We’d really like to have some nice images of a shakespeare first folio (if possible from Hamlet) for use in the Open Shakespeare project. However all the scanned copies we’ve managed to find seem to be under full ‘all rights reserved’ copyright.

For example there’s an online version from the Schoenberg Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image at the University of Pennsylvania. But checking the printable version one finds the following:

©2003 Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image

University of Pennsylvania Library.

And this isn’t exceptional. There’s a list of available online folios on:


All of the copies listed are closed (copyrighted with no open license) — with most not allowing for any types of use without permission (the only exception being the State Library of New South Wales which allows for “educational, non-profit, purposes”).

It’s a rather unfortunate situation and it would be great to know if there is a scan of a shakespeare first folio out there which truly is open.

Website | + posts

Rufus Pollock is Founder and President of Open Knowledge.

2 thoughts on “Does an ‘open’ scan of a shakespeare folio exist?”

  1. How can someone by just scanning or formating into HTML claim that they somehow own intellectual property? I can see how the site design could be copywrited, but the orginal material?

    Isn’t that theft from the public and fraud?

  2. In the HTML case what they’d claim is the rights in the html version. If you were to re-extract the text and use it you probably wouldn’t infringe copyright.

    In the case of scans again the scanner gets a copyright in the scan. If you then transcribe the text the scanner doesn’t have any copyright over your transcription.

    Here we were looking not just to get the text for a first folio but an image of a first folio text that could be used for decorative purposes.

Comments are closed.