First Folio found in French library arrives at Shakespeare’s Globe in London

A rare First Folio discovered in a French library arrives at the Shakespeare’s Globe in London, where the Bard’s plays were first performed.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (FEBRUARY 23, 2015) (FF PRODUCTION) – A very rare Shakespeare First Folio discovered in a French library last year arrived at the Globe Theatre in London on Monday (February 23) before going on display at the French Institute.

The book, which contains 36 plays and is one of the most valuable books in English literature, surfaced in a library in the northern French town of Saint-Omer in September 2014.

Only around 230 copies of the book, first published seven years after the poet’s death and now highly prized by scholars, are known to exist and the latest discovery makes it only the second in France.

“It is wonderful to discover yet another copy of the First Folio and this is such a surprise, because you think they’ve all been found, there’s nothing more. And I think it’s two things: One, it reminds us there may be more things to find and to discover around the world connected to Shakespeare,” said Patrick Spottiswoode, Director of Globe Education as he turned the pages of the book.

It was unearthed by accident by librarian and historian Remy Cordonnier when he was carrying out research for a planned exhibition on the historic links between the small French town of Saint-Omer and the United Kingdom.

The book was carefully wrapped and locked in a box for its trip on a Eurotunnel train to London where it will be presented to the media, historians and academics before returning to the Saint-Omer library at the end of the week.

It is set to come back to London in the summer of 2016.

“For us, to have the Folio here at the Globe, is a great honour. The words on the pages of the Folio were spoken on our stage in the Globe Theatre, that’s where they began, that’s where they were born and then two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors said, ‘No, more people must be able to see these, access these words, we’ll print the plays.’ Unheard of! It was a shock to publish the plays in one volume, so the First Folio is printed seven years after Shakespeare died to make it public, that was the point, to make it public,” Spottiswoode said.

Experts from Christie’s Auction House will also get a viewing to be able to price the book and the general public will have a chance to see it, once back in France, this summer from June to August.

The book includes renowned plays such as ‘Hamlet’, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Tempest’, but thirty pages are missing, including the title page with its iconic portrait of the writer.

With no original manuscripts remaining, Shakespeare scholars frequently rely on subtle differences between extant copies of the Folio to make judgements about the playwright’s works.