The Virtual Manuscript Room

Today’s post comes from Karin Brown, Library Services Assistant Manager at the Shakespeare Institute Library.

Storyboard illustrations for Branagh's 'Henry V'

What do Kenneth Branagh, Baz Luhrmann, Franco Zeffirelli, Marie Corelli and Mary Cowden Clarke have in common? The answer? Archive material relating to these Shakespearean stalwarts is now available to view through the University of Birmingham’s Virtual Manuscript Room (VMR). Covering theatre, film and text, the digitized images from the Shakespeare Institute’s unique collections give an insight into the vast range of material available to scholars at the University.

Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company archive is a rich source for the study of stage and screen Shakespeare. The VMR holds the prompt books used by the company between 1986 and 1992, including productions of Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet and As You Like It, all of which Branagh went on to film. Highlights of this collection also include the script and fascinating story board illustrations for Branagh’s acclaimed film of Henry V.

The Shakespeare Institute holds a collection of unpublished film scripts which includes probably the most successful Shakespeare film at the box office, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996). You can also read the shooting script for Peter Brook’s seminal King Lear (1968), Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet of the same year, or the screenplay for West Side Story by Ernest Lehman (1960).

1908 Illustration from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' by Arthur Rackham

At the VMR you will also find three letters from 1874 by Mary Cowden Clarke to Matthew Mason, printer and publisher, concerning revisions to be made to ‘The Complete Concordance to Shakespeare’ (originally published in 1845). You can read letters by John Gielgud or look at Arthur Rackham’s beautifully illustrated edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1908).

The VMR offers riches indeed and all can be accessed via the University of Birmingham’s web site:


A freely available online exhibition exploring keys aspects of the music in Shakespeare’s plays, as well as music inspired by Shakespeare.