Last week saw the opening of the British Museum's new BP exhibition ‘Shakespeare: Staging the World’. This exhibition, part of the World Shakespeare Festival, will explore the world as Shakespeare saw it and our team is excited to be taking part. Earlier in June, the Collections team sent three items to the British Museum to be part of the story.
Two objects from our museum collection will be featured in 'Shakespeare: Staging the World': a 16th century map of Warwickshire and an 18th century drainage spade. Our Ashburnham copy of the First Folio has also gone on loan to the exhibition, and Collections Librarian, Mareike Doleschal, will be blogging more about that item later this week.
The 16th century map of Warwickshire was engraved and hand-coloured in 1576 by Christopher Saxton and is the earliest accurate map of Shakespeare’s home county. This period in history saw the birth of modern map-making and for the first time, English people began to have a sense of the nation’s geography and how their regions related to others. We know that Warwickshire was important to Shakespeare’s identity and work, and this map would have allowed him to see his home through new eyes. The Saxton map will be part of a display about mapping and identity in the early modern period.
The spade, though it is not contemporary with Shakespeare, is of the type that was used in the 17th century. It is carved from a single piece of ash and has an iron blade. It is a rare surviving example of such a tool, which would be normally be used until it could no longer be repaired and then discarded. The British Museum will be looking at the spade in relation to the way that nature and the herbal economy were depicted in Shakespeare’s works.