Portland library earns coveted slot to host $5-million, 400-year-old Shakespeare book

There may be no writers better known in history than William Shakespeare, and the so-called First Folios — a series of 1623 printings of 36 of his best-known plays — are considered among the most valuable printed books in the world.

According to a story today in the Washington Post, there were 750 originally printed, 233 remain in existence today and 82 are owned by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

On the rare occurrence that one of the First Folios goes up for auction, it fetches more than $5 million, the Post reported.

So why are these almost priceless books in the news today?

The aforementioned Folger Shakespeare Library announced which locations across America have been chosen to take part in what the Post called the institution’s “most ambitious exhibition ever.” These 400-year-old, $5-million books of Shakespeare plays will be taken all over the country and displayed in each of the 50 states.

In Maine, the coveted slot in the exhibition was granted to the Portland Public Library.

Don’t look now, but the Portland Public Library is becoming one of Maine’s premiere gallery spaces. This Shakespeare artifact will be just the latest in what has been a string of rare and big-name works to be shown there — including in an Edward Gorey exhibit in 2012 and a Maurice Sendak show in 2013.

It’s not just a place to check out books.

The Folger tour is scheduled to take place in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death — which they’re promoting, contemporarily enough, with the hashtag #SHX400.

According to the Post, the dates of each venue’s four-week display will be announced later this spring.

Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.