About the project

A rich celebration of our cultural heritage, Discovering Literature is a free online learning resource that provides unprecedented access to the Library’s unique literary and historical collections. This phase of the project explores Shakespeare’s plays in relation to the social, political and cultural context in which they were written, and examines the ways in which these works have been transformed and interpreted over the last four centuries. Through a diverse range of collection items, including rare printed books, unique contemporary manuscripts, annotated play-scripts, playbills, pamphlets, maps, photographs and paintings, the site gives users new insights into the images and ideas that shaped Shakespeare’s imagination and that reflect his legacy. Users can also view 80 articles by leading scholars, explore a range of teachers’ notes and, from May 2016, watch a series of short documentary films.

Aimed at A Level students, teachers, lifelong learners and undergraduates, Discovering Literature aims to enrich the study and enjoyment of key literary works. The first phase of the project was described as ‘an important cultural resource that can be enjoyed by all ages’ (The Observer, 30 August 2014); ‘immensely fantastic’ (Stephen Fry, Twitter); ‘inspiring’ (BBC Click); and of ‘enormous value’ to students, teachers and scholars (Journal of Victorian Culture Online, May 2014).

We would like to thank the following project advisors and partners:
Professor John Mullan
Professor John Bowen
Professor Gordon McMullan
The Folger Shakespeare Library
Photostage

Thanks also to our illustrators:
Matthew Richardson
Merrilees Brown
Harriet Lee Merrion

Discovering Literature has been supported since its inception by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, Dangoor Education.

The vision and ambition of Discovering Literature has been supported by Dr Naim Dangoor CBE, Dangoor Education.

The project has also been generously supported by the following donors:
Evalyn Lee and Peter Bacon
Mark Pigott KBE, OBE
Garfield Weston Foundation
The American Trust for the British Library
The John S Cohen Foundation
Andor Charitable Trust
The Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust
The British Library Trust and the British Library Patrons

Access and Reuse Guidance Notes for Discovering Literature: Shakespeare

Although legally in copyright in the UK (and a number of other common law territories) as unpublished manuscripts until 2039, the British Library has decided to make the images of pre-1800 collection items available on this website.

Copyright status of manuscript material: The 1988 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (as amended) states that unpublished literary and artistic works remain in copyright in the UK until at least 31 December 2039. Therefore important parts of the library’s collection remain in copyright, including manuscripts created more than 200 years ago. However, the Library believes that putting online selected unpublished material created many centuries ago and in the public domain in most other countries, is unlikely to offend. As an institution whose role it is to make our intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, we have therefore taken the decision to release certain digitised images technically still in copyright in the UK on this website for the use of school students, teachers and the wider public. For any further questions please contact copyright@bl.uk

The British Library asks that anyone reusing digital images from this collection applies the following principles:

  • Please respect the creators – ensure traditional cultural expressions and all ethical concerns in the use of the material are considered, and any information relating to the creator is clear and accurate. Please note, any adaptations made to an image should not be attributed to the original creator and should not be derogatory to the originating cultures or communities.
  • Please credit the source of the material – providing a link back to the image on the British Library’s website will encourage others to explore and use the collections.

This usage guide for images is based on goodwill. It is not a legal contract. We ask that you respect it.


All content on Discovering Literature: Shakespeare was published online on 15 March 2016 unless otherwise stated.