Shakespeare Illustration Archive Oppel-Hammerschmidt at the Mainz University Library goes online

Users worldwide now have full digital access to thousands of Shakespearean illustrations


The University Library of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz today published the new digital Shakespeare Illustration Archive Oppel-Hammelschmidt on the Internet. The archive contains about 3,500 illustrations to all plays of the English dramatist from the very beginnings to the present. This hitherto unpublished part of the collection of the Shakespeare Illustration Archive, founded immediately after the Second World War by the Shakespeare and Goethe scholar Professor Horst Oppel, was donated to the Mainz University Library in 2005 on the condition that the archive material be digitalized and made available to the public. The collection contains photo reproductions of works of art, created by roughly 800 artists - among them such names as Hogarth, Chodowiecki, Füssli, Romney, Reynolds, Blake, Delacroix, Corot, Redon, Kaulbach, Piloty, Rossetti, Millais, Feuerbach, Makart, Corinth, Slevogt, and Lehmbruck - and carried out in a variety of techniques (paintings, watercolors, drawings, woodcuts, copper plate, steel, wood, and stipple engravings as well as etchings, lithographs, and others).

For several years, these images have been digitalized by Heike Geisel, librarian at the Mainz University Library. Dr. Annette Holzapfel-Pschorn, head of the Desktop Publishing Group at the Mainz University Center for Data Processing, created an intelligent web interface using latest application technologies. The full text search facility enables the user to easily conduct general searches within the 8,400 digital images and text data. It is also possible to launch targeted and combined search processes in the fields of 'drama,' 'act,' 'scene,' 'individual themes,' 'artist,' and 'reference'.

The web version of the new digital Shakespeare Illustration Archive had already been introduced to the public in November 2008. The electronic collection of the speeches and presentations given on the occasion of its opening ceremony appeared in Das Archiv Mainzer elektronischer Dokumente (ArchiMeD) in 2011. For copyright reasons, however, the use of the electronic archive had to be restricted to a university library workstation.

With the online publication of the digital Shakespeare Illustration Archive Oppel-Hammerschmidt, the long-term research project, which was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, has completed its second phase. Working on this DFG and Academy research project in the 1980s and 1990s, Professor Hildegard Hammerschmidt-Hummel has been able to enlarge the archive’s collection from c. 1,600 to c. 7,000 illustrations.

As early as 2003, the first part of the collection of the Shakespeare Illustration Archive was published, based on literary and art historical criteria. This printed edition contains roughly 3,100 illustrations to all of Shakespeare’s plays, arranged in the order of the First Folio Edition of 1623. The assignment of images within each scene is chronological.

The Shakespeare Illustration Archive is now completely accessible - in print and online. It is to be expected that it will meet with great interest not only among researchers and specialists, but also among creators of the arts and culture in general as well as among directors, dramaturgs, teachers, and innumerable Shakespeare enthusiasts.