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As part of the course, students have been learning to write with quill pens, made from goose wing feathers.
''The course is about how to read the handwriting of Shakespeare's time, which was called `secretary hand','' tutor Dr Heather Wolfe said. Dr Wolfe is curator of manuscripts at the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC.
''All the manuscripts we are using are 400 years old, or older. It is difficult to learn to read this handwriting, because the letter forms are so different. Half the challenge is forgetting the modern alphabet and learning a new system of spelling other strange and unfamiliar forms,'' she said.
Students came from as far afield as Australia for the course.
''I'm doing it because I want to be a rare books librarian,'' Yu Lee An, of Sydney, said.
The rare book course finishes tomorrow.