Posted on June 16, 2016

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.

Four hundred-year-old versions of Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet are among the original works which can be downloaded for free. 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 records of many of his greatest plays.

The Digital Library is providing new, unprecedented 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 and appears in locations around the world. 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.

Vodafone and British Library create 2 [].jpgThe Digital Library’s first official appearance was part of the Feast of St George celebrations in Trafalgar Square on 23 April, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The Digital Library will be taken on a tour across the UK and will appear in public spaces and schools in countries around the world, including Albania, Qatar and the Czech Republic. In Qatar, the wallpaper is being displayed at Doha College, one of the oldest British curriculum schools in the country for their community of more than 1900 students, teachers and parents. The school’s English Department has long played a role in inspiring students’ life-long love of learning and becoming passionate readers.

Shakespeare features across both primary and secondary teachings at Doha College, as the school’s Principal Dr Stefen Sommer explained, “As part of our commitment to exposing children to high quality, classic literature we include the works of Shakespeare and encourage them to explore, enjoy and engage with the wonderful storylines and rich language of the Bard. GCSE and A level examination students are taught to engage closely with the language of Shakespearean text as well as the dramatic and performance elements of the plays. In the earlier years, our focus is more on the understanding and enjoyment of Shakespearean language through performance work such as our recent Verse Speaking competition. This opportunity from Vodafone will encourage our students who are digitally literate to immerse themselves in the language of the past using the technology of the present.”

Vodafone Qatar’s CEO Ian Gray said, “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. For example, Vodafone recently launched the Be Strong Online education modules for schools, which focuses on helping young people build their digital skills, and the #BeStrong anti-cyberbullying emojis, which help people support friends who are being bullied online. In Qatar, AmanTECH, Vodafone’s aid programme for online child safety is promoting digital literacy amongst parents and improving children’s digital safety.”