Shakespeare's First Folio from the John Wolfson Collection at Firsts, London

Shakespeare's First Folio
NEWS STORY by Silke Lohmann

The ABA's annual flagship event, in its 62nd year and rebranded as Firsts – London's Rare Book Fair, will be opened on Friday, 7th June by Stephen Fry, well-known actor and writer and a book collector himself.

The fair will also host a special exhibition with charity partner Shakespeare's Globe to raise funds for Project Prospero to build a new Shakespeare library, which will also house the John Wolfson collection. In 2008 John Wolfson bequeathed to the Globe his collection of more than 450 works associated with Shakespeare and his contemporaries, which will be donated after his death. As the Globe's Honorary Curator of Rare Books, he has curated this exhibition at Firsts including 16 extremely rare editions from his own Collection together with items from the Globe which are not usually on show to the public. He will also give a talk, accompanied by actors, at the fair.

A highlight among the works exhibited is Shakespeare's First Folio – the first edition of his plays Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, which was published in London in 1623, only seven years after his death. It is arguably the most famous book in world literature, including 36 plays, 18 of which published for the first time, which may have been lost forever otherwise. Although it had an estimated first run of 750 copies, only 235 are known to have survived, of which a third are held in the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC. John Wolfson bought it in the 1970s at Quaritch for his collection and this is the first time it will return to London in over forty years and be on public view.

Pom Harrington, Chairman of Firsts London says, “In the year which sees Shakespeare’s Globe celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sam Wanamaker whose passion led to the rebuilding of this iconic theatre, and the 400th anniversary of the death of the Globe actor Richard Burbage, we are excited to be staging an Exhibition at the Fair of highlights from the Globe and The John Wolfson Rare Book Collection.”

The fair takes place at the Battersea Evolution from Friday, 7th until Sunday, 9th June. More than 150 exhibitors from 15 countries around the world will be offering rare, unique and unusual works including signed first editions, maps, manuscripts, art and ephemera. 

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