The Munro First Folio

Folio400 is deeply indebted to the owners of the Munro First Folio. They generously provided us with unfettered access, enabling us to capture a high resolution image of every one of its 908 pages during the first Covid lockdown of 2020. Nearly all the First Folio images on this website are from the Munro. The book is now on public display in a cabinet accompanied by changing video presentations.

The Munro has four-and-a-half preliminary (front) pages in facsimile – the Droeshout portrait is original but has been ‘inlaid’ into a facsimile page. It also has four pages from another First Folio, repaired, in Cymbeline, the last play in the book.

In The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue (2012, edited by Eric Rasmussen and Anthony James West), the Munro is described with the note ‘The appearance of the leaves is generally clean and in excellent condition. There are very few stains or repairs.’

A signature by one ‘Ann Bruce’ suggests ownership by a Bruce Family before it was acquired by Gilbert Laing Meason. He had lavishly rebuilt Lindertis House in Forfarshire (just north of Glamis Castle, Shakespeare’s home of the Macbeths). Gilbert died in 1832 and his son Magnus, facing financial difficulties, sold the estate, lock, stock and library, to the Munros. 

Sir Thomas Munro (Sr.) was born to a middle-class family in Glasgow. He spent much of his life serving the Army and The East India Company in India. Knighted in 1819, he became the Governor of Madras (Chennai) and was made a Baron in 1825. Having amassed a sizeable fortune, he died of cholera in 1827 on a farewell tour of his districts. With part of that fortune, his son, Sir Thomas Munro (Jr.) purchased the Lindertis Estate in 1837/8, becoming ‘Second Baronet of Lindertis’. 

The Munro Folio was rebound at some point in the early nineteenth century, and its pages have beautiful gilt and gauffered edges. On the inside of the front cover is a ‘Sir Thomas Munro’ bookplate. This shows the recently-acquired family coat of arms, which, above the Munro eagle, has an image and the name of the Indian hill fort ‘Badamy’ captured by Munro in 1818 during the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

In 1976, the Munro family sold the Folio and it has been in private hands since then. 

Read Professor Emma Smith’s article on the Munro Folio. 

The Life of Henry the Fift

Professor Emma Smith

The Munro First Folio

22nd February 2021
“Shakespeare’s high cultural status in the age of empire really transformed the First Folio into an iconic object.”

All pictures of the Munro Folio by kind permission of Pete Le May © 2021