Shakespeare First Folio goes on display in London

The edition, published on November 8, 1623, seven years after the playwright's death on April 23, 1616, is one of the best preserved copies in the world

By AFP

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Margaret Ford, international head of books and manuscripts, arranges William Shakespeare's First Folio on display at Christies in London on Monday. — Reutes
Margaret Ford, international head of books and manuscripts, arranges William Shakespeare's First Folio on display at Christies in London on Monday. — Reutes

Published: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 9:59 PM

Last updated: Mon 24 Apr 2023, 10:01 PM

The edition, published on November 8, 1623, seven years after the playwright's death on April 23, 1616, is one of the best preserved copies in the world.

A copy of the first collected edition of William Shakespeare's plays went on display in London on Monday, to mark the 400th anniversary of its publication.


The public was given the chance to see the First Folio held at London's Guildhall Library -- for one day only.

The edition, published on November 8, 1623, seven years after the playwright's death on April 23, 1616, is one of the best preserved copies in the world.


Others will go on display around the world to mark the anniversary of the publication between now and the end of the year.

The Guildhall Library stands where the folio's editors, Shakespeare's friends Henry Condell and John Heminges, once lived, and opposite the churchyard where they were buried.

The First Folio contains 36 plays, including 18 that had not been printed before, such as "Twelfth Night", "Measure for Measure", "Macbeth", Julius Caesar" and "The Tempest".

Condell and Heminges divided the plays into comedies, histories and tragedies, shaping the way Shakespeare was performed and understood.

None of the dramatist's original manuscripts survive from the time they were written.

"Without the First Folio, we might have lost most of Shakespeare's heritage," Guildhall Library principal librarian Peter Ross told AFP.

"The copy we have here is regarded as one of the finest in the world. It's absolutely complete. Nothing's been made up from another copy.

"Nothing's in facsimile. We have one tiny bit of the corner of a page missing which has been repaired, but apart from that it's a fantastic copy."

About 750 First Folios were printed, of which 233 survive, and queues formed at the library to catch a glimpse.

"Shakespeare is so much part of our culture, and when you see something like that, and you think it's amazing that it survives, but how wonderful that it has survived," said psychologist Robert Richards, 81.

"And it's awe-inspiring really."

One First Folio sold for nearly $10 million at auction in New York in October 2020, setting a record for a work of literature.


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