Melbourne, Mar 27: William Shakespeare's rare plays are all set to go digital as a US and British library plan to reproduce online all 75 editions of his plays printed in the quarto format before 1641. The Bodleian Library in Oxford and Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC have joined forces to download their collections, building on the work of the British Library which digitised its collection of quarto editions in 2004.
''There are no surviving manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays in his handwriting so the quartos are the closest we can get to what Shakespeare really wanted,'' the Australian quoted Bodleian spokeswoman Oana Romocea as saying. ''Some quartos do, however, have his annotations around the ' printed text.'' With this project, all of the earliest printed versions of Shakespeare's plays, many of which are only accessible to scholars, will be available to the wider public.
The process of downloading the quartos will begin next month and take a year to complete. Online visitors will be able to compare images side-by-side, search the plays and mark and tag the texts. ''We (at the Bodleian) have about 55 copies, although some of them are duplicates,''Ms Romocea said. William Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more between about 1590 and 1613. He died in 1616.