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February 22, 2018

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Library News Release

Release Date: 02/26/2015

The Seattle Public Library to host Shakespeare's First Folio exhibition in 2016

William Shakespeare

The Seattle Public Library has been selected as Washington state's host site for "First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare," a national traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world's most treasured books. The exhibit will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.


Ticketing information for the exhibit can be found at


The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring a First Folio of Shakespeare in 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.


"We are honored to have been selected as one of the institutions to help share this extraordinary part of the world's cultural heritage from the Folger Shakespeare Library's collection," said Marcellus Turner, city librarian.


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is also looking forward to having the city host the exhibition. "For most people this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to come within inches of one of the most influential books in history," he said.


Many of Shakespeare's plays, which were written to be performed, were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death. Two of Shakespeare's fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare's plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. All 18 appear for the first time in print in the First Folio, and would otherwise have been lost.


"The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare. Between its covers we discover his most famous characters -- Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and hundreds of others -- speaking words that continue to move and inspire us," said Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. "Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day. We are delighted that we can share this precious resource with people everywhere, from San Diego, California to Gurabo, Puerto Rico, from Eugene, Oregon to Duluth, Minnesota."


The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world and more than a third of the 233 known copies in the world today. It is believed that 750 copies were originally printed.


The Shakespeare First Folio is one of the most valuable printed books in the world; a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie's and another one for $5.2 million in 2006 in London. It originally sold for one British pound (20 shillings) -- about $200 today.


When the First Folio arrives in Seattle, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world, "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities. During the exhibition, The Seattle Public Library is planning numerous programs for the public and families around the First Folio exhibition.


Seattle Shakespeare Company (SSC) first approached the Library about the First Folio last summer and will be a partner for the local stop of this exhibition. "This is the book that brought us Shakespeare," said George Mount, artistic director for SSC. "We're delighted it will be in our city at the same time that our company will celebrate its 25th anniversary."


Final touring dates for "First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare" will be announced in April 2015.


First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Vinton and Sigrid Cerf and the Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of Tides Foundation. Local partners for the First Folio exhibition include the Seattle Shakespeare Company, Young Shakespeare Workshop, University of Washington English Department and The English Speaking Union of the United States -- Seattle Branch.


For more information, call the Library at 206-386-4636 or Ask a Librarian.

For more information contact:

Andra Addison, communications director

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