Books

Shakespeare’s First Folio has been discovered on a Scottish island

Well this is a turn up for the books.

Scrap that – it’s one of the biggest literary discoveries in years.

A copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio, printed seven years after his death in 1623 and one of the rarest books in the world, has been discovered in a stately home on Scotland’s Isle of Bute.

Authenticated by Oxford University academics at the Mount Stuart House, the three volume, goatskin-bound book was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays and will now go on display for fans inside the stately home.

Emma Smith, professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University, told the BBC that reaction upon hearing of the find was: “Like hell they have”. A line worthy of the Bard himself.

The academics, who have to take into account everything from inky thumbmarks of Jacobean printers to misspellings known to experts, had a job on their hands. Particularly with the amount of forgeries out there following a demand in the 19th century when wealthy US tycoons and financiers bought many original copies.

Mount Stuart House

While there are question marks over where exactly these three volumes had spent the four centuries after they were printed, Mount Stuart's head of historic collections believes it was bought by the third Marquess of Bute, an antiquarian, who added the works into Bute library collection in 1896, four years before her death.

Caps must be doffed to the owners of the house for keeping it on show for the public, as opposed to going straight to the auction house. In 2003, a copy owned by Oriel College, Oxford sold for £3.5m.

The last time a First Folio of Shakespeare’s was found came at a Jesuit library in St Omer in France two years ago. So can we expect any more of the original tomes to be unearthed and dusted off in the near future?

It would appear likely according to Smith, who told the BBC: "I don't think they're in people's lofts, even though it would be lovely and romantic. I think they're in libraries which have been neglected or forgotten, I suspect more will be in mainland Europe."

For now, let's get booking our summer holiday to the Isle of Bute.

[Via: The BBC]