The Shuckburgh Folio at The Globe

Margaret Ford, International Head of Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s, and the Shuckburgh First Folio at Shakespeare’s Globe, ahead of its auction in 2016.  By kind permission of Christie’s. © Christie’s 2016

Transcript of audio:

Shakespeare’s First Folio is of supreme importance: it is not only probably the greatest work of English literature but is the greatest work of world literature. This copy of the First Folio is particularly special for several reasons. One is that it was completely unknown to scholars. 

There are censuses that have been done: one of the amazing things is that this copy has not been part of those censuses, so to bring a copy from the shadows into the light is very special.

Having been untouched for over two hundred years, it’s still in beautiful condition. This is it’s binding from the late eighteenth century.

The First Folio as a text is incredibly important: it contains thirty-six plays, eighteen of which we would not have if it were not for the printing of the First Folio. Essentially half of Shakespeare’s output, plays such as Macbeth, The Tempest… – can you imagine a world where we don’t have a line like ‘Double double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble’ – that again is preserved for posterity through the printing of the First Folio.

[This copy] was owned by a man by the name of Sir George Shuckborough: he inscribes the book, and left some of his notes here, so we know that he bought it from [Roger] Payne, who was a binder but also dealt in bookselling and with booksellers, because he tells us so. And so here it is: ‘Mr Payne’s Shakespeare, said to be the first edition of 1623’ – and of course that’s exactly what it is.

Previous plays, and most plays up to that point, had been printed in smaller formats. So here are Shakespeare’s collected plays in this larger format, a much more substantive volume, so again it’s really elevating Shakespeare within seven years of his death, into this national poet.

Margaret Ford
23rd April 2016