Tara Lyons (Illinois State University) Sassoon Visiting Fellowship, Bodleian Libraries
Through an examination of the Bodleian’s archive of its own history, the Library Records collection, Tara Lyons has been investigating the earliest arrival of playbooks on the Bodleian’s shelves after the opening of the library in 1602.
The records of books claimed by the library from the Stationers’ Company under the agreement of 1610 , and the binding of books now in the library, combined with clues from printed library catalogues and the lists of locations of books (the order in which they were found on the shelves), helped Dr Lyons to build a picture of the sequence in which some individual plays were received early in the Bodleian’s history, and how they were treated once they were part of the Library’s collections.
In addition to scanning lists of books in the Library Records, Dr Lyons adopted the methods used by librarians in 1905 to identify the Bodleian’s original copy of the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s plays. In that case the bibliographical detectives took clues from the printed waste that was used in the binding of the book, including fragments of a 15th-century edition of Cicero.
The result in 1906 was a notable re-purchase of a book which in the 17th century had been allowed to leave the library, but by the 20th century was regarded as a treasure.
Dr Lyons’ research promises to amend an impression that playbooks in English found no home in the Bodleian in the decades after its founding in 1602, at a period when English literature was not recognized as a subject of academic study.
 The original Bodleian copy of the first folio of Shakespeare (The Turbutt Shakespeare) [by F. Madan, G.M.R. Turbutt, and S. Gibson]. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1905