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The Shakespeare First Folio

A first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. Published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio includes 36 of Shakespeare’s 38 known plays. The texts, edited by Shakespeare’s close friends, fellow writers and actors, are considered the most authoritative of all early printings.

The First Folio, formerly owned by a private collector in the US, was purchased through Christie’s New York with funding provided by a consortium of donors from across North America and with the generous support of the Department of Canadian Heritage. Named for the large and luxurious format in which it was printed, the First Folio is an extremely rare book. Most of the 235 copies of the First Folio that remain around the world are either in the United Kingdom or the United States, and on the west coast there are only nine copies in public collections – all in California. This cultural treasure is only the second copy in Canada.

UBC’s acquisition of the Folio has placed this tangible piece of humanity’s heritage within striking distance for an enormous number of people who might never otherwise have had access to it. In partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery, this tangible piece of cultural heritage was exhibited to the public from January 15 to April 18 along with three subsequent seventeenth-century Folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The exhibition, For All Time – The Shakespeare FIRST FOLIO marks the first time that all four Folios have been presented in Vancouver.