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Friends of the Library to Donate Rare Shakespeare Volumes to MSU

Like an episode of the popular TV series, Antiques Roadshow, Friends of the Library members found a treasure when they opened a box of books that an anonymous donor dropped off at the Brentwood Branch Library.

In the box destined for a Friends’ book sale, they found a 1773 edition, eight-volume set of “The Works of Shakespeare” by Theobald and a rare volume of John Bell’s “Poems Written by Shakespear.”

Friends member Jane McWilliams learned that the 1773 edition set is only one of five catalogued in universities worldwide, and has been priced elsewhere at $1,500 to $2,400. Bell’s volume has been priced elsewhere at $700 to $1,700, she said.

At a 4 p.m. reception on Nov. 17 at the Brentwood Branch, 2214 Brentwood Blvd., the Friends will donate the rare volumes to Missouri State University officials. MSU English professor James Baumlin will also give a brief talk about Theobald, the books and Shakespeare. The public is invited to attend and see the books.

“The Special Collections and Archives Department at Missouri State University is pleased and honored to accept this multi-volume set of Shakespeare’s collected works from 1773,” said David Richards, associate professor of library science, special collections and archives department, Duane G. Meyer Library. He will accept the donation on behalf of the university. (The Springfield-Greene County Libraries’ rare book collection is oriented toward regional materials.)

“This early scholarly set of Shakespeare’s plays is in excellent condition -- it is rare to find a set that is free of library markings or damage from the tests of time -- and is a fine example of 18th century bookbinding and scholarship,” Richards said. “The set will benefit students, faculty, and general researchers and will be placed in Duane G. Meyer Library’s rare book collection.”

McWilliams said Friends members don’t know who the books’ donor was or how the books wound up among the donated books for the Fall Book Sale.

“For some reason they’re in Springfield, Mo. Let’s keep them here,” McWilliams said.

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