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Treasure 50: Heroines of Shakspeare
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Treasure 50: Heroines of Shakspeare

Historic Documents
Léa Moreau
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Treasure 50: Heroines of Shakspeare
Historic Documents
Treasure 50: Heroines of Shakspeare
Celebrating 400 years since the death of the literary great, one of our April treasures looks at an unusual publication concerning the works of William Shakespeare.

Published in the mid-19th Century, this wonderful volume was donated to Aberdeen Public Library by Miss Emily Jane Duthie, a retired teacher living on Skene Terrace.

Born in India in 1868 Miss Duthie was the daughter of Robert Duthie, Superintendent of the Scottish Orphanage in Bombay during the days of the British Empire. The school was founded in 1847 by Scottish Christian Missionaries to educate the daughters of Scottish Presbyterian Soldiers based in India. Since then, the school has continued to thrive and is now one of the most prestigious in Mumbai.

It is highly likely that Miss Duthie's early years based at the institution, followed by her own studies and subsequent career would have introduced her to the world of Shakespeare and perhaps piqued an interest in the many female characters depicted therein. The kind donation clearly demonstrates her continuing desire and passion to educate others in later life, once her career as a teacher had come to an end.

"The heroines of Shakspeare" is chiefly an art book; a means to showcase the forty-eight imagined portraits of the Bard's fictional characters. The attempt to capture a visual representation of the prominent female characters provides a neat bridge between Shakespeare's contemporary audiences (who would have seen female roles assigned to young boys), and our modern age of television and film which is frequently dominated by physical appearance.
Although educated Victorian audiences would have been familiar with the written words, the illustrations attempt to capture a definitive image of each character, including approximate age, costume, physical features and demeanour as revealed by the playwright.

The images are portraits of Hamlet's Ophelia, Othello's Desdemona, Romeo and Juliet's Juliet and of course - Lady Macbeth (from the Scottish play!)

The illustrations are printed on thick paper from original engravings by portrait artists including Augustus Egg, John Hayter and John William Wright. The book is bound with gilt edges and also contains sturdy decorated endboards.

The curious spelling of Shakespeare in the title reflects the fact that during the Bard's own lifetime there was no single accepted form - the man himself spelling his own name differently in various editions of his work. Although this may seem strange to modern readers the tradition harks back to an era when language was much more fluid, and established forms of spelling simply did not exist in the way that we know today.
Aberdeen Local Studies
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