Even though it was published seven years after his death, did you know that Shakespeare’s first folio could be the most important Shakespearean document cause without it he would be largely forgotten?
By: Ringo Bones
With the recent find of a rare first edition copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio that was published in 1623 at a stately home on the Scottish island – i.e. the library at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute back in April 7, 2016 seems to yet again to remind the whole world how important this vital document is, not only to Shakespeare fans but also to all of humanity as well. Even though it was published seven years after his death, without a number of Shakespeare’s First Folio surviving over the centuries, William Shakespeare would have been largely forgotten if there are no surviving copies of his plays.
Published in 1623, Shakespeare’s First Folio brought together the majority of Shakespeare’s plays and without it there would be no copies of more than half of them, including Macbeth, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Twelfth Night. And the First Folio is also the only source of the famous “balding portrait” of William Shakespeare by Martin Droeshout. The find brings the total of known surviving copies to 234 which is of vital importance given that we will be observing the 400th Anniversary of the playwright’s death on the 23rd of April. Academics who authenticated the book called it a rare and significant find. A copy owned by Oxford University sold for UK £ 3.5-million back in 2003.
Prof. Emma Smith - one of the scholars who authenticated the find and author of Shakespeare’s First Folio: Four Centuries of an Iconic Book – says it is uncertain the exact number of copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio were produced back in 1623, although some put the figure at about 750 copies. The Scottish find had been previously owned by an 18th Century literary editor and then appears in the Bute library collection in 1896.