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Jackson Society Members' Choice Event a Big Success for the University Libraries

Shakespeare's Othello, 1705 quarto
Thomas Hardy's
Tess of the d'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy's The Trumpet Major
Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare did battle in UNCG’s Jackson Library last week.

Some odds-makers were expecting Dickens to triumph, but Hardy won in a runoff, and Shakespeare had such a fan following that within a day he won too, helping Jackson Library acquire not one but three rare selections for the University Libraries’ Special Collections.

The format of the battle was a first for the University Libraries.  Representatives of the Special Collections and University Archives each made short presentations to members of the Jackson Society to persuade them to cast their vote to purchase a book or selection of books by each of the four authors. The presentations focused not only on the history of the book and its importance, but also on the ways in which acquiring it would help the Library connect better to its goal of engaging UNCG students and faculty with important rare books.

The Jackson Society members in attendance certainly seemed to be engaged.  The Jackson Society consists of those donors giving $1000 or more to the University Libraries over the past year. Former Friends Board Chair and Jackson Society member Billie Durham said, “I was thrilled to be there and so pleased with the presentations. They were scholarly, yet with a spirit of fun & competition. What a great way for members to get to know some of the library faculty and to learn more about the collection. This event gave members a first hand peek at where their money would go.  I hope that those who missed it will want to come next year.”

There was so much enthusiasm behind the rare Shakespeare volume that first tied with the Hardy selection to force the run-off vote that three Jackson Society members immediately offered $1000 each and other members also stepped forward within a day to make it possible to purchase the Shakespeare volume  as well.  UNCG will now be the only university in the UNC system owning one of the 30 known copies in existence of Shakespeare’s Othello in the seventh and final Quarto edition, published in 1705.

Here are the new selections added to the University Libraries’ Special Collections:

1)    Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles (1891) and The Trumpet-Major: A Tale (1880).

Tess of the d’Urbervilles.  Thomas Hardy.  London.  James R. Osgood, 1891.
Three Volume Set bound in contemporary full polished calf by Riviere & Son, the leading English binder of the time. With elaborate gold tooling on spines. First Edition, First Issue, with “Chapter XXV” for “Chapter XXXV” on page 199 of volume two. With the original tan and gold cloth covers bound in at the rear of each volume.

One of the great classic English novels of the nineteenth century, this is the tragic tale of a woman who tries to find a better life for herself, but is ultimately defeated by the inflexible strictures of Victorian morality.

The Trumpet-Major: A Tale. Thomas Hardy.  London: Spottiswoode and Co. for Smith, Elder, & Co., 1880
Three volumes. First edition. One of 1,000 copies. Publisher’s original red pictorial cloth, upper boards blocked in black with designs after Thomas Hardy, spines lettered and decorated in gilt and black, lower boards of Vols. I and III blocked with double blind-ruled borders, Vol. II with triple blind-ruled border. A very attractive copy of one of the author's scarcest novels in original cloth.

The author’s only historical novel, The Trumpet-Major is set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and was published on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  This novel tells the story of Anne Garland as she is courted by three would-be suitors.

2)    Othello. William Shakespeare.  London: Printed for R. Wellington, 1705.
Seventh and final quarto edition. Lightly browned with some spotting and marginal dampstaining, small stain to title affecting advertisement at foot. Modern speckled tan three-quarter calf and marbled boards, gold-stamped red morocco spine label. Housed in a brown cloth folding box.

Othello was first published in quarto format in 1622 and was then included in the First Folio edition of collected plays. It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies, conveying important lessons about love, war, and racism. The ambiguity of Othello’s race is one of the most intriguing and enduring aspects of the play. Although generally described to be dark-skinned, it is unknown whether he is African, Arab, or a dark-skinned European.Othello  experiences discrimination while serving as a soldier in Europe, but his devoted wife Desdemona sees him only for his merits. Othello is timeless, warning us of the perils of self-isolation and the necessity of unconditional love.

As Sunday Steinkirchner of B&B Rare Books in New York explained to the Jackson Society:
"Othello is the 5th most referenced play in primary documents from Shakespeare's time, and it is equally popular and still staged today. Quartos represent the earliest and scarcest printed material by William Shakespeare. They were the first format the individual plays were printed in; all his plays would later be collected in the Folio editions, after Shakespeare's death. Seldom surviving the 17th century, Quartos were sold unbound and usually used for the stage by actors. For a person living at that time, their first experience of Shakespeare would not have been reading a play, but hearing and seeing the words acted out on the stage. Quartos are also important from a research point of view because the text of quartos differ from the text of the plays when they were collected in the Folios. Quarto texts were often Shakespeare's first drafts, with his specific directions for the stage. Folio editions contained Shakespeare's final revisions, so it would be valuable from a research point of view to be able to compare these differing versions. Again, because they were sold unbound and usually discarded after the play had been acted, Quartos are unusually rare in the rare book market. There are 22 known and recoded copies of this 1705 Othello, and a handful of earlier editions. This brings the total known copies of Othello quartos to around 30 worldwide, and none are in any UNC holdings. Earlier editions sell for in the six figures, so the opportunity to purchase this copy is exceptional."