400 Years First Folio - Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies

William Shakespeare's legendary first complete edition celebrates its 400th birthday. The anniversary is international: institutions all over the world are showing their First Folios. And so are we!

There are 234 First Folio copies left in the world today, only 14 of which are Top Class I or "Class A" editions, i.e. unrepaired books in the best state of preservation. One of these is owned by the University of Cologne. The university bought the book, along with four other Shakespeare volumes, on the antiquarian book market in 1960 for 425,000 German marks. Today, the First Folio is one of the most expensive books in the world.


In Shakespeare's time, theater companies rarely wrote down their plays so as not to provide material for the competition. Many works from that time have therefore not survived today. But fortunately things were different for Shakespeare: two good friends and fellow actors of the writer printed Shakespeare's 36 plays after his death in a large, leather-bound folio format on high-quality paper. The title: "Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories & Tragedies." To this book we owe plays such as Macbeth, Julius Caesar, or A Midsummer Night's Dream, which otherwise would not have been handed down.

To mark the anniversary, the University and City Library has digitized its valuable edition to make it available to everyone on an open access platform in the future. The "First Folio Compared" platform enables a direct literary comparison of different First Folio copies in split-screen view.

But of course, the original will also be on display for the anniversary. Together with the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Fondation Corboud and the Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, the University and City Library is showing the First Folio in an exhibition. In addition, there will be a supporting program with readings, theater, music and a Shakespeare dinner.


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USB digitalisiert Shakespeares berühmte Erstausgabe