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Lasting Legacy

The year of Folio400 is over, but a number of projects inspired by the anniversary – and the First Folio itself – live on.

The Children’s Folio

Shakespeare’s First Folio, All the Plays: A Children’s Edition has been developed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Walker Books. Featuring edited versions of all 36 plays in the First Folio, expertly abridged by Dr Anjna Chouhan, it is believed to be the first fully illustrated and abridged version aimed at children aged 7 to 14, making Shakespeare’s works more accessible to young people.

The Children’s Folio, Front Cover

Each play is distilled to its essential characters and plot, so that children are introduced to the compelling story and key moments of every play, while retaining Shakespeare’s original language. Budding performers can perform each play in 20 minutes, with as few as eight people.

To accompany Shakespeare’s beautiful words and phrases, the Children’s Folio has been lavishly illustrated by Emily Sutton, who meticulously researched each play and was inspired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s extensive collection, which includes weapons, domestic objects, textiles, and early printed books, to create a stunning series of illustrations that wrap around the pages of each play and help to further immerse the reader in the plots of the plays and the vivid world created by Shakespeare.

Poem from The Children’s Folio

Published in April 2024, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust has distributed copies of the Children’s Folio to 6,000 primary schools and 3,000 libraries across the UK for free, along with a suite of online teaching resources to complement the book.

The Children’s Folio will help continue to make Shakespeare’s work and language accessible and engaging, as the First Folio did over 400 years ago. It is hoped that this wonderful new illustrated edition for children will capture the imagination of future generations, ensure that every child has a positive first experience with Shakespeare, and inspire them to read and perform the plays for many years to come.

“It’s great for children to have this accessible introduction to the plays, and to the book which has given them to posterity. Highly recommended as a new family heirloom.” Professor Emma Smith, Oxford University

“[It] is a labour of love that reads like a dream… This sumptuous children’s edition of Shakespeare’s First Folio is beguiling… Feast your eyeballs on this bedazzling book and start your children on a lifelong love of Shakespeare.” The Times

“It’s Shakespeare for children – but in a radical new form … the book is illustrated by Emily Sutton, who has supplied more than 150 ingeniously detailed watercolour drawings … it’s a rare delight to find a children’s edition that leaves Shakespeare’s language intact.” The Telegraph

“What a lovely treasure! A wonderful introduction to Shakespeare’s timeless plays.” Greg Jenner, You’re Dead to Me podcast

The British Library’s Facsimile First Folio

In October 2023, the British Library published a truly authentic (in size, paper, look and feel) facsimile First Folio to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its publication. It includes a separate 6-page introduction and is presented in a handsome slip case. John Lee, Publisher at the British Library told Folio400, ‘I have no words for our forebears in the seventeenth century – their application and skills were clearly breath-taking but, I suspect, the process to have been quite terrifying and overwhelming at points.’

The facsimile’s source is the wonderful Phelps-Clifford First Folio, a rare ‘complete copy’ graded IIB by Sidney Lee, and one of only four copies containing the Droeshout engraving of Shakespeare in its earliest, uncorrected, form.

Whilst free access is available to many digital copies of the First Folio online, this presentation in its original folio book format helps students of all ages, everywhere, to understand how we were ‘given’ Shakespeare in 1623. With a relatively accessible price point for a 912-page hardback, it is hoped that all secondary schools, universities and libraries in the UK and around the world will house one.

The First Folio Silver Salver

Louise Sorrell, an talented engraver and member of the Goldsmith’s Company, was commissioned to design a silver salver for the Folio400 celebrations. It was entered into the 2024 Goldsmiths’ Craftsmanship & Design Awards, from whom Louise was awarded the Goldsmiths’ highest accolade, a gold medal.

Photos © Pete Le May

The salver’s 20-sided shape is inspired by the architecture of the reconstructed Globe Theatre, itself a faithful attempt to explore the playing conditions that influenced the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporary writers. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were written for and first performed at the original Globe, built on Bankside in 1599.

Each of the 36 plays in the First Folio is represented on the salver by an iconic object or scene from the play. While editing the First Folio, Heminge and Condell grouped the plays into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies, and the engravings on the salver’s face have been arranged accordingly around three concentric rings: 14 comedies, 12 tragedies and 10 histories.

In addition to the plays, the title page of the First Folio is notable as containing one of only two images of Shakespeare known without doubt to have been made within living memory (the other being a bust near his grave). Louise recreated the distinctive engraved portrait by Martin Droeshout at the centre of salver.

The salver sits on three feet, each engraved with a theatrical mask: comedy, tragedy and history. The King Charles III Coronation commemorative assay mark has been added to the regular London assay marks: The King’s Men was the acting company to which Shakespeare belonged for most of his career.

As the First Folio celebrated Shakespeare’s art of depicting the human condition, this salver is a lasting celebration and tribute to the legacy of Shakespeare’s First Folio and the skills and perseverance of the people who created it.

The Folio400.com website

This website, created for the 400th birthday of the First Folio, is arguably the most comprehensive, complete and accessible website covering the First Folio’s publication.

We hope that many more visitors will continue to enjoy its content, which is made available to everyone for free and without advertising. We are currently looking for an institution to take over the hosting of the site so that free access may be offered for years to come: if you are interested in making this happen please contact us via the Contact page.