James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare Wins the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction Winner of Winners Award

Edinburgh, Apr 28, 2023 – (ACN Newswire via SEAPRWire.com) – 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare by James Shapiro is tonight, Thursday, April 27, named winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction ‘Winner of Winners’ Award. The winner was announced by Chair of Judges, Jason Cowley, at a ceremony hosted at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.

Baillie Gifford Prize Winner of Winners James Shapiro
Baillie Gifford Prize Winner of Winners James Shapiro with 1599: A Year in the Life of William
Shakespeare at a photocall at Waterstones in Edinburgh

The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction Winner of Winners Award marks the 25th anniversary of the UK’s premier non-fiction book prize by crowning the best work of non-fiction from the last 25 years of the prize. As the winner, Shapiro will receive GBP25,000.

The winner was chosen by a judging panel comprising of: New Statesman editor-in-chief, Jason Cowley (chair); academic, critic and broadcaster, Shahidha Bari; journalist, author and academic, Sarah Churchwell; and biographer and critic Frances Wilson. Their selection was made from a shortlist of six books, taken from the previous 24 prizewinning books.

In the course of 1599, Shakespeare completed Henry V, wrote Julius Caesar and As You Like It in quick succession, and produced the first draft of his greatest play, Hamlet. In his winning book 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, Shapiro shows how The Bard progressed from his tale of two star-crossed lovers to Hamlet. Shapiro finds one question the most pressing: how did Shakespeare become Shakespeare – one of the greatest writers who ever lived?

James Shapiro is Professor of English at Columbia University, where he teaches Shakespeare. His earlier books have received international acclaim, including 1606: The Year of Lear, which won the James Tait Black Prize; 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, which won the Samuel Johnson Prize; and Shakespeare in a Divided America, selected as one of the 10 best books of the year by the New York Times. Shapiro is also the author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World’s Most Famous Passion Play, Shakespeare and the Jews, and Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, and edited the Library of America anthology, Shakespeare in America. His reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and other publications. He has served on the board of directors of The Royal Shakespeare Company, and advises productions for the Public Theatre in New York and other companies. Shapiro was a collaborator on The King and the Playwright, a series he hosted for the BBC and also hosted the BBC The Mysterious Mr. Webster. In 2011, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is currently serving as a Booker Prize judge.

Jason Cowley, Chair of judges, says: “1599 is a remarkable and compelling book. A history of four masterpieces and of so much more, it produces a life of Shakespeare, about whom so little is known, through an ingenious fusion of history, politics, and literary criticism. The result is a poised and original re-imagination of biography. Shapiro returns Shakespeare to the stage of his own world, and in so doing, he transforms our understanding – not only of the great works but also of the social atmosphere of his times. Erudite, accessible and formally bold, it will appeal to anyone interested in history, politics, literature and good writing.”

Peter Singlehurst, Partner at Baillie Gifford, says: “The strapline for the Baillie Gifford Prize is ‘all the best stories are true’. But it is not necessarily their factfulness that makes these books so special, it is the stories about people, ordinary and extraordinary. Choosing one book seems an impossible task and we thank the judges for taking on the unenviable responsibility. Many congratulation to James Shapiro.”

Sir Leonard Blavatnik, Head of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, says: “For twenty-five years, the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction has recognized immensely talented authors. We congratulate James Shapiro on this exceptional achievement. We are proud to be the long-time sponsor of the podcasts showcasing the short-listed books and their authors, as well as the annual celebratory gala in London when the winners are announced.”

thebailliegiffordprize.co.uk | @BGPrize | #BGPrize25

Images of the winning author and book are available to download here. https://www.dropbox.com/sh/r5roed7142d4sjz/AABhgKCjEwluQERRixTia2Zxa?dl=0

This folder is being updated with images from the ceremony.

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SOURCE: Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction

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