Shakespeare’s works, rare pictures await proper care at IIT-Roorkee

A visitor’s book that has Jawaharlal Nehru’s signature is among its collections A rare document bearing Jawaharlal Nehru’s signature in Hindi, English and Urdu, and a priceless 1623 edition of William Shakespeare’s complete works are among thousands of historic manuscripts and unseen photographs awaiting proper preservation at IIT-Roorkee’s iconic library. In a visitor’s notebook kept at the Mahatma Gandhi Central Library of IIT-Roorkee, India’s first Prime Minister signed his name in three languages along with the date ‘November 25, 1949’. A tiny correction that Nehru made while writing his name in Hindi is what makes the document especially interesting, Dr. C. Jayakumar, Librarian, MGCL said. Having grown slowly since the British period, the library has a good archival collection, he said. However, at present, the physical manuscripts and photographs are stored in basic conditions. Many important photos lie unlabelled. Without an organised catalogue, these slices of history may soon bite the dust. “We have one of the earliest prints of Shakespeare’s collected works, along with 10,000 out of print volumes. We also have a collection of rare images captured during events like convocations,” Dr. Jayakumar said. The dilapidated copy of the Bard’s complete works is stacked inside a cardboard box in the librarian’s office, its pages individually separated with tracing paper. A handwritten ‘1623’ on the half torn cover page indicates the date of its publication. Titled ‘Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies’ is the first edition of the Bard’s collected works. Published in 1623, it is referred to as the First Folio by modern scholars and is considered to be one of the most valuable printed books in the world. In 2001, a copy of this edition was sold at Christie’s in New York for a whopping $6.16 million.

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