Millions of words of scholarship have been expended on the world’s most famous author and his work. And yet a critical part of the puzzle, Shakespeare’s library, is a mystery. For four centuries people have searched for it: in mansions, palaces and libraries; in riverbeds, sheep pens and partridge coops; and in the corridors of the mind. Yet no trace of the bard’s manuscripts, books or letters has ever been found.
The search for Shakespeare’s library is much more than a treasure hunt. The library’s fate has profound implications for literature, for national and cultural identity, and for the global Shakespeare industry. It bears upon fundamental principles of art, identity, history, meaning and truth.
Unfolding the search like the mystery story that it is, acclaimed author Stuart Kells follows the trail of the hunters, taking us through different conceptions of the library and of the man himself. Entertaining and enlightening, Shakespeare’s Library is a captivating exploration of one of literature’s most enduring enigmas.
Stuart Kells is an author and book-trade historian. His 2015 book Penguin and the Lane Brothers won the Ashurst Business Literature Prize. An authority on rare books, he has written and published on many aspects of print culture and the book world. Stuart lives in Melbourne with his family.
‘A delight to read, a wonderful piece of erudition and dazzling detective work.’ David Astle, Evenings on ABC Radio Melbourne
'Stuart Kells presents a fascinating and persuasive new paradigm that challenges our preconceptions about the Bard’s literary talent.’ Age
‘Kells’s reflections are wonderfully romantic, wryly funny…There’s no doubt we can all learn a lot from the magnificently obsessive and eloquent Kells.’ Australian on The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders
‘Kells is a magnificent guide to the abundant treasures he sets out.’ Mathilda Imlah, Australian Book Review on The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders
‘If you think you know what a library is, this marvellously idiosyncratic book will make you think again. After visiting hundreds of libraries around the world and in the realm of the imagination, bibliophile and rare-book collector Stuart Kells has compiled an enchanting compendium of well-told tales and musings both on the physical and metaphysical dimensions of these multi-storied places.’ Age on The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders
Historian Kells (The Library) delivers a fascinating examination of a persistent literary mystery: William Shakespeare's library. Through careful research, Kells constructs a narrative around the centuries-long search for this elusive holy grail for scholars, interwoven with anecdotes of the author's roguish escapades and comments on the ongoing debate about the Shakespeare oeuvre's true authorship. Citing records and studies from the 16th century to the modern day, Kells discusses various potential clues uncovered by scholars, such as a 1570 Bible filled with "more than a thousand underlinings and notes," many relevant to Shakespeare plays. In addition, Kells includes his own interpretations of what can be gleaned from Shakespeare's writing, such as the playwright's "close familiarity with the physicality of books and the mechanics of their production." He also relies heavily on the legwork of John Fry, a 19th-century bookseller whose efforts uncovered many primary sources for the plays, such as the manual Practice of the Use of the Rapier and Dagger; and the Honor of Honorable Quarrels (stabbing, Kells notes, is "the principal cause of death" for Shakespearean characters). Shakespeare fans will surely be riveted by the new information brought to light in Kells's rich literary survey.