Tyne & Wear

Newcastle Shakespeare 'coup' as rare book goes on show

Title-page of Shakespeare's First Folio Image copyright British Library
Image caption George III's copy of the book was presented to the then British Museum in 1823 by his son George IV as part of the King's Library

A rare copy of William Shakespeare's First Folio is leaving the British Library for the first time to go on show.

It is one of only 233 surviving copies of the first collection of his plays.

Newcastle City Council said being allowed to exhibit the book, formerly owned by George III, was a "real coup".

Jamie Andrews of the British Library said: "Sharing our collections with audiences across the UK is hugely important to us."

Just 750 copies of the book were published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare's death.

It is believed 18 plays including Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and The Tempest would otherwise have been lost.

Council cabinet member David Stockdale said it was an honour and a "once in a lifetime opportunity" to be lent "such a prestigious and important piece of literary heritage".

The First Folio

Shakespeare in numbers


Surviving copies of the 750 original First Folios

  • 36 Number of plays contained in the First Folio

  • 18 Number of unprinted plays which might have been lost if not published in the First Folio

  • 5 First Folios owned by the British Library

  • 37 Plays now accepted as having been written by Shakespeare - the one not in the First Folio edition is Pericles

Getty Images

The British Library in London owns five copies.

Folio editions are made using sheets of paper folded only once, hence the books' larger size.

One of Durham University's copies made headlines when it was stolen in 1998 and then reappeared in Washington, USA ten years later.

Wearside antiques dealer Raymond Scott was convicted of handling stolen goods and hanged himself in prison in 2012.

The book will be on show at Newcastle City Library until 24 April to tie in with the 400th anniversary of the bard's death.

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