UBC acquires rare book of Shakespeare plays

The “tangible piece of cultural heritage” will be the subject of a special exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

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Or : Vancouver Art Gallery, South Gallery Room (750 Hornby St., Vancouver)

Tickets and information : vanartgallery.bc.ca

An extremely rare first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies Histories and Tragedies, published seven years after his death in 1623, was purchased by UBC.

Also known as the Premier Folio, the book includes 36 of the Bard’s known works, edited by a collection of her close friends, fellow writers, and actors.

It is considered the most comprehensive and authoritative of all first impressions of the playwright’s plays. There are only 235 copies of the First Folio left in the world, mostly in the UK and US. This is only the second copy in Canada.

Formerly in the hands of a private American collector, UBC acquired the text through Christie’s in New York. The opportunity presented itself to purchase the publication in early 2021, and Katherine Kalsbeek, head of rare books and special collections at the UBC library, pursued it. Funding came from support from the Department of Canadian Heritage and a consortium of donors across North America.

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“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation we are able to make this cultural treasure the property of the public,” Kalsbeek said in a press release. “The addition of a first folio to the UBC library collection represents an important step in our development both as a library and as a university. “

Those wishing to see the historical text can visit the exhibition For All Time: The Shakespeare First Folios, which was co-curated by UBC and the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Gregory Mackie, Associate Professor of English, Norman Colbeck, Curator at UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections and Kalsbeek.

The exhibition also includes three other 17th-century folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays. This will be the first time that the four Folios will be presented in Vancouver. Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival’s founding artistic director, Christopher Gaze, will perform the mobile audio guide. For All Time: The Shakespeare First Folios will also feature a series of public programs including talks, performances and more.

sderdeyn@postmedia.com

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