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Image showing drawing from the Japanese edition of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra

International status

The Birmingham Shakespeare Library is Britain’s most important Shakespeare collection, and one of the two most important Shakespeare collections in the world; the other is the Folger Library in Washington.

The two are complementary. Folger has strengths in the 16th and 17th centuries. Birmingham strong in 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, a near complete collection of Collected Works, significant numbers of adaptations, anthologies and individual editions.

The Shakespeare Library always held foreign material with over 20 languages by the end of the 19th century. In 1934 the Foreign Office Librarian arranged for books to be obtained from abroad and acquired 300 in the first year alone.

Foreign items were gathered by exchanging gifts of books after 1945 and this practise was useful for obtaining published work from Eastern Bloc countries. Today there is material in 93 languages.

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