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Woodblock print from Othello Cover of The Plays of Shakespeare

Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
The Comedies Histories & Tragedies of William Shakespeare. New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1939. 37 Volumes.
Call Number: (SPL)(SHAK) PR 2754 .F3 1939
Gift of Loryn Romadka, from the collection of Austin F. Lutter
Special Collections, Golda Meir Library

This handsome edition was limited to 1,950 copies (which means any plate used in the illustrating should have been destroyed when the last copy was printed). The set is part of the Austin Lutter collection of Limited Editions Club imprints, and represented the crowning achievement of the Club after ten years in the business. Each volume in the set represents a complete play, and each is illustrated by a different artist. The text was edited by Herbert Farjeon, and the typography was planned and the production supervised by Bruce Rogers. The work was printed by A. Colish on paper specially manufactured by the Worthy Paper Company. On display are Othello and Macbeth.

Act 1 Scene 1 of The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice Playbill from the 1944 performance of Othello

Farjeon restores many elements of the Folio orthography -- unusual capital letters, expressive parentheses and punctuation that he thinks suggest the actors' delivery rather than a grammarian's worries. The type font cut especially for this edition, the 60 tons of paper run especially for its printing, even the cover reproducing a wall design found in John Davenant's house, where Shakespeare used to stay, all bear the mark of Bruce Rogers' "infinite care and impeccable taste."

Macbeth is illustrated from crayon drawings by Gordon Craig, Othello from wood engravings by Robert Gibbings. Of great interest are the playbill and program from a 1944 performance of Othello at the now-defunct Davidson Theatre. The production was directed by a woman (Margaret Webster) who brooked no nonsense about Othello's race. Paul Robeson, the noted black actor and opera star, played Othello. Mr. Robeson enthusiastically autographed Mr. Lutter's copy, "All best wishes. It was a swell afternoon.": Lutter seems to have played host to Robeson during some of the actor's free time.


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©2001 University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee -- All Rights Reserved.
Prepared by Christopher Barth, Virginia Haas, and Sarah McDaniel