LONDON (Reuters) - A U.S. collector will donate rare early editions of Shakespeare's plays to London's Globe Theatre, which specializes in performing the bard's works.
John Wolfson has pledged his library of 450 early texts to the theater, a reconstruction of Shakespeare's playhouse near its Elizabethan site on the banks of the River Thames.
A spokeswoman for the theater said the collection of 16th, 17th and 18th century play texts was "priceless."
It includes a complete Shakespeare First Folio, a 900-page volume of his works published in 1623 that would have first sold for just one pound.
Only around 200 copies survive and good quality examples have sold for as much as 2.8 million pounds ($4.39 million).
Also in Wolfson's collection are a rare Second, Third and Fourth Shakespeare Folio. Few Third Folios exist as most were burned in the Great Fire of London in 1666, the theater said.
The Globe will now seek to raise funds to build a new library and study center to house the bequest, which it will receive on Wolfson's death.
Wolfson, who is in his mid-60s, started collecting the texts from the 1970s and will also be donating early editions of Shakespeare contemporaries such as Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe and John Lyly.
He said he was making the bequest to prevent the collection being broken up.
"I consider myself fortunate to have found a place as appropriate for my books as the Globe," he said.
"For here it will be possible for the collection which I have put together to remain together, and to be used to great advantage by students, scholars and educators for generations to come."
Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Steve Addison and Paul Casciato