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Geneva collection of rare early Shakespeare books goes digital

Cover of the first Folio edition of William Shakespeare, Comedies, Histories & Tragedies.
Cover of the first "Folio" edition of "William Shakespeare, Comedies, Histories & Tragedies", published by Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount in 1623 Bodmer Lab

A collection of unique early Shakespeare editions dating back to the late 15th century has been digitised by a team of researchers at the University of Geneva, and is being made available to the public. 

In all, 36 titles from Shakespeare, including a 1598 copy of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and 138 titles from other authors, such as The Canterbury Tales by Geof­frey Chaucer printed around 1484, have been digitised by The Bodmer LabExternal link, a joint initiative between the Fondation Martin Bodmer located in Cologny, near Geneva, and the Uni­versity of Geneva. 

Scholars now have free access to the digital versions of these rare editions, originally published between the late 15th and the end of the 17th century, which form a collection entitled “Early Modern English Books”. Four volumes are already available onlinExternal linke, with the remaining due by mid-2018. 

The collection includes a copy, in original calf binding, of the First Folio edi­tion (1623) of Shakespeare’s collected dramatic works. It also has a copy of the first edition of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (1609). 

“The Bodmer Lab’s digitization of the early modern English books as­sembled by Martin Bodmer makes available to scholars and students one of the best collections of early Shakespeare editions in the world, using the tools of the digital era to transform the way literary scho­larship is conducted and opening exciting possibilities for further research,” researchers Lukas Erne and Devani Singh said in a statement.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR