A missed train and a Canadian academic's passion for the Elizabethan theatre have brought a unique collection of 3,000 books on the Shakespearean theatre to London's Globe complex.
In 1969 Don Rowan, a professor emeritus at the University of New Brunswick at Fredericton, missed an afternoon train from Oxford to London. With a couple of hours to kill at Worcester College Dr Rowan went to the library to pursue his usual passion. Looking through a collection of old drawings of British theatres, he sifted through a box of plans, some of which had not been indexed, and spotted architectural drawings by Inigo Jones, the leading theatre architect of the time. The plans, he discovered, were and still are the only existing drawings of an Elizabethan private theatre.
Sam Wannamaker, the late American actor who put much of his own money into building a replica of the original Globe, had been interested in an enclosed theatre next to it. Once Mr Wannamaker heard about the find the plans Dr Rowan had discovered were developed into blueprints for the Inigo Jones Theatre, which will open officially next June.
The connection established, Dr Rowan and David Galloway, a theatre historian and New Brunswick colleague, became advisors on the project.
As a result 3,000 mostly out-of-print books about the Elizabethan stage are being sent to the library attached to the Inigo Jones Theatre to form the Canadian Research Library.
Dr Rowan and Mr Galloway had roomfuls of theatre books between the two of them, collected over 50 years. In 1990, Mr Galloway asked the question raised by many academics and archivists: "What are we going to do with these bloody books?" and wrote to Mr Wannamaker who enthusiastically accepted the donation.
Dr Rowan, 71, has no idea what his library is worth. Most of the books he picked up at the local book store but are rare finds now. The Shakespeare Globe Centre of Canada, one of six countries with a Globe office, has taken on the task of getting the books from Fredericton to Bankside, where they will form the core of the library collection.
"What little we have been able to collect over the years is little in comparison with this very generous donation," said Marina Blodget, the Globe's director of international liaison.
"Going where they are is the best place they can go," said Mr Rowan.