On a hot, though not even blistering, August afternoon, where tourons (tourist + moron) packed both sides of Metro escalators and the entire sidewalk on Capitol Hill, there’s really only one escape: the Folger Shakespeare Library. You simply stroll past the classical architecture, the Hill office buildings and awkward groupings of tourists posing for photos, to head for a shady street that looks to be semi-residential. You walk until you see the graphic representations of Shakespeare on the lamp posts, and there you are.
There’s a beautiful Elizabethan garden, and an impressive looking door to a classical marble building. You walk in and are met with a cool, quiet, high-ceilinged space, an oasis from the mass of Americana outside and the relentless beating sun – and this wasn’t even an oppressive DC August or a particularly busy tourist weekend.
What’s worse, I ask G, the tourons on the weekends or the star-f*cker Hill staffers during the week? He paused, well at least the staffers know to move along the sidewalks at a brisk pace. True.
Good thing both were in short supply at the Folger. Helpful docents gave informal tours to small groups of tourists, but you were also allowed to wander at your own pace, which we did.
Me? I geeked out on the quartos, the scraps of parchment and the First Folios, including the scraps of one destroyed in a fire. A collector’s item (to say the least), the First Folio is the first major compilation of Shakespeare’s plays, including several that had not previously been in print. It also plays roles in those literary suspense novels where someone finds a “lost” play by Shakespeare or are tracking down other dark secrets from the Elizabethan age.
I also learned that Henry Clay Folger (no relation to the Great Compromiser I assume) started out as a clerk and ended up the chair of the board of the Standard Oil of New York – oh my, now that’s a nice position. No wonder he was able to assemble the single largest collection of First Folios …
The exhibit was pretty cool, and we made it just in time since it is closing so soon, on September 3. There were interactive displays where you could go through the pages of the book and news clippings of historic heists. We were literally in another time and place. It was a nice change of pace from the gawking, clueless tribes of tourists.