A copy of the rare 1623 book that helped bring the world William Shakespeare’s most famous line, “To be or not to be,” will be on view at Emory University in 2016.
Washington’s Folger Shakespeare Library recently announced a tour to all 50 states of Shakespeare’s First Folio, one of the treasures of world literature, and an accompanying exhibition. Dates of the tour, with Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum serving as the Georgia stop, will be announced in April.
The Carlos and Emory are planning extensive public programs around the display of the “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” exhibit.
Published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, the First Folio was the first collected edition of his plays.
“The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare,” Folger Shakespeare Library Director Michael Witmore said. “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.”
Many of Shakespeare’s plays, written specifically for performance, went unpublished during his lifetime. Two of his fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Eighteen of them, including “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Tempest,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “The Comedy of Errors” and “As You Like It,” appeared in print for the first time in the First Folio.
With 82 copies, the Folger Shakespeare Library boasts the world’s largest collection of the First Folio, more than a third of the 233 known copies. Researchers believe that about 750 copies were originally printed.
One of the world’s most valuable books, a First Folio sold for $6.2 million in 2001 at Christie’s. Originally it sold for 1 British pound.
Eighteen of the Folger’s copies will be displayed during the tour, six traveling at any one time.
When the First Folio arrives at Emory, it will be opened to the page in “Hamlet” that includes “To be or not to be,” one of the most quoted lines in literary history.
The accompanying exhibit will explore the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.
The national tour is part of the Folger’s Wonder of Will initiative in 2016 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 1616).
The tour is being arranged by the Folger in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association. The Emory tour stop was secured through a combined effort of the university, its Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library, the World Shakespeare Project and the Carlos.
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