Copies of William Shakespeare’s First Folio – a three volume set of Shakespeare’s plays that was first published in 1623 – are extremely rare. But the world is now one copy richer, thanks to a surprising discovery on an obscure Scottish island.
A copy of the First Folio has just been discovered on the Isle of Bute, The New York Times reports. The Isle of Bute is a small Scottish island, about 60 miles west of Glasgow. The Folio belongs to the seventh Marquess of Bute, Johnny Dumfries, but its existence was never before uncovered – not even in 1902, when scholars tried to track down every copy of the First Folio. Instead, the missing copy remained hidden in the library at Mount Stuart House, a tourist attraction on the island. It was finally discovered this year.
It’s an ultra-rare find. Speaking with The New York Times, Shakespeare scholar Emma Smith compared the discovery to “spotting a panda.” The newly discovered copy becomes the 234th known copy of the First Folio in the world. The set’s historic importance – its 36 plays include 18 that were not published during Shakespeare’s lifetime, making the 1623 publication a huge event – makes it even more valuable.
The discovery comes during a big year for the Bard. 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, and celebrations of Shakespeare are taking place all around the world.