Rare and Coveted Shakespeare Book Accidentally Discovered

Nice Play, Shakespeare
A copy of the First Folio of the plays of William Shakespeare — the first compilation of the Bard’s works, published in 1623, and one of the rarest books of all — has been discovered by sheer happenstance in the library of an old port town, Saint-Omer, in northern France.

This most coveted of books was happened upon by librarian Remy Cordonnier when he came upon a dusty old printing of the playwright’s works dating to what he tought was the 1700s, while looking for books for an exhibition on English literature.

“It occurred to me that it could be an unidentified First Folio, with historic importance and great intellectual value,” he told Agence France-Presse. The book, published seven years after the Bard’s death, was authenticated by expert Eric Rasmussen; who has been writing a book detailing his 20-plus years of efforts in tracking down all of the now 232 copies of the First Folio known to still be in existence.

Rasmussen told AFP the book was “immediately identifiable” as an original due to its watermarks and uncorrected errors.

The large volume compiling 36 Shakespeare works was published during an era when plays were not regarded as literature. The book sold for one pound at a time when four pounds a year was the salary of a skilled worker. While there’s some dispute over the book’s current value, in October of 2001 a copy sold for $6.16 million at auction.

The New York Times elaborates on things in far greater depth here.

Below, a little feature on the culture of folks obsessed with this book: