From Shakespeare to Tolkien



There are many illustrious authors with roots in the West Midlands.

Some wrote about the places they grew up in, others left and never looked back. Some places make much of their literary connections, while others choose to ignore them.

Events are planned around the world in 2014 to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, which took place in Stratford-upon-Avon on about (but not indisputably) 23 April 1564. He wrote (again not indisputably) 37 plays, five long (narrative) poems and 154 sonnets, which may or may not have made reference to the locality of his birth. He is currently lauded in his home town and historic county, although this was not always the case.

Stratford first held a festival in honour of Shakespeare in 1769. Birmingham, as ‘the chief town of Shakespeare’s county’, marked the tercentenary of Shakespeare’s birth inApril 1864 by founding the Shakespeare Memorial Library, one of the finest collections of editions of Shakespeare’s works in the world. This was placed in the newly-opened Birmingham Reference Library in April 1868.

After the disastrous fire of 1879, the collection was housed in a panelled room with carved bookcases designed by J H Chamberlain, a leading architect of Victorian Birmingham. This room has been reinstated in the new Library of Birmingham.

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