October 16, 2019

Milton's Copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio

Recently, it was discovered that a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia, once belonged to John Milton, author of Paradise Lost.

There are other First Folios in the world but this one contains what experts now widely believe to be Milton’s notes on Shakespeare, in his own handwriting. Suddenly, we can read what one of the greatest English language poets was thinking as he engaged with Shakespeare’s plays.

The connection was made by Cambridge University’s Jason Scott-Warren who was reading an essay by Penn State’s Claire M.L. Bourne about this copy of the First Folio when the handwriting in the notes started to look familiar. They connected (via Twitter).

Reading Milton's notes and changes to the text we can ask was he editing Shakespeare to make the poetry "better" or was he fixing what he saw as inconsistencies among the different versions that were in print?

You can listen to Bourne and Scott-Warren discuss what this discovery means, how technology (including Twitter) has changed their work, and what comes next on a podcast from the Shakespeare Unlimited series from the Folger Shakespeare Library

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