Skip to main content

Some of the most-expensive books in the world are going on tour. The Folger Shakespeare Library is sending several First Folios to partner institutions around the country -- one in each state -- so people can view the famous books upclose and personal.


WIlliam Shakespeare’s First Folio is a remarkable thing. Compiled just seven years after the great man died, the Folio (so-called because of how the book was printed — “When two leaves (four pages when printed on both sides) were printed on a sheet so that it could be folded once, collated with other folded sheets and bound, the format of the volume was a folio." — from the ABAA Glossary of Book Terms) was created by two actors who knew Shakespeare and would have had access to original drafts (referred to be the delicious term “foul papers” as they would have presumably been covered in handwritten edits, notes, and all manner of marginalia, rather than pristine, printed texts), transcripts prepared for the actors, or official prompt books from the original productions. If not for this book, those various copies would have likely been scattered and lost, and more of Shakespeare’s plays could have been lost to time.

For such a famous and influential book, there are few copies left in existence. Perhaps 750 copies were printed in 1623. Only 233 are known to exist today. The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, is home to an unrivaled collection of Shakespeariana, including 82 of the surviving First Folios.

Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies

Comedies, Histories & Tragedies (Facsimile of First Folio Edition of Shakespeare)

Yale University Press, 1954. Hardcover. Very Good/Very Good. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1954. Fifth printing (1968). Hardcover. 889 pp. Near fine, in very good unclipped jacket. (Offered by Stick Figure Books)

The library is touring 18 of these copies around the country during 2016, giving students and fans of Shakespeare’s work a chance to see some of the most-valuable books in the world up close and personal. One museum or library in each state has been chosen to host a Folio, and the tour ends in January 2017.

More details about the tour and the Folger Shakespeare Library’s wide-ranging “The Wonder of Will” program, which celebrates his life through special events, exhibitions and performances throughout 2016, can be found online. A listing of institutions hosting the First Folio tour can be found below. Contact your local Folio host for details specific to their location.

AL: Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts

AK: Alaska State Libraries, Archives and Museums

AZ: University of Arizona

AR: University of Central Arkansas in partnership with the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

CA: The Old Globe with San Diego Public Library

CO: University of Colorado Boulder

CT: University of Connecticut

DC: Gallaudet University

DE.: University of Delaware

FL: The Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum

GA: Emory University

HI: Kapiolani Community College

ID: Alberstons Library, Boise State University

IL: Lake County Discovery Museum

IN: University of Notre Dame

IA: The University of Iowa Libraries

KS: Kansas State University

KY: Frazier History Museum

LA: Tulane University

ME: Portland Public Library

MD: St. John’s College

MA: Amherst College

MI: Wayne State University in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Detroit Public Library

MN: University of Minnesota

MS: University of Mississippi

MO: Kansas City Public Library

MT: University of Montana

NE.: The Durham Museum

NV: Nevada Museum of Art, Reno

NH: Currier Museum of Art

NJ: Drew University in partnership with The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey

NM: New Mexico Museum of Art

NY: New-York Historical Society

NC: North Carolina Museum of History

ND: State Historical Society of North Dakota

OH: Cleveland Public Library

OK: The Sam Noble Museum

OR: University of Oregon

PA: Elizabethtown College

PR: Universidad del Turabo

RI: Brown University

SC: University of South Carolina Libraries

SD: University of South Dakota in partnership with the National Music Museum

TN: The Parthenon

TX: Texas A&M University

UT: Salt Lake City Public Library

VT: Middlebury College

VA: University of Virginia

WA: The Seattle Public Library

WV: Oglebay Park

WI: University of Wisconsin-Madison

WY: Wyoming State Museum

Don't miss any articles from The New Antiquarian blog.

Subscribe to the ABAA email newsletter!

* indicates required
Email Format