The "First Folio" by Shakespeare is a first folio edition of the collection of works by the Elizabethan playwright.
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Few antique books attract as much interest from bibliophiles as the rare copies of the "First Folio," a collection of 36 plays by Shakespeare. One of them will be offered at auction in July at Sotheby's in New York. It could wind up fetching a seven-figure sum.
Shakespeare's "First Folio" is one of the most valuable works in the world, along with the Gutenberg Bible. It is a first edition of the complete works attributed to the Elizabethan playwright in folio format, published in 1623 by John Heminges and Henry Condell, two actors and friends of Shakespeare. Historians agree that, without them, 18 plays by the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon, including "Macbeth" and "Twelfth Night," might never have been published.
At the time, a thousand copies of the First Folio were printed. According to the Guardian, there are only about 20 copies left in private hands. The copy going up for sale on July 21 at Sotheby's is one of them. Acquired by the Gordon family in the early 17th century, it later passed through the hands of racehorse breeder William Stuart Stirling-Crawfurd and historian R.W. Seton-Watson, before joining the collection of American bibliophile Abel E. Berland.
This manuscript contains numerous annotations, scribbles and notes that attest to its use over the centuries. However, it lacks the "frontispiece," the famous engraving of Shakespeare used as a cover for the First Folio copies. Nevertheless, this copy is estimated to fetch more than 2.5 million dollars.
Bidding could go even higher given the great rarity of the English playwright's first editions. A copy of the First Folio sold for $9.98 million at Christie's in 2020. A record sum for a printed literary work. Another copy of the collection sold for $6.1 million in 2001. "The appearance of a Shakespeare First Folio on the market is always a major event, with so few copies remaining in private hands," Richard Austin, global head of books and manuscripts at Sotheby's, told the Guardian.
This copy will be on display at Sotheby's galleries in London until June 15, before being auctioned on July 21 in New York.
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