The Bodleian Library in the UK and Folger Shakespeare Library in the US are joining forces to scan and reproduce the original quartos for all William Shakespeare’s plays.

In the absence of any surviving original manuscripts, the earliest known printed editions works of Shakespeare – the so-called quartos – are generally regarded by academics as the most reliable source for understanding Shakespeare’s original intentions and thoughts.

In the past, these invaluable sources have generally only been made available to scholars. However the two libraries hope that their ambitious plan will make the precious documents available to all.

A year's work

According to Reuters, the scanning and uploading process is expected to take up to a year. Once completed, its expected that visitors will be able to compare quartos side-by-side, making it easier to spot slight differences in text and, so it is claimed, even some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines:

“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving, how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?"