The first printed volume of Shakespeare's plays, which saved some of his most famous works from being lost forever, is to go on public display at the National Library of Scotland to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death.
Shakespeare's First Folio was published in 1623 — just seven years after his death — and there are only around 230 copies known to be still in existence. The Library is putting its copy on special display on Friday 22 April to allow the public to see one of the most important books in world literature.
The preservation of much of Shakespeare's work depended on two of Shakespeare's actor friends, who compiled the volume 'to keep the memory of so worthy a Friend and Fellow alive, as was our Shakespeare', working from sources including Shakespeare's own handwritten papers.
It contains 36 of Shakespeare's plays — 18 of which had never been before published. If they had not been collected in this volume, the text of plays such as 'Julius Caesar', 'Macbeth', 'As You Like It', 'The Tempest' and 'Twelfth Night' may never have survived. The portrait of Shakespeare on the title page has become his most recognisable image.
It is thought that no more than 750 copies of the First Folio were printed and around a third have survived, although many are incomplete. Most are in the world's major libraries and other institutions. When a copy was last auctioned in 2006, it sold for £2.5 million. Headlines were made around the world earlier this month when experts authenticated a copy that had been discovered in the library at Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute.
Helen Vincent, Manager of Rare Books and Music Collections at the National Library of Scotland said: 'The First Folio is one of the most significant texts ever printed. It gave us some of the greatest plays and most memorable characters in world literature, as well as words and phrases that we still use every day. We are privileged to have a copy and delighted to be able to display it to the public to celebrate Shakespeare's life and works on the 400th anniversary of his death.'
It will be on display in the Library boardroom at George IV Bridge, Edinburgh from 12.00 until 14.00 on Friday 22 April. Entry is free.
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20 April 2016