UBC acquires rare collection of 1st edition Shakespeare plays

The University of British Columbia has acquired a nearly 400-year-old copy of William Shakespeare’s first set of plays in one volume, which is known to have preserved 36 of his plays.

The so-called First Folio, titled “William Shakespeare’s Comedies, History and Tragedies”, was purchased from a private collector in the United States through Christie’s New York for an undisclosed price, said Catherine Kalsbeck, chair of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of British Columbia. .

Kalsbeek said she worked with Greg Mackie, associate professor in the Department of English, for seven months to raise funds to purchase the first complete copy of the playwright’s work, which was edited by Shakespeare’s friends and fellow writers and actors and published in 1623, seven years after his death.

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Plays such as “MacBeth,” “Twelfth Night” and “Romeo and Juliet” are part of the collection, which Kalsbeek said was gifted to the university through donations from anonymous people and institutions across North America.

She said 235 copies of the First Folio are believed to exist worldwide, mostly in the United Kingdom and the United States, although the University of Toronto has had a copy in its rare collections since the 1970s.

Shakespeare’s second paper was acquired by UBC in 1960, which was published in 1632 and contains the same plays as the first, but with errors corrected and new errors introduced. The second volume also includes the first published poem of John Milton, who would go on to write “Paradise Lost” in the 1660s.


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About 10 copies of the First Folio are still in private hands, Kalsbeek said, adding that the copy obtained from UBC is not in authentic condition and contains a title page from another copy, making it a so-called “advanced copy” that is more attractive for teaching and research. Bibliography.

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She said plans are underway to digitize the 3D portfolio and create an augmented reality app so that people of all ages outside of the university can participate in the poet’s plays, many for the first time.

“We created a custom cradle that will be used in classrooms so that the book is presented in a way that supports the spine and supports the binding,” she said of the white oak stand and glass stand.

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Staff also learn about the best ways for students to access the dear book, through procedures drawn from the University of Toronto and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

The paper will be shown first at the Vancouver Art Gallery, from January 15 to March 22, along with copies of three subsequent papers.

One of the collections is on loan from Austin, Texas, and another is from the Legislative Library of British Columbia, Anthony Kindle, the gallery’s chief executive, said.

He said visitors will be able to access interactive materials including digital animations, allowing them to browse through the first file.

He said of the group of Immortal Plays: “We don’t show it because it is an old book, but because it is as relevant today as it has always been.”

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