In 1623, seven years after William Shakespeare's death, a compilation of 36 of his plays were published together in one volume. No more than 750 copies of this 'First Folio' were printed and today only about 230 survive, with less than 50 in the British Isles.
At the time of Shakespeare's death, in 1616, 18 of his plays had not reached print. They only existed in handwritten actors' stage notes and Shakespeare's own drafts. Included in these unpublished works were some of Shakespeare's most popular plays such as Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest. It is unlikely that any of these plays would have survived without the Folio. It is for reasons like this that it is thought of as the most important book in English literature.
In the early 1930s, a Shakespeare First Folio was donated to Craven Museum & Gallery by the daughter of local businessman John Wilkinson. Wilkinson, an avid collector of antiquities, made his fortune in cotton mills and a local brand of rolling tobacco. The Craven Museum Folio is in far from perfect condition, with all fourteen of the comedy plays and the book's title pages missing.
The Folio will go on display in March 2011.