Shakespeare Unauthorized

The Boston Public Library presented Shakespeare Unauthorized from October 14, 2016 through March 31, 2017. The exhibition was made possible through the financial support of Iron Mountain Incorporated. Additional critical funding was provided by the Associates of the Boston Public Library for curation, preservation, cataloging, and digitization over the two years leading up to the exhibition.

William Shakespeare: poet, actor, playwright, icon. Four hundred years after his death, he remains a central figure in English literature and a cultural phenomenon on a global scale. Yet the inner workings of his life and the details of his creative process remain largely unknown. In many cases, there is still fierce debate over what Shakespeare actually wrote.

Shakespeare Unauthorized pulled back the curtain on four hundred years of collaboration, confusion, and even literary deception that surround the plays, poems, and life of William Shakespeare. Through an unprecedented exhibition of the Boston Public Library’s world-class collections, visitor viewed some of the rarest, most extraordinary books in the world and learned about the countless men and women who have made and remade the works of a literary icon. The Boston Public Library holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Shakespeare in a public institution, including rare first and early editions of beloved plays like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and The Merchant of Venice, as well as all four Shakespearean folios, and most notably a copy of the world-famous First Folio. Through the pages of these precious books, visitors experienced Shakespeare in his original language and spelling, just as he would have been read by book lovers and theater-goers hundreds of years ago.

Digitally explore the basis of the exhibition, the BPL’s Thomas Pennant Barton Shakespeare Collection.
Many of these materials were conserved, cataloged, and digitized with our donors' support.