Welcome to our hidden world, the Shakespeare's Globe library
Our Library & Archive, currently perched on a somewhat ramshackle corner on the building’s second floor, is a unique international resource and the only dedicated Shakespeare repository in London
July 2014. The BBC’s Education correspondent Sean Coughlan called Shakespeare’s Globe a ‘Theatrical […] living laboratory, with its own team of in-house scholars, researchers and academic advisers’. A good definition , yet however tempting it may be to spend all your time in our hidden world of history and tradition, culture is a living and breathing thing, at the heart of how we express ourselves with new ideas and voices.
Our Library & Archive, currently perched on a somewhat ramshackle corner on the building’s second floor, is a unique international resource and the only dedicated Shakespeare repository in London.
The Library provides the base of operations for our academic researchers and fellows. It aims to provide and expand access to the collections to academics of undergraduate level and above, independent scholars from around the world, directors and theatre practitioners.
It comprises of over 5,000 volumes with a focus on Shakespeare, his contemporaries, Shakespeare in performance, Tudor/Stuart society, scholarly publications, special collections and rare books. The research they inspire enables Sam Wanamaker’s vision for this to be recognised as the first point of reference for the study and appreciation of Shakespeare in Performance.
The Library enables access to invaluable resources such early texts and records. Some of these rare items are kept under lock and key, for obvious reasons involving security and for protection of their fragile state. On special occasions, they may be allowed to go on a little outing for a quick appearance on the library tables to be admired by researchers and students. Examining a leaf from a first, second or third folio enhances our experience, making things more real and highlighting the importance of the printing press and all the wonderful things it enabled us to do.
We have a REED (Record of Early English Drama) set – the Stationer’s Register – a record book maintained by the Stationers’ Company of London, who were given the Royal Charter in 1557, and of course Henslowe’s Diary – a treasure trove of information about the Elizabethan theatre history of the period. There are various links to free academic resourced on the Library website and collections are fully searchable online.
A collection of rare books produced before 1900, has been building thanks to the generosity of benefactors including the Gielgud Estate, Sidney Thomson Fisher and Canadian scholars.
The John Wolfson Library of Rare Books (bequest forthcoming) includes a First, Second, Third and Fourth Folio; over 150 pre-1642 plays in Quarto; the major sources of Shakespeare in original French, Italian and English editions and every Restoration adaptation of Shakespeare’s plays bar one. A Ben Jonson First Folio (1616) contains as 12 line hand-written inscription by Ben Jonson.
Ephemera include an Edward Alleyn autograph, a copy of the 1642 Act which resulted in the closure of the theatres, and a number of letters signed by Thomas Cromwell and James I, as well as a signed letter from G.B. Shaw deriding any attempt to rebuild a Globe. This will be the only collection linked directly to two early modern working theatres and it will provide a rich resource for internal and external scholars.
Beginning with Sam Wanamaker’s Herculean task to get the Globe realised, the archive encompasses glamorous fundraising events – starring the likes of Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly – to the fight to retain the site in the mid-1980s with the High Court Battle against Southwark Council. We also hold the detailed scholarship that went into the hotly contested creation of both the Globe and the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, through their architectural and research papers.
Since opening, every single production has been filmed for the archive and this is enriched by records that show the backstage workings of the theatre, such as wardrobe bibles, prompt books, musical scores, photographs and posters so that you can reactivate the creative processes that go into each performance. This part of the archive is about to go off to be digitised and it will result in a wonderful academic online resource to be produced by Adam Matthew.
Due to restricted space, we cannot accommodate a huge number of visitors. On average we welcome two or three every day, excluding group visits. Appointments vary in length from an hour to several days and our most frequently viewed items are prompt books and archive recordings.
Since the 1996 Prologue Season, all productions have been filmed and a unique collection of recordings of virtually every play performed in both our Globe Theatre and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse can be watched by appointment. We have academics from all possible corners of the world – artistic directors, internal staff and students from a wide range of courses both undergraduate and postgraduate.
Unlike many writers – Blake, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Pope, Milton, Johnson and of course John Donne – Shakespeare does not introduce London in his writings. He belongs in a kind of universal, otherworldly Italy or a Pastoral landscape of Arcadian archetypes. His elusiveness is absolute; he vanishes into his language and his plays – which is of course what a lot of writers aspire to – and becomes universal and timeless yet completely human in the process.
But the history of London is intertwined with the history of Shakespeare’s theatre and the history of the development of an entertainment industry. The centre of the Globe’s research world could not be anywhere else but here.
How do I visit the Library & Archive?
Our Library & Archive is open on Wednesdays & Thursdays, 10.00am – 1.00pm & 2.00pm – 5.00pm.
We’re open and welcome to all visitors, but everyone will need to email [email protected] and fill in an application form to make an appointment in advance. Students will also need a reference from a tutor. Everyone needs to bring a form of ID on arrival.
Find out more information about visiting our Library & Archive and what to expect on your first visit.
Can I access Library & Archive resources online?
Anyone who is interested in visiting the Library & Archive can search our Library catalogue and the Archive catalogue online to research their area of interest. Our Library & Archive team are also contactable via email on [email protected], and happy to help direct you to additional resources.
Recordings of productions & events and analogue, archive materials can only be viewed here in the Library & Archive, but the digital platform Adam Matthew, to which some Educational Institutions have access, allows digitised Globe Archive documents up to 2016 to be viewed online.
We do not have the resources to enable us to carry out a lot of research on behalf of people who are not able to travel to the Globe, but if you have an enquiry, please do email our team and they will do their best to help you.