David McInnis reviews 'Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature' by Stuart Kells

David McInnis reviews 'Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature' by Stuart Kells

Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature

by Stuart Kells

Text Publishing, $34.99 pb, 352 pp, 9781925603774

The search for Shakespeare’s library (the books ostensibly owned by Shakespeare but dispersed without a trace after his death) is driven largely by the hope that marginalia, notes, and drafts might provide unfettered access to authorial intention. Inevitably, the missing library turns out to be central to a number of the anti-Stratfordian cases, including Diana Price’s convoluted and ill-informed set of precepts for determining literary credentials, which yields the ludicrous conclusion that ‘Shakespeare’ was a ‘collective conspiracy’. She deems this more likely than the possibility that Shakespeare’s papers once existed but have simply been lost. Stuart Kells, in Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the greatest mystery in literature, calls her argument ‘intellectually courageous’. Indeed, to the detriment of his own handling of evidence, Kells devotes an inordinate amount of time to the affectionately dubbed ‘Indiana Jones school of Shakespeare studies, whose adherents continue in their efforts to dig up clues, unravel ciphers and commune with the dead’.

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David McInnis

David McInnis

David McInnis is a Senior Lecturer in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Melbourne. In 2016 he was jointly awarded the Australian Academy of the Humanities' Max Crawford Medal (granted to Australian early-career researchers for outstanding scholarly achievement in the humanities). He is the author of Mind-Travelling and Voyage Drama in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2013), co-editor of Lost Plays in Shakespeare's England (Palgrave, 2014; co-edited with Matthew Steggle), and is currently editing Dekker's Old Fortunatus for the Revels Plays series. With Roslyn L. Knutson, he is founder and co-editor of the Lost Plays Database.

Published in October 2018, no. 405

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