The value of books

Some notes about Shakespeare's early Folios

Books have rarity value ~ antique value ~ and binding value. Here we provide some notes on the 1st Folio, and others, of the first printings of Shakepseare's plays. These notes are taken from a catalogue announcing Christie's (of London) sale ~ published on 17 March 2016, and held on 25 May that year. It illustrates the rarity and antique values very well. Those values will be helped by the quality of the binding, although I do not know how that value can be estimated. I do not know the dates of the binding ~ and surmise from the illustration that they vary between the four books by a wide range. It is the printing date that counts, in this instance.

Four early editions of Shapespeare's plays ~ offered for auction at Christie's
Four early printed books ~ from 1632 ~The Works of Shakesepeare
an illustration from Christie's Catalogue of 17 March 2016

Christie's Catalogue states ~

"Margaret Ford, International Head of Books & Manuscripts, comments: ‘Even four centuries after his death, Shakespeare’s plays touch and transform lives and continue to be read and performed from Albania to Zambia. It is deeply moving to handle the first printed record of his collected plays and to be reminded of their impact. Especially exhilarating is bringing a newly recorded copy of the First Folio to public attention, and to be able to offer a set of the Four Folios in this important anniversary year.’

"Published in 1623, the present copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio (estimate: £800,000-£1,200,000) is one of the most desirable examples remaining in private hands. It was bought in 1800 by renowned book collector Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh-Evelyn (1751-1804) and has been hidden from public view for over two centuries. Even on publication in 1623, the First Folio was considered a privileged acquisition and would have taken pride of place on any bookshelf.

"Similarly today, ownership of the four Folios is considered the Holy Grail of book collecting. Without the First Folio 18 plays would have been lost forever, including: Macbeth, The Tempest, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Measure for Measure, A Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, The Taming of the Shrew, All’s Well That Ends Well, Twelfth Night, Winter’s Tale, King John, Henry VI part I, Henry VIII, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Cymbeline.

"Also from the remarkable Shuckburgh Collection and appearing on the market for the first time in over two centuries are the Third Folio which was published in 1664 (estimate: £300,000-£400,000) and the Fourth Folio which was published in 1685 (estimate: £15,000-£20,000). The Third Folio includes Pericles for the first time and is beautifully illustrated with Shakespeare’s iconic portrait by English engraver Martin Droeshout. It is rarer than the Second Folio, due to copies being lost in the Great Fire of London (2-5 September, 1666), and the present copy is in very fine condition.

"The First Folio was a commercial success and was followed only nine years later by the Second Folio, published in 1632 and providing a page-by-page reprint of the First. The present copy of the Second Folio also contains the iconic portrait of Shakespeare by Droeshout (estimate: £180,000-£250,000). The Second Folio is celebrated as containing the first appearance in print of John Milton, whose epitaph on Shakespeare is included."

The article ~ above ~ appears at [Christie's catalogue extract]. The prices quoted were estimates of the likely sale price at the forthcoming auction. I have not investigated the actual prices that were realized ~ and leave research on that to those who are keen to browse. For those interested in other precious books I have notes ~

~ St Cuthbert's Gospel [117143]

~ The Great Omar [115032]

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