The Shakespeare Quartos Archive has been officially launched with a complete digital collection of rare early editions of Hamlet.
For the first time, all 32 existing quarto copies of the play held by UK and US institutions are freely available online at one place www.quartos.org.
This initiative is jointly led by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC, through a joint trans-atlantic grant from JISC in the UK and the National Endowment for the Humanities in the US.
Quarto is a technical term describing the format of a book, referring to the size of leaves produced from folding a full sheet of paper on which multiple pages of text were printed to form the individual sections of a book.
The new website features high-quality reproductions and searchable full text of surviving copies of Shakespeare's Hamlet in quarto in an interactive interface.
Functions and tools - such as the ability to overlay images, compare them side-by-side, and mark and tag features with user annotations - facilitate scholarly research, performance studies, and new applications for learning and teaching.
Controversy surrounds Hamlet as there were several different versions published before theatres were closed in 1642.