Light & Verity

Big book

Shakespeare's First Folio is 400. You can see a copy in Sterling Library.

Folio: Elizabethan Club of Yale University

Folio: Elizabethan Club of Yale University

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To see the Elizabethan Club’s copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio (left), you normally have to wangle an invitation to tea on a Friday and then squeeze into the club’s tiny bank vault for a guided tour. But to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the folio’s publication, the club has brought out its own tome for an exhibition at Sterling Memorial Library, on view through February 4. The First Folio: Shakespeare for All Time? includes not only the title attraction—the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays, and the only known source of such major plays as Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and Twelfth Night—but also a selection of other works from the club’s assortment that help tell the story of Shakespeare publications.

The First Folio is not especially rare. There are 232 known copies, including one in the Beinecke Library. Still: who wouldn't love to own a copy? They're so coveted that one sold in 2020 for $10 million. “A lot of people are moved and even changed by seeing the First Folio,” says exhibition organizer Eve Houghton ’24PhD. “It has an aura about it.”

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