Written by Professor Stuart Kells
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A private university on the hilly, green outskirts of Tokyo, Meisei is home to the world’s second largest collection of Shakespeare First Folios. It also has many other early editions of Shakespeare, and much else of Shakespearean interest. There is a ‘Shakespeare walk’, paved with play titles; a scale model of the Globe theatre; a full-size replica of the theatre’s interior; and a substantial bronze statue of the Bard.
Henry Clay Folger, founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington and the world’s greatest collector of First Folios, stored his books in bank vaults and lock-ups; he was accused of putting his rarest volumes ‘in a cellar like fine vintages’.
The Meisei folios, too, spend most of their time behind lock and key, in a well-funded, modern library. This is a very Shakespearean place in the middle of Japan. For Shakespeare fans, visiting the library is almost a pilgrimage.
Professor Stuart Kells is the author of The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders (Text Publishing), which was shortlisted for the Australian Prime Minister’s Literary Award (for non-fiction) and the NSW Premier’s Literary Prize (general history), and is being published around the world.