Library Selected As Host Site in Missouri For 2016 Exhibit Featuring Rare, Valuable Shakespeare's First Folio

Thursday, February 26, 2015
Steven Woolfolk

(Kansas City, Missouri) - Nearly four centuries after its publication, one of the world's rarest and most valuable books - the first collection of William Shakespeare's works - will go on display at the Kansas City Public Library in 2016 as part of a national traveling exhibition.

The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., announced Thursday, February 26, 2015, that the Library will serve as the host site in Missouri for First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare. A single site was selected in each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Kansas State University was named in Kansas.

Eighteen First Folio copies will circulate among the locations. They're among 233 copies of the book known to exist today, less than a third of the 750 thought to have been printed originally in 1623.

The Kansas City Public Library will make the four-week exhibit the centerpiece of a months-long celebration of Shakespeare, partnering with local and national scholars and an array of area institutions and organizations in offering speaking presentations, stage productions, film screenings and discussions, workshops, and other activities for children and adults.

Dates for the 2016 exhibit at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., still are being determined. The Folger Library will release a touring schedule in April 2015.

The traveling exhibit, sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library in partnership with the Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 1616.

"We are honored to have been selected as one of the institutions to help share this extraordinary part of the world's cultural heritage from the Folger Library's collection," says Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III. "For most people, this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come close - very close - to one of the most influential books in history."

Published seven years after Shakespeare's death, the First Folio was the first compilation of his plays. Eighteen of the works, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It, had never appeared previously in print and otherwise would have been lost.

The Folger Library holds 82 of today's known copies, the largest single collection in the world.

Prices for privately held copies underscore their value. One First Folio sold for $6.2 million at Christie's auction house in London in 2001. Another went for $5.2 million in 2006.

When the First Folio arrives in Kansas City, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line in the world: "to be or not to be" from Hamlet. Accompanying the 900-page book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor and by the generous support of and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf.

Partnering with the Kansas City Public Library in bringing the exhibit to Kansas City are the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Department of Theatre and Department of English Language and Literature, the Kansas City branch of the English-Speaking Union, the Missouri Humanities Council, and KCUR-FM.

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