University of Delaware
A rare early quarto edition of a play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher entitled The Two Noble Kinsmen (London: by Tho. Cotes, for John Waterson, 1634). Special Collections, University of Delaware Library.

'Two Noble Kinsmen'

University of Delaware Library acquires rare Shakespeare quarto


10:26 a.m., Aug. 24, 2015--The University of Delaware Library has announced the purchased acquisition of a rare early quarto edition of a play by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen (London: by Tho. Cotes, for John Waterson, 1634). 

The piece was made possible with support from the B.H. Breslauer Foundation; the University of Delaware Library Associates; the College of Arts and Sciences; the recently retired Lois Potter, professor emeritus of the Department of English; and Mark Samuels Lasner, senior research fellow in the Special Collections Department. 

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After processing, The Two Noble Kinsmen will be available for research in Special Collections, located on the second floor of the Morris Library.

Nearly half of Shakespeare's plays appeared in quarto form during his lifetime. While some of the texts closely match those found in the First Folio and later editions, others vary greatly. 

Because of the complexities of typesetting and printing common during the hand press period, further variations often occur from copy to copy, making each quarto potentially unique and of great significance. 

The quarto editions of individual Shakespeare plays were published between 1594 and 1642, beginning with Titus Andronicus and Henry VI (Part II). Some plays, such as Richard III and Henry IV (Part 1) appeared in multiple quarto editions, showing their popularity. 

Many of the earliest of the quartos, like Titus Andronicus, do not include Shakespeare's name but highlight instead the acting company that first performed the play.

This copy of The Two Noble Kinsmen has a distinguished history. It derives from the famous Bridgewater House Library, founded by Sir Thomas Egerton, Baron Ellsmere during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and continued by his family for several generations. 

One of the greatest private libraries ever assembled in Britain, the Bridgewater House Library was particularly strong in medieval manuscripts and early English literature, especially Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. 

In 1917 Henry Huntington purchased the bulk of the Bridgewater Library, using it to form part of the basis of the Huntington Library. The volume is in excellent condition and –unusual for a Shakespeare rarity – has only minimal restoration.

The University of Delaware has a long tradition of research and teaching the work of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era.

This research and teaching is supported by the extensive Shakespeare holdings in Special Collections, which include a copy of the rare Second Folio, the even rarer first American edition of Hamlet, and 11 editions of Shakespeare’s works printed before 1800, together with a variety of other significant items, ranging from 16th-century works consulted by Shakespeare to a unique set of engravings by the 19th-century Delaware artist, F.O.C. Darley and to modern illustrated versions of the plays. 

These Shakespeare materials are heavily used by graduate and undergraduate students and are often featured in class presentations in Special Collections. 

The acquisition of the quarto edition of Two Noble Kinsmen is a major addition to the library’s Shakespeare holdings and will serve as a significant resource for faculty and students at UD.

About Special Collections

Holdings of Special Collections of the University of Delaware Library include books, manuscripts, maps, prints, photographs, broadsides, periodicals, pamphlets, ephemera and realia from the 15th to the 21st century. 

The collections complement the library's general collections with particular strengths in the subject areas of the arts; English, Irish and American literature; history and Delawareana; horticulture; and history of science and technology. 

Special Collections is located on the second floor of the Morris Library.

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