‘Where are they?  Gone?’

Macbeth, IV i

151

North America

51

UK & Ireland

8

Europe

13

Japan

1

Africa

1

Australia

1

New Zealand

9+?

Missing Folios

First Folios around the Globe*

About 750 copies of the 1623 First Folio were printed. In 2023, 235 were known to have survived with 50 copies still in the UK, 149 in the USA and 36 in other corners of the world (nine of which are listed here as ‘missing’). Many First Folios have been through a similar cycle of ownership: well-heeled theatre-going ‘literati’, to wealthy family libraries, to rich US industrialists, who then bequeathed their copies to public institutions (libraries and colleges). A pristine ‘complete’ copy, with all its original leaves present fetched nearly $10 million at auction in 2020, perhaps inaugurating a shift back to private ownership. Numerous institutions have prepared digitised copies for academic and public access. *The data used to populate these maps was from The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue, edited by Eric Rasmussen and Anthony James West, 2012 (Palgrave Macmillan) and The Shakespeare Census website.

North America

North America 85

Washington DC

2

Maryland

3

New Jersey

4

Connecticut

2

Rhode Island

4

Massachusetts

1

New Hampshire

15

New York

7

Pennsylvania

1

Virginia

1

West Virginia

1

Ontario

2

Ohio

1

Indiana

2

Illinois

1

Nebraska

4

Texas

1

Vancouver

1

Oregon

10

California

Henry and Emily Folger were the most famous and successful First Folio ‘hunters’ and collectors of all time. They bought 82 copies between 1893 and 1928, and then built a library in Washington D.C. to house them together with the world’s largest collection of ‘Shakespeareana’. It was opened to the public on 23rd April 1932, and in 2024 completed an extensive renovation project to give greater access to its collections.

In 2023, New York Public Library had six First Folios, The Huntington Library in California had four, with most of the balance in the North-eastern states.

First Folios in North America

  • 1
    Oregon
  • 4
    Texas
  • 1
    Indiana
  • 1
    Virginia
  • 1
    New Hampshire
  • 4
    Connecticut
  • 85
    Washington DC
  • 10
    California
  • 1
    Ontario
  • 2
    Ohio
  • 7
    Pennsylvania
  • 4
    Massachusetts
  • 3
    New Jersey
  • 1
    British Colombia
  • 1
    Nebraska
  • 2
    Illinois
  • 1
    West Virginia
  • 15
    New York
  • 4
    Rhode Island
  • 2
    Maryland

UK & Ireland

1

Dublin

1

Warminster

1

Winchester

1

Arundel

15

London

2

Windsor

1

Wormsley

4

Oxford

4

Cambridge

1

Ettington

3

Stratford

1

Birmingham

1

Manchester

1

Leeds

1

Stonyhurst

1

Skipton

1

Durham

2

Edinburgh

1

Glasgow

1

Isle of Bute

In 2023, 15 First Folios still called London their home, including five at the British Library. The one housed at The Guildhall was closest to its ‘birthplace’ at Jaggard’s print house, while the Munro First Folio was displayed at Shakespeare’s Globe on Bankside, home to the Globe Theatre and Sam Wanamaker Playhouse: modern approximations of the outdoor and indoor theatre spaces for which the plays were written.

There were three First Folios in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare’s place of birth (and death) and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Oxford and Cambridge universities each had four in their libraries. At least four aristocratic families still had First Folios in their private libraries, including the King.

First Folios in the UK & Ireland

  • 1
    Dublin
  • 1
    Arundel
  • 1
    Wormsley
  • 1
    Ettington
  • 1
    Manchester
  • 1
    Skipton
  • 1
    Glasgow
  • 1
    Warminster
  • 15
    London
  • 4
    Oxford
  • 3
    Stratford
  • 1
    Leeds
  • 1
    Durham
  • 1
    Isle of Bute
  • 1
    Winchester
  • 2
    Windsor
  • 4
    Cambrdige
  • 1
    Birmingham
  • 1
    Stonyhurst
  • 2
    Edinburgh

Europe & Rest of the World

1

Padua

1

Berlin

1

Stuttgart

1

Cologne

1

Munich

1

Geneva

1

Paris

1

St. Omer

11

Tokyo

1

Kyoto

1

Kobe

1

Auckland

1

Sydney

1

Capetown

Dr. Mitsuo Kodama, the late President of Meisei University, Japan, acquired 12 First Folios between 1975 and 1993, mostly through the book-dealer Mitsuo Nitta of the Yushodo Company. In 2023, Meisei University still had 10 First Folios. There were three other copies in Japan and three scattered across the southern hemisphere. Several cities in Europe housed First Folios, but only one, Padua, was also the setting of a First Folio play (The Taming of the Shrew). Copies in New Zealand and South Africa were witness to British colonial rule.

First Folios in the Europe & Rest of the World

  • 1
    Padua
  • 1
    Cologne
  • 1
    Paris
  • 1
    Kyoto
  • 1
    Syndey
  • 1
    Berlin
  • 1
    Munich
  • 1
    St. Omer
  • 1
    Kobe
  • 1
    Capetown
  • 1
    Stuttgart
  • 1
    Geneva
  • 11
    Tokyo
  • 1
    Auckland

Missing Folios

If about 750 copies were originally printed in 1623, then 400 years later a total of about 524 copies of the First Folio were temporarily ‘missing’ or were lost forever. Fire, neglect, damp, decay and even shipwrecks all took copies. ‘Vampment’ or ‘Sophistication’, the process of making ‘perfect’ copies out of partial ones, also took its toll. Of the 235 copies known to have survived to 1824 and beyond, nine had gone missing. Some of those may re-surface and more copies (like the Shuckburgh and the St. Omer), never previously recorded in the censuses, will be found. Read Eric Rasmussen’s discussion of this in Folio-phernalia.

StOmerFolio_PeteLeMay160705_175232

Professor Eric Rasmussen

Every Six Years

20th January 2021
First Folios missing, stolen, recovered and discovered.