I’m on a NPR Weekend Edition segment about Shakespeare’s First Folio this weekend; Scott Simon and I ventured into the vault of the Folger with library director Gail Paster.
It’s very rare that they let anyone into the underground vault — it literally has a giant time-lock door — so we were lucky indeed to have a look at such treasures as this Folio cheerily defaced by a girl in the 1720s:
This was still before critics like Theobald and Johnson had made it clear why perhaps you might not want to use old Folios as scratch-pads for your kids.
One neat detail that didn’t make it into the finished piece: Scott asking Gail if it wasn’t perilous to have all these valuable books in one place, because what if there was a fire?
“Well,” Gail smiled, “in a fire the oxygen is evacuated from the room and replaced with halocarbon gas. We’d have about five minutes to get out.”
Which, I suppose, is why you don’t want to fall asleep in the vault. Oh, and also because you could end up like this guy: