What Happened to Shakespeare’s Library?

Today, William Shakespeare is famous. Very famous. But things weren’t always so. Before the eighteenth century, he was somewhat obscure and noticeably disreputable.

More than a century after his death, people such as David Garrick and Samuel Johnson made Shakespeare fashionable, and respectable. They helped him pull off a remarkable transformation, from scrabbling playwright and scandalous poet to the Immortal Bard. The National Poet. Gentle, mellifluous Shakespeare.

And once that transformation was complete, an inescapable logic took hold. An author of Shakespeare’s exemplary stature and accomplishment just had to have an important personal library, rich with source-books and letters and manuscripts, and perhaps even diaries and unpublished works.

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