Vodafone and British Library celebrate Shakespeare


Rolls of ‘digital library’ wallpaper featuring QR codes on the spines of virtual books will allow the public to download the first editions of fourteen of Shakespeare’s plays from the British Library collections

On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, Vodafone and the British Library have made some of the earliest and rarest editions of Shakespeare’s plays available to all, allowing people to download the Bard’s most popular works from specially-designed wallpaper featuring virtual library bookshelves.

Shakespeare’s plays began to be printed in 1594 and appeared as pamphlets called ‘quartos’. Affordably priced and pocket-sized, the creation of these editions made Shakespeare’s works available to the masses in print for the first time, and today they are the earliest printed record of many of his greatest plays.

The pop-up Digital Library is providing new access to free digital copies of the quartos by allowing people to simply scan the QR codes printed on the virtual books as the ‘digital library’ tours the UK. The wallpaper will also provide digital links through to the British Library’s Discovering Literature website, revealing more about the world of Shakespeare and his plays, from King Lear and madness to the violence of Romeo & Juliet and the life of the Bard himself.

The Digital Library will encourage young and old across the nation to remember the great works of the playwright, poet and pioneer and celebrate his achievements as new research released by Vodafone found that almost one in ten Brits were unable to recall who William Shakespeare is, and more surprisingly a quarter of the nation (25%) are unaware of his work, claiming he wrote motion picture titles such as Love Actually and Titanic.

With almost 40% of British teenagers unaware that everyday words and phrases such as “swagger”, “gossip” and “birthplace” were first coined by the Bard and half of 13 to 17 year olds unaware of what a soliloquy is, claiming it is a “material used to make car tyres” or a “pasta dish”, the Digital Library will help inspire the nation through Shakespeare’s classic works, using a modern method which provides unprecedented access.

From today, 25 April, the Digital Library will be taken on a tour of cities and rural locations, including Birmingham, Penzance and Silchester (one of the UK’s oldest villages), after appearing in London over the weekend.

What’s more, as part of Vodafone and the British Library’s Digital Library initiative, families, schools and young people across the country will have the chance to win their very own roll of Digital Library wallpaper, with 400 rolls created by Vodafone and the British Library up for grabs, allowing them to experience Shakespeare’s greatest works wherever and whenever they choose.

Adrian Edwards, head of printed heritage collections at the British Library, commented:  “The look of the Digital Library is inspired by the shelving of the iconic King’s Library Tower, a tall glass structure at the heart of the British Library building in St Pancras London, which houses the extensive collection of books, maps and pamphlets amassed by King George III. This extraordinary collection includes a number of Shakespeare’s original quartos held by the Library containing the earliest record of some of his most famous plays.

“The quartos were designed to be read by the broadest possible audience, and so it is extremely fitting to share them digitally in the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death via the Digital Library tour with Vodafone,” continued Edwards. “We encourage anyone inspired by Shakespeare’s quartos to visit our Discovering Literature site containing more than 300 digitised treasures which bring his world to life, or come to see our Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition in which you can see first editions of Hamlet and Love’s Labour’s Lost in the flesh.”

Helen Lamprell, Vodafone UK’s director of corporate and external affairs, said: “Mobile technology is playing an increasingly vital role in bringing culture and communities together and this wonderful initiative with the British Library builds on our global campaigns supporting young people’s constructive use of digital technology. It also allows us to bring our network to life, with customers across the UK being able to benefit from our great coverage and impressive speeds to download and own these iconic Shakespearean plays. We hope people of all ages will take advantage of our digital library and enjoy the opportunity to own and read some of these magnificent works.”

The initiative is a continuation of Vodafone’s commitment to using technology for good. Education and literacy programmes are a key focus for the Vodafone Foundation, Vodafone’s philanthropic arm, and other initiatives at the company are focused on helping young people and their families improve their digital skills, safety and confidence.


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