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Rare 1st edition of Shakespeare’s pieces acquired by UBC now on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery

The University of British Columbia has added a very valuable book to its library, and you can bet students won’t write notes in the margins of it.

The school has acquired a complete first edition of Stories and Tragedies from William Shakespeare’s Comedies a rare collection of 36 of the 38 known pieces of the famous Bard. Also known as the First Folio, the book was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, and is edited by his close friends and fellow writers and actors.

Katherine Kalsbeek, manager of rare books and special collections at the UBC library, felt that with so few copies left in private hands, the library must act when the opportunity to acquire one arises in 2021.

“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation we are able to make this cultural treasure publicly owned,” Kalsbeek said in a statement.

From January 12 to March 20, 2022, literature lovers can see for themselves this treasure on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The work is presented with three subsequent 17th-century folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays, as part of a new exhibition titled For All Time – Shakespeare’s FIRST FOLIO.

WATCH | Find out more about the First Folio acquired by UBC:

Purchased through Christie’s auction house

According to a university statement, only 235 copies of the First Folio remain in the world, mostly in the UK and US. The nine copies in the West Coast Public Collections are all in California.

“It’s truly a gift, not only to UBC, but also to the city of Vancouver and the many people in the area who appreciate Shakespeare,” Kalsbeek said.

UBC purchased the First Folio, previously owned by a private collector in the United States, through Christie’s New York, with funding from a consortium of donors from across North America and with the generous support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

According to the university, the price of its newly acquired copy cannot be shared as part of the purchase agreement with Christie’s.

An October 2020 statement from Christie’s shows that the auction house sold a different copy of the First Folio at that time for just under US $ 10 million.