeare" : an essay on the monument to a monumental book

#8 : John Hayward, The History of Henry IV ("1599" but printed c.1638)

#20 : Edmund Spenser, Works (1617)

#21 : Geoffrey Chaucer, Works (1598)

#22 : Geneva Bible (1580)

#25 : William Henry Ireland, Vortigern and Henry II (1799)

#26 : Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music (18th century)

#38 : Ben Jonson, Works (1640)

#39 : A collection of plays published separately (1697-1709)

#40 : Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (1632)

#42 : King John, fragment from Second Folio (1632)