Rare Shakespeare folio worth millions turns up on Scottish Isle

Actors from Shakespeare’s Globe perform Hamlet to residents of a refugee camp in Calais. (Dan Kitwood, Getty)

Actors from Shakespeare’s Globe perform Hamlet to residents of a refugee camp in Calais. (Dan Kitwood, Getty)

A rare copy of a First Folio of the works of William Shakespeare has been found in a home on the Scottish Isle of Bute. The First Folio is the name given to the first collected edition of William Shakespeare’s 36 plays published in 1623, seven years after he died. Considered to be one of the most sought-after books in the world, it would fetch millions of US dollars if sold. Records shows it was bought by a London literary editor in 1786 and was sold when he died in 1807 for 38 British pounds (US$53.50).

How it ended up on a small Scottish Island is a mystery, but the assumption is it was bought by the Third Marquess of Bute, an antiquarian and collector who lived at the home until his death in 1900.

One of the few copies available was sold by Oxford University 13 years ago and raised more than five million US dollars.

This folio brings the total number of folios worldwide to 234.

Discovered at Mount Stuart House on Bute, the folio was authenticated by academics who described it as a “rare and significant find.”

Professor Emma Smith, a Shakespearean expert and professor at Oxford University who was one of the authenticators, said the folio found on Bute was one they didn’t even know existed until now.

The folio, bound in goatskin, went on public display for the first time today at Mount Stuart House. It contains 36 plays by Shakespeare, half of which would otherwise never have been recorded.

Adam Ellis-Jones, director of the Mount Stuart House Trust, said the trust was astonished by the discovery, especially as it comes in the 400th anniversary year of Shakespeare’s death.

“The revelation of this First Folio is not only important for the Isle of Bute, but significant for Scotland as a country.”

The folio was discovered when the trust, which runs the Gothic-style house, was carrying out research on the thousands of books, paintings and historic materials located there.

In a statement, the Mount Stuart House Trust said about the folio: “Without it, over half of Shakespeare’s most loved plays, like Macbeth and The Tempest, would have been lost and Shakespeare’s legacy would look very different today.

The folio is to form the focal point of the trust’s new education program, including an online exhibition of frontispieces designed by local school children, to engage young people on Bute in the history of Mount Stuart and wider Scotland. - Xinhua/ANA

 

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