Shakespeare First Folio acquired by the University of British Columbia | Smart News

The image of the playwright on the title page is also just one of two portraits with “all claims of authenticity”, according to the British Library.
University of British Columbia

A rare first edition of Stories and Tragedies from the Comedies of William Shakespeare, a volume containing 36 of Shakespeare’s 38 known plays is now in the collections of the University of British Columbia (UBC) Library. Known as the First Folio, the book will be exhibited at Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) until March 20, reports Bridgette Watson for Radio-Canada News.

“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation we are able to ensure that this cultural treasure becomes public property,” says Katherine Kalsbeek, head of rare books and special collections at the UBC library, in a declaration.

The UBC Library purchased the volume, which had previously belonged to a private collector in the United States, through a Christie’s auction in New York. Only 235 copies of the First Folio exist, most being held in the United States and the United Kingdom; the new purchase is only Canada’s second, the statement said.

Published in 1623, the First Folio, according to at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC is an “extraordinary book”. The Folger, which has 82 copies, is a center for the study of rare volumes. Had the First Folio not been published, many of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar,Storm and As you like it might never have survived, according to the Folger.

After the Bard’s death in August 1616, friends of the playwright, including John Heminge and Henry Condell, compiled and edited Shakespeare’s manuscripts and drafts, along with earlier printed editions of some of the scripts to produce an authoritative version of each part. This helped correct the spread of “bad quartos” – pirated versions of the work reconstructed from memory. The editors then divided the plays into comedies, tragedies and stories, according to the British Library, which has five.

Experts estimate that around 750 copies were originally printed and that the image of Shakespeare on the title page is one of only two portraits which the British Library says has “a claim to authenticity “. Martin Droeshout, the engraver of the image, probably never met Shakespeare, but he most likely rendered the playwright’s face from the recollections of others or from an earlier portrait. The portrait, said writer Ben Jonson, who was both a friend and a rival of Shakespeare, and who wrote the verse ” To the reader “ in the first folio, indicates that the image is accurate.

The university says it cannot disclose the purchase price under an agreement with Christie’s. In October 2020, another First Folio sold for nearly $10 million, making it the most expensive work of literature ever sold at auction and one of only six copies to remain in private hands. This one was sold by Mills College in California and bought by an antique dealer in New York Stephan Loewentheil; yet, Gregory Macky, an English literature specialist at UBC, tells CBC that the copy the college bought was significantly cheaper because it’s not in pristine condition.

open book

The folio collected 36 of Shakespeare’s 38 known plays, half of which had not been in print at the time of his death.

University of British Columbia

“For us – for universities, for institutions, for scholars and students – books that have been soiled over centuries are much more interesting,” Mackie told CBC, and explained that a lost page in this version was superseded in the 18th century. by another which came from a second edition which once belonged to Samuel Johnson, who edited his own eight-volume edition of Shakespeare’s work published in 1765. “And this one has been altered in a really, really fascinating way,” says Mackie.

UBC researchers anticipate the learning opportunities that the First Folio proposes: “Having the book here in Vancouver in 2021 on the unceded lands of the Musqueam people allows us to do what scholars around the world have been doing for some time now, which is to think about the work of Shakespeare in terms of location,” said English language and literature expert Patricia Badir in the statement. “Having the book here will give us the opportunity to reflect on how Shakespeare’s works were agents of colonialism and will challenge us to think about how Shakespeare’s plays can help us think about local iterations of global issues on sexuality and gender, religious tolerance, politics and power, race and social justice, and even climate justice.

In addition to the book itself, the VAG exhibit, “For All Times: Shakespeare’s First Folio.” features three copies of later editions of Shakespeare’s work from the late 17th century. The museum will also feature an animated exhibit showing annotated pages from the books. Visitors will also have access to an augmented reality feature from their smartphones that will simulate a Shakespearian figure to appear in the museum’s atrium with audio passages from the plays.

“We have never done an exhibition like this before”, VAG director Antoine Kiendl tells Benjamin Sutton art diary. “These digital features really liven up the texts.”

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