‘Most important book in English’ heads to York

Precious… the First Folio. Photograph: Craven District Council
20 Feb 2014 @ 3.16 pm
| News
Precious… the First Folio. Photograph: Craven District Council
Precious… the First Folio. Photograph: Craven District Council

Described as “the most important book in English literature”, Shakespeare’s First Folio is on its way to the city in time for the York Literature Festival.

When Shakespeare died in 1616, 18 of his plays had not reached print, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. They merely existed as handwritten actors’ stage notes and Shakespeare’s own drafts.

In 1623, a compilation of 36 William Shakespeare plays, including these three, were published together in one volume.

It is unlikely that any of the plays would have survived without what became known as the First Folio, which is why it has come to be regarded as so important.

Of the 750 copies originally printed around 230 survive. Fewer than 50 remain in the British Isles, and only four of these are on permanent public display – at Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, the British Library in London, the Folger Library in Washington DC and the Craven Museum in Skipton.

It is the Skipton version of the First Folio that will be coming to the Yorkshire Museum on March 27 until July 15.

“The Skipton First Folio is one of only four copies worldwide that is on permanent display to the public and, taking over two years to print, it is believed that no two copies of the book are the same, which makes it even more special,” said Natalie McCaul, curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum.

“We hope that the public will be as excited about its arrival as we are.”

The museum will be running a series of events to celebrate the arrival of the Folio including an after-hours Shakespeare film night.

In exchange for the book, the Craven Museum and Gallery will show the Yorkshire Museum’s recently acquired Gold Torcs.