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Shakespeare's First Folio at Auckland Library


3 April 2006

Shakespeare's First Folio at Auckland City Libraries

As Sotheby's of London is about to auction one of 228 surviving editions of Shakespeare's First Folio, New Zealanders can enjoy New Zealand's only copy of the Bard's First Folio located in Special Collections at Auckland City Libraries. The First Folio was given to the 'citizens of Auckland' by Sir George Grey in 1894 as an addition to his founding donation to the Auckland Public Library in 1887.

Auckland City Libraries not only has one of the surviving First Folio editions, but it is the only library in New Zealand to own the first four collected editions of Shakespeare's plays. During Shakespeare's lifetime, only 18 of his plays were printed in separate quartos many of which were pirated. Shakespeare's former actor colleagues, John Heminge and Henry Condell collected 36 plays after his death in 1616 and printed these in the first collected edition or First Folio in 1623. The First Folio included plays that had never been printed before such as Macbeth, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.

Although the Auckland City Libraries volume does not have the same binding as the folio on auction at Sotheby's, the historical and cultural value of New Zealand's only copy is limitless. Heritage Manager, Theresa Graham, says:

"It is a privilege for the library to care for the most important secular book in the English language and to help ensure that it remains accessible to future generations."

Not only does Auckland City Libraries own the first four collected editions of Shakespeare's plays, but also possesses one quarto, Pericles, printed in 1619 and the first collected edition of his poetry, the Poems, printed in 1640.

Special Collections at the Central City Library is open weekdays from 9.30 to 5pm, Saturday 10 - 4pm and for the month of April, the First Folio will be on display in the Special Collections Reading Room on the second floor.

For more information, please visit www.aucklandcitylibraries.com.


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