A new copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio, which is often regarded as “one of the most important books in the English language” was recently found off the coast of Scotland.
Few writers have had a greater impact on the English literary tradition than William Shakespeare. Born in Stratford-Upon Avon in the UK, Shakespeare is famous for penning celebrated plays such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet which are still performed around the world today. He passed away in 1616, making this year the 600th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
The year 1623 saw the publication of Shakespeare’s ‘First Folio.’ This is the first ever collection of Shakespeare’s plays, featuring 36 works including The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oxford University calls the First Folio “one of the most valuable books in the world,” because only 233 copies are known to still be in existence.
Finding First Folio
News outlet CNBC reports that a new copy of the First Folio has recently been discovered, according to Emma Smith, a professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University. Smith revealed that the book was found at Mount Stuart, a neo-Gothic mansion on the Scottish Isle of Brute. Initially, the Shakespeare Studies professor was sceptical that the find really was a copy of the First Folio.
Explaining further, Smith said: “But when I went up to investigate, I could see from the watermarks and the idiosyncrasies of the text that it was genuine.” She went on to comment that “it was a really exciting moment, I find First Folios to be such charismatic books.”
So what’s the story behind this amazing find? Who owned this genuine original copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio? After conducting extensive research, the Oxford University professor determined that the volume once belonged to Isaac Reed. Born in 1742, Isaac Reed was a Shakespearean editor who lived and worked in London more than 200 years ago.
Elaborating, Smith said: “This is an exciting discovery because we didn’t know it existed and it was owned by someone who edited Shakespeare in the 18th century… It is an unusual Folio because it is bound in three volumes and has lots of spare blank pages which would have been used for illustrations.” It is hard to overestimate the importance of this find. In May, auction house Christie’s will sell another copy of the work at an estimated price of between US£1.1 million and US$1.69 million.
Providing greater insight
It is rare that an original manuscript of a work as noteworthy as Shakespeare’s First Folio is found. I share Smith’s enthusiasm for the discovery – just think about what it means. With this copy of First Folio, we may be able to gain a greater insight into how the works of William Shakespeare were read and performed in ages gone by, deepening our understanding of his incredible genius!
Thank you for reading… Hayim Oshky.