The Folger Shakespeare Library
The Library of Congress
Ms. Hen went on a trip to Washington D.C. simply because she had never been there and she felt the need to see the capital of our country. She loves libraries and she loves books, so she decided to take docent led tours of the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress.
She went to the Folger first, since there are only two tours a day during the week, at 11 and 3. She took a tour with Maureen, who seemed very informed and passionate about the subject. She showed the group the exhibit, SHIPS, CLOCKS AND STARS, about the quest for longitude, which Ms. Hen did not find very exciting, since that’s not her thing.
The guide talked about the first folio under glass in the main hall. The first folio is the first printing of Shakespeare’s collected works. Ms. Hen learned that the Folger has the largest collection of first folios in the world, and some of the plays would not exist without these books. The group looked in the reading room at the scholars using the books for research. Ms. Hen hoped the chairs in there were comfortable for the people to able to sit all day and work.
The group looked at the theater from the balcony. The guide explained how it is a replica of a theater in Shakespeare’s time, with a cover over the stage, but not the Globe theater, because that was much larger. She told the group the cover was there to protect the costumes and not the actors because the costumes were the most expensive part of the company.
The Folgers started the library because they wanted their collection to all be in one place so scholars could use it, and they chose Washington D.C. because it’s the capital. The building was built during the Depression in the 1930s, even though nobody had any money, they managed to get donations. Ms. Hen learned a new word at the library, “Shakespearana,” which means the items collected having to do with Shakespeare, i.e. a teapot with Romeo and Juliette.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. Compared to the Folger Shakespeare Library, it is a flashy, glamorous library. A video greets the visitors and talks about the history and uses of the library.
Ms. Hen took a tour with a docent named Ed. She was in the small group with someone in a wheelchair, so they took the elevators. Ed used a red pointer light to show the things he discussed. He talked about the main lobby and all the characters on the stairs and what they meant.
In the library, under glass, are one of three copies of the Gutenberg Bible and the only copy of the Mainz Bible in the world. The Mainz Bible is the hand printed Bible from which the Gutenberg Bible was copied.
Ms. Hen marveled at the grandness of the library. The columns shone with whiteness and the statues gleamed. Ed took them upstairs and talked about the murals on the walls. He told the group since it was a small group, he would show them some extra things.
They went to a map room where the oldest known map with which the name America is printed. The guide explained that the map was discovered in a castle in Germany, and the person who owned it did not want to part with it. But he needed the money, so the library bought the map for 10 million dollars, making it the most expensive map in the world.
Ms. Hen loved both the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Library of Congress. If she lived near Washington D.C., she would go to performances at the Folger Theater, and she would get a card for the reading room at the Library of Congress and go there all the time. She could picture herself there, amidst all the books, looking up at the statues, full of wonder and awe, like a cultured hen should.