Shakespeare's first four folios go on show in Blackburn

Fourth folio pages with Shakespeare engraving Image copyright Blackburn Museum
Image caption This copy of the fourth folio was owned by Lancashire industrialist Edward Hart

A selection of work by William Shakespeare considered the "Holy Grail of book collections" is to go on display.

The first four folios of the Bard's plays will appear at Blackburn Museum.

The exhibition includes a copy of the 1623 First Folio - the first printed collection of the plays - of which there are only 234 surviving copies.

It will join copies of the second, third and fourth folios bequeathed to the town by industrialist Edward Hart.

Blackburn councillor Damian Talbot said the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death gave "an opportunity to shine the light on some of our cultural gems".

Shakespeare's First Folio

  • The Bard wrote 37 plays, 36 of which are contained in the First Folio
  • It was compiled seven years after the writer's death by two of his fellow actors and friends, John Heminges and Henry Condell
  • It is believed about 750 copies of the First Folio were printed
  • Without the First Folio, 18 of Shakespeare's plays - including Twelfth Night, Macbeth and The Tempest - might never have survived
  • The 1623 First Folio is on loan from Stonyhurst College

Source: British Library

Mr Hart, who owned a rope-making firm in the town, left his vast collection of books and coins to the museum on his death.

It included copies of the second, third and fourth folios.

Image copyright Blackburn Council
Image caption The four first folios are displayed together at Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery

Museum manager Paul Flintoff, said: "He made a lot of money out of the people of Blackburn, but he did have that old-fashioned idea of giving back to the community.

"He never made a big thing out of it... the more we dig into his life, the more we like him."

Edward Hart

  • Born in Blackburn in the 1870s
  • Became chairman of the family's rope-making firm, which provided rope belts for spinning looms during the Industrial Revolution
  • Collection included William Caxton's printed works, almost 8,000 coins, a page from the Gutenberg bible, Islamic books and clay tablets dating back from 2000 BC
  • Bequeathed his collection, described as one that "cannot be matched by any public collection outside London", to Blackburn Museum when he died aged 68 in 1946

Source: Blackburn Central Library

Owning a full set of the earliest editions of Shakespeare's work is "very rare", Christie's auction house said.

A separate collection of the first four folios will be go under the hammer in London on Wednesday, where they are expected to sell for more than £1.3 million.

An edition of the First Folio owned by Oriel College in Oxford sold for about £3.5 million in 2003, while another copy sold at auction in 2006 for about £2.8 million.

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites