Shakespeare documents listed on international cultural register


A collection of documents relating to the life of William Shakespeare have been recognised for their international cultural significance.

The 90 documents, which relate to the playwright's baptism, burial, family matters, property records, legal actions and business dealings have been listed on the Unesco International Memory Of The World register.

They include rare examples of his signature, evidence about his personal life in Stratford-upon-Avon and London and his will.

Their inclusion on the register recognises their universal cultural and historical value and gives them the same status for documents as the Egyptian pyramids have among built heritage.

The Unesco International Memory Of The World initiative aims to recognise, protect and widen access to manuscripts, oral traditions, audio-visual materials and publications which have universal value that transcends geographical and cultural boundaries.

The documents join the likes of the Gutenberg Bible, Magna Carta, Bayeux Tapestry and the films The Battle Of The Somme and The Wizard Of Oz on the register.

They were nominated for inclusion by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in partnership with the National Archives, Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service, the College of Arms, the British Library and London Metropolitan Archives in the UK, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in the US, who between them hold the documents.

Amy Hurst, collections archivist at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: "The documentary trail left by Shakespeare during his life time provides a rich narrative of his life, giving unique insights into his personal circumstances and how these may have influenced his creative work.

"We hold 31 of the hand-written documents from Shakespeare's lifetime that mention him by name and provide a vivid insight into his life as an Elizabethan gentleman and businessman.

"This material allows audiences to connect with Shakespeare, getting closer to the world's most celebrated poet and playwright."

Dr Katy Mair, from The National Archives, said: "You often hear it said that we don't know much about Shakespeare; the personality behind the plays.

"But it is possible to piece together a substantial amount about his life.

"The Shakespeare documents held by The National Archives form the largest collection of its kind and feature nearly half of all known contemporary references to his life, including four of his six known signatures."

She said the collection provided a "priceless perspective" on Shakespeare's life in London,  including his will.

"We are pleased to see the global significance of these 400-year-old documents being recognised by the Unesco International Memory of the World Programme," she added.