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Rare First Edition of Shakespeare’s Folio is Going on Display

By January 17, 2022Literature, News

A rare edition of William Shakespeare’s First Folio is going on display in Canada.

The rare first edition of Comedies Histories and Tragedies contains 36 of Shakespeare’s 38 known plays. Previously owned by a private collector in the U.S.A, it has been acquired by the University of British Columbia (UBC) and is now held in their library.

The book will be on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) through March 20, according to CBC News.

“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation, we are able to bring this cultural treasure into public ownership,” explained the head of rare books at UBC, Katherine Kalsbeek.

Only 235 copies of the First Folio have survived, with many owned by private citizens in the U.S.A and in the U.K.

shakespeare folio

According to experts, around 750 copies of the folio were printed, and the title page image of Shakespeare is one of two portraits that have “any claim to authenticity,” according to the British Library.

Previous copies have sold for almost $10 million, but apparently the copy bought by UBC cost far less as it is not in pristine condition. A page lost from this folio was replaced by one from a copy in an 18th century folio owned by Samuel Johnson.

“For us—for universities, for institutions, for scholars and students—books that have been messed with over the centuries are far more interesting,” Mackie told the media.

“And this one has been messed with in a really, really fascinating way.”

The folio offers scholars at UBC a unique insight into Shakespeare’s work:

“Having the book here in Vancouver in 2021 on the unceded lands of the Musqueam people allows us to do what scholars around the world have been doing for a while now, and that is to think about Shakespeare’s work in place-based terms,” says English language and literature expert Patricia Badir in the statement. “The book’s presence here will provide us with opportunities to think about how Shakespeare’s works have been agents of colonialism and provoke us to think about the ways in which Shakespeare’s plays can help us think through local iterations of global questions about sexuality and gender, religious tolerance, politics and power, race and social justice, and even climate justice.”

The Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition, ‘For All Time: The Shakespeare First Folio.’ will feature the folio, along with three copies of Shakespeare’s work from later in the 17th century, annotated pages of the books in an animated display, and more interactive displays the patrons can join with their smartphones.

“We haven’t done an exhibition quite like this before,” the gallery Director Anthony Kiendl told the Art Newspaper. “These digital features are really animating the texts.”

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