The Bodleian Library in Oxford and Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC have joined forces to download their collections, building on the work of the British Library which digitized its collection of quarto editions in 2004.
"There are no surviving manuscripts of Shakespeare's plays in his handwriting so the quartos are the closest we can get to what Shakespeare really wanted," said Bodleian spokeswoman Oana Romocea.
"Some quartos do, however, have his annotations around the printed text."
The project is designed to make all of the earliest printed versions of Shakespeare's plays, many of which are only accessible to scholars, available to the wider public.
The process of downloading the quartos will begin next month and take a year to complete. Online visitors will be able to compare images side-by-side, search the plays and mark and tag the texts.
"We (at the Bodleian) have about 55 copies, although some of them are duplicates," said Romocea.
"Each quarto is different, so it's very interesting from a research perspective to compare the quartos.
"For example, some of the famous lines in 'Hamlet' exist in one quarto and in another they don't, or they are very different."
Shakespeare wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more between about 1590 and 1613. He died in 1616.
Last Mod: 26 Mart 2008, 18:04