Spectators in the crowded playhouse and solitary readers in the library both imagine and have imaged for them Shakespeare's plays. The representations on display in the McLennan-Redpath Library cover three hundred years of work by actors, painters, stage designers and book illustrators — all in one way or another interpreting Shakespeare's characters. The Boydell engravings that are the centrepiece of each case are taken from the collection of historical paintings commissioned by Alderman John Boydell (1719-1804) and exhibited at the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. Originally intended as a gift for the nation, the collection, for financial reasons, became the prize in a lottery and then was sold at auction by Christie's in 1805. In the same year, two volumes of prints were published and dedicated to Their Majesties and in 1852 a New York edition was published. It is plates from the latter that are on display.
The exhibition is comprised of the following 11 sections: (1) The Tragedy of Macbeth; (2) A Midsummer Night's Dream; (3) The Tragedy of King Richard III; (4) The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark; (5) The Tempest; (6) All is True (Henry VIII); (7) The Tragedy of Othello the Moor of Venice; (8) Twelfth Night, or What You Will; (9) Imag(in)ing the Bard; (10) Imag(in)ing the Canon; (11) Adding to the Canon.
This exhibition was arranged by Dr Richard Virr, Curator of Manuscripts in the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University, and Jonathan Da Silva, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, as part of his Practicum. Donald Hogan was responsible for its installation.