At lunch yesterday, my cousin and I began talking about literary rescues. Tiina was reading a book packed with references about Finnish folklore. She told me many of those stories would have been lost if not for a farseeing man named Elias Lönnrot. Going door-to-door in the Finnish countryside, he collected and wrote down folk stories that were told only via oral tradition before.
Today, it’s hard to imagine, but we might have only a vague idea that someone named Shakespeare existed. Did he write some kind of plays? Only about half of his plays were floating around in small editions featuring one play each. Most did not have his name on them, but featured the acting troupe instead.*
Seven years after his death, two actors from Shakespeare’s old troupe collected 18 of his plays into a large folio, printing about 750 copies (233 exist of these today).
If not for the two actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, much of his writing might have been lost in the mists of time.
On the 400th anniversary Shakespeare’s death on April 23, 1616, knowing how these 15 quotes almost disappeared forever makes me savor them all the more: