Fab; we’re going to get free public access to a website containing the collected earliest-known versions of the plays of Shakespeare…

“all seventy-five pre-1641 quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays into a single online collection.”

…via…

“a one-year project, which begins in April 2008” [ and among the participants is ] “the Shakespeare Institute at Birmingham University”

Many early folios seem to be scanned and online already in basic image form, but collecting them all together in a sophisticated website raises the possibility of adding new features – such as having the Royal Shakespeare Company voice the exact folio text, and then a mouseover of a particular section of online folio would cause it to be read aloud in a suitably Shakespearean cadence and with the audio-ambience of a traditional wooden stage. Or even with a Brummie / old Warwickshire accent, although that’s probably asking too much.

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Meanwhile, The University of Birmingham is developing the scholarly text-comparison tools for the new website…

“[for] all 32 copies of Hamlet […] Users will be able to overlay text images, compare text side-by-side, search full-text, and annotate and tag images. The prototype will be tested by the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham. The hope is to eventually apply this full-level functionality to all the plays in quarto editions.”