The Folio which has recently been discovered appears to have been bought in 1786 by an influential 18th century editor in London by the name of Isaac Reeds as evidenced by the many annotations that have been found in the margins of the book along with several blank pages that may have been used for illustrations. Records indicate that the Folio had been sold, after Reed’s death, to a ‘JW’ for ₤38 and had thereafter received no mention in Sydney Lee’s 1906 census for First Folios.

 

A new copy of the first folio of Shakespeare has recently been discovered in the library of a mansion off the Scottish coast of Glasgow. The Folio, which appears to have been a part of the library since 1896, was located at Mount Stuart in a Gothic Revival mansion that had once belonged to the Marques of Bute. The discovery comes as a surprise that has left many Shakespeare scholars in shock as only around 230 copies of the Folio are still said to be in existence.

In an interview with Don Melvin of CNN, Alice Martin who heads the collections for the Mount Stuart Trust said, “In terms of literary discoveries, they do not come much bigger than the First Folio, and we are really excited that this happened on Bute.”

The First Folio of Shakespeare contains 36 of the bard’s most well known dramatic works and has come to achieve iconic status in the world because of the limited number of copies of it in existence. Without the Folio, the world would have remained unaware of fan favorites such as Twelfth Night, Tempest, Macbeth and As You like It.

The Folio which has recently been discovered appears to have been bought in 1786 by an influential 18th century editor in London by the name of Isaac Reeds as evidenced by the many annotations that have been found in the margins of the book along with several blank pages that may have been used for illustrations. Records indicate that the Folio had been sold, after Reed’s death, to a ‘JW’ for ₤38 and had thereafter received no mention in Sydney Lee’s 1906 census for First Folios. According to Martin, the Folio was bought by the Third Marques of Bute, an antiquarian and collector, who passed away in 1900. The Folio was later rebound in goat skin in 1932 to resemble the other three Bute Folios.

The authenticity of the new Folio, the 234th one known to exist, was confirmed by Emma Smith, an Oxford Professor on Shakespeare and expert in the field. In order to carry out this verification, Smith had to perform several technical checks such as testing the age and appearance of the printed paper, their process of manufacture, as well as looking thoroughly for misspelled words and smudges left by people. So rare a discovery is this that Smith claims her first reaction to the news of it having been found was “Like hell they have.”

The fortunate timing of this discovery, earlier in April this year, made it possible for the Folio to be put up on public display for the commemoration of the 400th death anniversary of the great playwright. It is also being made the focal point of further collaborative studies by scholars from universities such as Oxford, Glasgow, Dundee and Stirling to increase access to their collections for the public, especially school children, of Scotland.

 

Sayantani Jana

Sayantani Jana

Sayantani Jana received M.A. in English Literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University and is currently preparing for further research. Poet and writer, her areas of research interest are literatures of World Wars and Holocaust.

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