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UBC Library gifted Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio

The first folio, published in 1623, features 36 of 38 known Shakespeare plays
William Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623, acquired by UBC Library. (UBC handout photo)

The University of British Columbia Library has been gifted a very unique William Shakespeare book featuring 36 of his 38 known plays.

Also known as The First Folio, William Shakespeare’s Comedies Histories and Tragedies was edited by some of his close friends, including fellow writers and actors. It was published seven years after his death, in 1623, and it viewed as the most accurate of all early printings.

The book was previously owned by a private collector in the U.S. UBC purchased the book with the help of many donors across North America and support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

“We are deeply grateful to the many foundations and individual donors who have been essential in making an acquisition like this possible,” said University Librarian Dr. Susan E. Parker.

Katherine Kalsbeek, the head of rare books and special collections at UBC, first became aware of the availability of the book at the beginning of 2021. There are only 235 copies in the world and this is now the second in Canada.

“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature,” said Kalsbeek. “Adding a First Folio to the UBC Library collection represents a milestone in terms of our development as both a library and as a university.”

With the acquistion of the historic book, it gives many people and students a chance to dive into a piece of history that consumes people more than they realize.

Next steps include making the book and its contents more accessible to everyone, including collaborating on an augmented and virtual reality presentations – work being done by the university’s Centre of Digtal Media – with the hope of not only gaining new communities but also amplifying one of the world’s more precious pieces of writing, UBC said.

“Preserving this precious book in UBC Library makes it accessible for future generations,” said president Santa J. Ono.

The school also plans on partnering with many arts centres around the province, including the Vancouver Art Gallery, to gain exposure to the book.

“This is really a gift, not just to UBC, but also to the city of Vancouver and to the many people in the region who appreciate Shakespeare,” said Kalsbeek.

The historic piece of history is available for the public to exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery from Jan. 12 to March 22.


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Jordy Cunningham

About the Author: Jordy Cunningham

Hailing from Ladner, B.C., I have been passionate about sports, especially baseball, since I was young. In 2018, I graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree
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