“This exhibition space will give people—not just scholars, but regular people—a chance to appreciate rare books." —Stuart Rose
One of the items included will be this 1477 edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. William Caxton produced it in England's first printing shop, located in Westminster at the Sign of the Red Pale. Only ten known copies, including the Folger volume, have survived, in addition to two fragments.
Also on display will be the three manuscripts of 15th-century allegorical dramas known as the Macro Plays, which are the earliest morality plays in English to survive in their entirety. Named for their 18th-century owner, the Suffolk antiquarian Cox Macro, these handwritten pages are undoubtedly some of the greatest treasures of the Folger. Without these unique plays—given the titles Wisdom, Mankind, and The Castle of Perseverance by the 19th-century scholars who first transcribed and published them—we would know virtually nothing about pre-Reformation forms of this drama. Featured above is the last page of The Castle of Perseverance. It contains the earliest known stage diagram for an English play and is thus an invaluable record of early performance history.