CLOSE
Getty Images
Getty Images

Rare First Folio of Shakespeare's Plays Discovered

Getty Images
Getty Images

This fall, librarians at a public library in St. Omer, France who were readying an exhibition on British literature made an incredible discovery: A first folio of Shakespeare's plays. The books are among the rarest in the world; this latest folio brings the total to 233.

This Folio, which contains 36 of the Bard's 38 plays, was mislabeled as "an unexceptional old edition," according to the New York Times. It was printed in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Though the volume was missing its title page and other introductory pages, Rémy Cordonnier, director of the library’s medieval and early modern collection, thought it might be a first folio. He called in Eric Rasmussen, a professor at the University of Nevada and Shakespeare expert, to see if his hunch was right; Rasmussen was able to authenticate the book in just a few minutes.

"This is huge," Rasmussen told the Times. "First folios don’t turn up very often, and when they do, it’s usually a really chewed up, uninteresting copy. But this one is magnificent."

Each Folio is slightly different, and this one is no exception; it also features a few handwritten notes, including one in Henry IV where "hostess" Mistress Quickley was changed to "host" and "wench" changed to "fellow," which may indicate a gender switch when the play was performed.

It's possible that the Folio was left behind when St. Omers College—founded by Jesuit priests in 1593 to provide a Catholic education to English boys—was expelled from the area in 1762. (The college changed its name to Stonyhurst College and is now based in Clitheroe, England.) "This particular copy has the name Neville written on the first page," Rasmussen told NPR. "Neville was the alias that was taken by the Scarisbrick family, a family of Catholic nobles. And we know Edward Scarisbrick, who took the name of Neville, went to Saint-Omer College."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
SP Books
arrow
literature
A Limited Edition, Handwritten Manuscript of The Great Gatsby Can Be Yours for $249
SP Books
SP Books

Fans of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby need to put this on their holiday wish list: The French manuscript publisher SP Books is releasing a deluxe, limited-edition version of Fitzgerald’s handwritten Gatsby manuscript.

A handwritten manuscript of 'The Great Gatsby' open to a page
SP Books

The 328-page, large-format edition is cloth-bound and features an ornamental, iron-gilded cover. The facsimile of Fitzgerald’s original manuscript shows how the author reworked, rewrote, and otherwise altered the book throughout his writing process, changing character’s names (Nick was named “Dud” at one point), cutting down scenes, and moving around where certain information was introduced to the plot, like where the reader finds out how Gatsby became wealthy, which in the original manuscript wasn’t revealed until the end of the book. For Fitzgerald superfans, it's also signed.

A page of the handwritten manuscript with a pen on it
SP Books

The publisher is only selling 1800 copies of the manuscript, so if you’re a lover of literary history, you’d better act fast.

It’s available from SP Books for $249.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
An AI Program Wrote Harry Potter Fan Fiction—and the Results Are Hilarious
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images
Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

“The castle ground snarled with a wave of magically magnified wind.”

So begins the 13th chapter of the latest Harry Potter installment, a text called Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash. OK, so it’s not a J.K. Rowling original—it was written by artificial intelligence. As The Verge explains, the computer-science whizzes at Botnik Studios created this three-page work of fan fiction after training an algorithm on the text of all seven Harry Potter books.

The short chapter was made with the help of a predictive text algorithm designed to churn out phrases similar in style and content to what you’d find in one of the Harry Potter novels it "read." The story isn’t totally nonsensical, though. Twenty human editors chose which AI-generated suggestions to put into the chapter, wrangling the predictive text into a linear(ish) tale.

While magnified wind doesn’t seem so crazy for the Harry Potter universe, the text immediately takes a turn for the absurd after that first sentence. Ron starts doing a “frenzied tap dance,” and then he eats Hermione’s family. And that’s just on the first page. Harry and his friends spy on Death Eaters and tussle with Voldemort—all very spot-on Rowling plot points—but then Harry dips Hermione in hot sauce, and “several long pumpkins” fall out of Professor McGonagall.

Some parts are far more simplistic than Rowling would write them, but aren’t exactly wrong with regards to the Harry Potter universe. Like: “Magic: it was something Harry Potter thought was very good.” Indeed he does!

It ends with another bit of prose that’s not exactly Rowling’s style, but it’s certainly an accurate analysis of the main current that runs throughout all the Harry Potter books. It reads: “‘I’m Harry Potter,’ Harry began yelling. ‘The dark arts better be worried, oh boy!’”

Harry Potter isn’t the only work of fiction that Jamie Brew—a former head writer for ClickHole and the creator of Botnik’s predictive keyboard—and other Botnik writers have turned their attention to. Botnik has previously created AI-generated scripts for TV shows like The X-Files and Scrubs, among other ridiculous machine-written parodies.

To delve into all the magical fiction that Botnik users have dreamed up, follow the studio on Twitter.

[h/t The Verge]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios