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Shakespeare’s First Folio returns to Britain after forty years

Posted on 9th May 2019

In the 1970s theatre writer and book collector John Wolfson began accumulating what was to become one of the largest and most rare collections of works on Shakespeare in the world. Housed in New York only the lucky few have been offered the opportunity to see this marvellous collection. That is until a sneak preview of one of its highlights at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe yesterday.

Chairman of Firsts – London’s Rare Book Fair, Pom Harrington, unveiled Wolfson’s Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623), one of the most complete examples of the text in the world, which was purchased from Bernard Quaritch in the ‘70s, and described how it will form the centrepiece of a special exhibition at the Fair staged with Firsts London 2019 Charity Partner, Shakespeare’s Globe. The exhibition will be curated by John Wolfson and includes other historic source books from the collection together with stage props from the Globe.

John Wolfson bequeathed his rare book collection to the Globe in 2008. It includes all four Shakespeare folios, quartos of plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, sources of Shakespeare’s plays in their original languages, nearly every Restoration adaptation of a Shakespeare play, and some witty Shakespeare ephemera.

Director of Development at the Globe, Patrick Hewitt, explained that the exhibition is being presented to draw wider public attention to the Globe’s Project Prospero, through which it is fundraising for a new building to house their library and rehearsal rooms.

The exhibition – Highlights from the John Wolfson Rare Book Collection - will be open to the public on the Mezzanine level at the Fair from 7-9 June.