The Folger Shakespeare Library has announced the launch of the Shakespeare Quartos Archive.
Here's an excerpt from the press release:
For the first time, digitized copies of rare early editions of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet have been compiled into a single online collection. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive (www.quartos.org) makes digitized versions of the play drawn from libraries in the US and the UK freely available to researchers worldwide.
"The Shakespeare Quartos Archive presents new and innovative opportunities that were simply not possible before for scholars, teachers, and students to explore Hamlet," said Folger Director Gail Kern Paster.
"We are confident that the Shakespeare Quartos Archive will become an indispensable online resource for the worldwide community of scholars, teachers, and students with an interest in Shakespeare, enabling them to access and compare these important texts," said Richard Ovenden, Associate Director of the Bodleian Library.
In the absence of surviving manuscripts, the quartos—Shakespeare's earliest printed editions—offer the closest known evidence to what Shakespeare might actually have written, and what appeared on the early modern English stage. Print copies of the Hamlet quartos are of immense interest to scholars, editors, educators, and theater directors, yet due to their rarity and fragility, are not readily available for study. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive offers freely-accessible, high-resolution digital editions of quarto editions of Hamlet, enabling users to compare texts side-by-side, search full-text transcriptions of each quarto, and annotate and tag passages for future reference. Users can also create personal collections of page images and annotations and share these collections with other researchers. . . .
The Shakespeare Quartos Archive contains texts drawn from holdings at the British Library, the Bodleian Library, the University of Edinburgh Library, the Huntington Library, and the National Library of Scotland, in addition to the Folger. These six institutions worked in conjunction with the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities at the University of Maryland and the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham University to digitize and transcribe 32 copies of Hamlet. The British Library's companion project, "Shakespeare in Quarto," is the first online collection to provide access to at least one copy of every pre-1642 Shakespeare play that was printed in a quarto edition and can be accessed at www.bl.uk.
The Shakespeare Quartos Archive was one of the first projects awarded funding through JISC/NEH Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grants in 2008. The grants support the innovative use of digitization technology to advance the humanities and are administered through joint collaboration between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the United States and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) in the United Kingdom.