Shakespeare’s first four folios arrive in Blackburn

Published Wednesday 25 May 2016 at 12:41

A rare selection of work by William Shakespeare considered the “Holy Grail of book collections” has arrived at Blackburn Museum and is set to go on display.

The first four folios of the Bard’s plays arrived in caskets at the town’s Museum on Wednesday, May 25.

The exhibition includes a copy of the 1623 First Folio – the first printed collection of the plays – of which there are only 234 surviving copies.

It will join copies of the second, third and fourth folios bequeathed to the town by industrialist Edward Hart.

Councillor Damian Talbot said the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death gave “an opportunity to shine the light on some of our cultural gems”.

Shakespeare’s First Folio

  • The Bard wrote 37 plays, 36 of which are contained in the First Folio
  • It was compiled seven years after the writer’s death by two of his fellow actors and friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell
  • It is believed about 750 copies of the First Folio were printed
  • Without the First Folio, 18 of Shakespeare’s plays – including Twelfth Night, Macbeth and The Tempest – might never have survived
  • The 1623 First Folio is on loan from Stonyhurst College

Mr Hart, who owned a rope-making firm in the town, left his vast collection of books and coins to the museum on his death.

It included copies of the second, third and fourth folios.First Folio contained 18 of Shakespeare’s plays

Museum manager Paul Flintoff, said: “He had that old-fashioned idea of giving back to the community.

“He never made a big thing out of it but the more we dig into his life, the more we like him.”

About Edward Hart

  • Born in Blackburn in the 1870s
  • Became chairman of the family’s rope-making firm which provided rope belts for spinning looms during the Industrial Revolution
  • Collection included William Caxton’s printed works, almost 8,000 coins, a page from the Gutenberg bible, Islamic books and clay tablets dating back from 2000 BC
  • Bequeathed his collection, described as one which “cannot be matched by any public collection outside London”, to Blackburn Museum when he died aged 68 in 1946

Owning a full set of the earliest editions of Shakespeare’s work is “very rare”, Christie’s auction house said.

A separate collection of the first four folios will be go under the hammer in London on Wednesday, where they are expected to sell for more than £1.3 million.

An edition of the First Folio owned by Oriel College in Oxford sold for about £3.5 million in 2003, while another copy sold at auction in 2006 for about £2.8 million.

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