Salisbury House & Gardens (SH&G) offers an internationally unique venue for the presentation of William Shakespeare’s plays due to the many elements on the estate and in its collection that relate directly to Shakespeare and his era, including:
· The early 16th Century ceiling beams in SH&G’s Great Hall came from New Sarum (now Salisbury) England, where Shakespeare is known to have visited during a plague period in London.
· The wood paneling in many of the rooms in the SH&G estate also dates from Shakespeare’s era, and was transported from Salisbury and its environs; the Common Room paneling features carved graffito saying “C. Weekes,” who was Mayor of New Sarum during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and Mayor Weekes also etched his name and title into chalk stones now embedded in the wall of the Great Hall.
· The SH&G Library contains an extraordinary collection of Shakespeare’s works, including, but not limited to:
o A very rare, complete 1632 second folio edition of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, along with 1807 and 1866 editions of the same complete set of plays.
o A 1681 edition of Othello.
o A 1703 edition of The Tragedy of Hamlet.
o Two 1903 copies (out of 200 pressed) of As You Like It from Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Shop, one of the most influential Arts and Crafts publishers in the early 20th Century.
o A 1933 Limited Editions Club (LEC) Hamlet, illustrated and signed by typographer and woodcutter Eric Gill.
o A complete 37-volume set of the 1939-1940 LEC pressing of Shakespeare’s plays, designed by Bruce Rogers, who is famed for his work on the very rare 1935 Oxford Lectern Bible, often cited as the world’s most beautiful book, and also in the SH&G library.
o A 1941 LEC pressing of Shakespeare’s Poems, also illustrated by Bruce Rogers.
o A 1951 LEC pressing of Henry V, illustrated by Fritz Kredel, who also illustrated Eleanor Roosevelt’s children’s book, Christmas, and created a woodcut of the Presidential Seal for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
· The SH&G Library contains many books that Shakespeare likely would have encountered, read or used in his lifetime (1564-1616), including:
o A 1582 Douay-Rheims New Testament, the first English edition of the Catholic Bible.
o A 1587 “pocket guide” edition of the Magna Carta and later statutes, that was printed less than a mile from the site where the Globe Theater would be built in 1599; Shakespeare was active in London when this piece was produced.
o A 1607 tome containing The Book of Common Prayer, The Bible and Commentary on the Psalms of David, published in London when Shakespeare was living and working there.
o Otto Van Veen’s Q. Horatii Flacci Emblemata (1607), an influential “emblem book” featuring words and woodcuts illustrating moral principles and used to educate royalty.
o A leaf from the original edition of the King James Bible (1611).
o An early edition of Shakespeare contemporary Ben Jonson’s Works (1640), originally owned by Alexander Brome, a peer of Jonson’s.
· The SH&G Archives contain many rare documents and signatures from the 15th to 17th centuries by political leaders who prominently shaped their respective eras, including:
o Documents signed by European royalty, including England’s Queen Elizabeth I (1565) and King William III (1680), and Spain’s Ferdinand V (1492) and Philip IV (1621).
o Signed documents by important religious figures of the era, like John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury (1603) and Armand du Plessis, Cardinal de Richelieu (1625).
There are no other venues in North America that can combine such collections and architectural elements, and place them in a physical location that lends itself so well to the outdoor production of Shakespeare’s plays. The grounds at SH&G are shaded by ancient oaks, lined with flower beds evoking the English gardens of Shakespeare’s era. Our actors and sets will be framed by the distinctive English Tudor stone work, Gothic arches and Carolean brickwork of the estate house’s three architectural zones. Columns from ancient Rome and decorative items from around the world add an aura of majesty to the plays that stand as cornerstones to the modern theatrical experience, if not the English language itself.
— February 22, 2013