“I FELT physically strangely moved. To see the real thing has a deep resonance.”
The words of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust director Dr Diana Owen on the return of Shakespeare last will and testamant to Stratford for the first time in 400 years.
The priceless document, on loan from The National Archives in London, will be on display at Shakespeare’s Birthplace for three weeks from tomorrow (Saturday) to August 4.
It will be the final chance people will have to see the three page document – containing three of the existing six signatures of the Bard – as it will going into a dark vault for some 20 years on its return to the capital to protect it from light damage, having recently also been on display at an exhibition in London.
The will – penned it is believed over a number of months in early 1616, and probably at New Place – are arguably the most important original documents relating to the playwright.
The fragile paper documents were subject to four months conservation by experts at The National Archives around the turn of the year.
Paul Taylor, head of collections at SBT, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be able to present this once in a lifetime opportunity for people to see Shakespeare’s original will back in his hometown where it was drafted by local solicitor Francis Collins 400 years ago.
“Displaying this historic document alongside other treasures from our world-class collections will complete the story of Shakespeare’s social circle and his relationships with family, friends and business associates.”
The return of the will to Stratford – since Shakespeare’s son-in-law Dr John Hall took it to London in June 1616 to get a grant of probate – came about quite by chance, sparked simply by an off the cuff request over the possibility of it being displayed in the town during the commemorations to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
Dr Katy Mair, Early Modern Records Specialist at The National Archives, said they were delighted to be working with The SBT to bring Shakespeare’s will back to his home town.
“Thanks to work carried out by The national archives’ conservation team, the will’s appearance is now closer to its original state allowing us to carry out new scientific and archival research into this iconic document.”
The will can be seen as part of the standard entry to the birthplace. Visit see www.shakespeare.org.uk for further details.