Comic Shakespeare

Some Victorian humour, to celebrate the Bard’s birthday today, April 23.

Quotations from Shakespeare’s plays are vividly brought to life by J.V. Barret’s illustratations for Shakspere fresh chiselled on stone (London: Dean and Son, [1859])—but with a comic twist.

Plate 1

(Brabantio) Are they married think you? (Roderigo) Truly I think they are. Othello, Act I. Sc. I

Plate 2

"But now, my lord, what say you to my suit?" Romeo & Juliet, Act I. Sc. 2.


The “fresh chiselled on stone” of the title is presumably a tongue-in-cheek reference to lithography, the printing process used for this book in which ink or paint is applied to a flat stone from which an impression is made. The book is part of the Waddleton Collection of books with colour-printed illustrations, which includes many examples of such work.

Chromolithography, or lithography printed in colour, was popular during the 19th century, and in the Waddleton copy the illustrations are indeed colour-printed. However, the Library has a second copy of the book in the Tower Collection with black and white printing only—evidence that a less deluxe, cheaper version of the book was also produced for the Victorian market.

The Waddleton copy has the inscription of “Charlotte Colby Tingly[?], Nov 5th 1865” and the printed label of “Hart, Bookseller, Walden”. Harts of Saffron Walden was established in 1836 as a high class printer, and is still in business today as printers, stationers and booksellers.

Plate 4

"A dog of the House of Montague moves me." Romeo & Juliet, Act I. Sc. I.

Plate 9

"My sweet mistress weeps when she sees me work." Tempest, Act 3. Sc. 2.

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