Rare Shakespeare First Folio found on Scottish island

Thu Apr 7, 2016 11:05am EDT
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By Russell Cheyne

ISLE OF BUTE, Scotland (Reuters) - A nearly 400-year-old copy of a first edition of William Shakespeare's collected plays has been found in a vast aristocratic house on the Isle of Bute, off the western coast of Scotland.

Published in 1623, the First Folio contains Shakespeare's 36 plays, including several that had never been published before and might have been lost without it, such as "Macbeth", "The Tempest" and "As You Like It".

The discovery at Mount Stuart, grand neo-Gothic home of the Marquesses of Bute, brings the total of known surviving copies of the First Folio in the world to 234. Most others are in libraries and accessible only to scholars.

It is usually a single volume that would have to be read sitting at a desk, but the Bute copy was split in the past for ease of reading into three leather-bound volumes, one each for comedies, histories and tragedies.

"This is something that you could take to the fireside and enjoy," Emma Smith, a professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University who authenticated the Bute Folio, told the BBC.

"It's a book we most likely now see ... in a glass case, and one of the things that this copy ... shows us is a time when people just really used this book, they enjoyed it, they scribbled on it, they spilt their wine on it, their pet cats jumped on it."

Worth an estimated 2 to 2.5 million pounds ($2.8 to $3.5 million) according to Smith, the Folio is not up for sale and will be on public display at Mount Stuart until October.

It was found in the home's library, which houses a collection of artworks and artefacts acquired by the Stuart family over the centuries.   Continued...

A Shakespeare First Folio discovered nearly 400 years after his death is displayed at Mount Stuart, Isle of Bute, Scotland, Britain April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne