William Shakespeare’s first folio to go on display

A 400-year-old collection of some of William Shakespeare’s first works including Macbeth is to go on display.

The National Library in Edinburgh will display the works as part of the Treasures of the National Library of Scotland exhibition at George IV Bridge.

Originally published seven years after Shakespeare’s death in 1616, the folio includes 36 plays – 18 of which were published for the first time.

They include The Tempest and Macbeth which experts say were saved from probable extinction.

There are only two other copies of the folio in public collections in Scotland – one is held at the University of Glasgow, and another at the Mount Stuart Trust on the Isle of Bute.

‘We’ve seen everyone from schoolchildren to actors to researchers fascinated by the First Folio and the stories it contains, so we’re looking forward to bringing it to a wide audience in our Treasures exhibition,’ said Helen Vincent, Head of Rare Books, Maps and Music at the National Library.

The binding of the National Library of Scotland’s First Folio

‘It will be on display for the actual birthday of the book in November – the month it was first offered for sale in 1623.

‘I’m sure the people who put such effort into producing this book would love to know that 400 years later, their dedication to preserving and sharing all of Shakespeare’s plays continues to have such a profound impact on culture in all its forms.’

Around 750 copies of the 1623 First Folio were printed.

Some 235 are known to have survived with 50 copies still in the UK, 149 in USA and 36 in other corners of the world (nine of which are listed as ‘missing’).

The folio will be displayed alongside Robert Burns’s 1790 poem, Tam o’ Shanter.

The Mount Stuart Trust’s Librarian, Elizabeth Ingham said: ‘We are indebted to the people who edited, printed, and published the First Folio in 1623, who preserved the memory of Shakespeare and ensured the survival of his extraordinary plays for future generations.

‘We were delighted to display the Bute Collection’s First Folio to celebrate the 400th publication anniversary, and we also shared the wonders of Shakespeare’s work with school groups and our visitors to Mount Stuart earlier this year.’

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s book pages.

Plus, don’t miss the October’s issue of Scottish Field magazine.