Copies of Williams Shakespeare’s First Folio, regarded as one of the most culturally important books in human history, are heading out across the U.S in 2016.
In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C will loan several copies of the highly rare work for a national tour.
“At the Folger Shakespeare Library, we’re looking forward to taking the books out of our vaults in 2016 and on the road,” said Michael Witmore, Director. “We’re excited to see the many different ways that communities across the country will be celebrating Shakespeare—in performances, poetry slams, lectures, family celebrations, and more.”
Shakespeare’s First Folio was originally printed in 1623, seven years after the playwright’s death, and was the only reliable text for about twenty of his most famous plays.
The national tour will see copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio visit all 50 states across the U.S, plus Washington D.C and Puerto Rico, with exhibition locations including 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies, and a theatre.
In total, 18 copies of the rare volume will travel across the U.S from the library’s collection, with six out on the road at any one time. The tour will begin in January 2016 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, The Sam Noble Museum in Norman, Oklahoma, and the University of Oregon in Eugene.
At every stop along the way the Folio will be on display for three to four weeks, and will be accompanied by a multi-panel exhibition exploring Shakespeare’s impact in both his own time and today. Host sites will also offer their own localized events, such as Tulane University in New Orleans, which will host a traditional jazz-style funeral for the Bard in May.
It’s believed that just 233 copies of the original folio survive to this day, with only 40 remaining in complete condition. The Folger Library owns 82 of these copies, the largest grouping of the book in the work, followed by the 12 copies housed at Meisei University in Tokyo.
Just a handful remain in private hands, and copies have been known to sell for up to $6 million dollars. Most recently, a previously unknown copy was discovered in a public library in Saint-Omer, Pas-de-Calais in France, where it had apparently sat undisturbed for around 200 years.
A full list of tour dates for ‘First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare’ can be found on The Folger Shakespeare Library’s website, www.folger.edu.