‘Exceedingly rare’ folio edition of Shakespeare’s Henry IV for sale

·2 min read
<span>Photograph: Stock Montage/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Stock Montage/Getty Images

An “exceedingly rare” fragment from Shakespeare’s first folio, comprising the whole of the play Henry IV Part One, is to be auctioned this week.

The play has been authenticated as an original fragment from Shakespeare’s first folio by Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen. The first folio was published in 1623 and is the earliest collected edition of Shakespeare’s works. When Shakespeare died, in 1616, only 17 of his plays had been printed. Without the first folio, which collects 36 plays, 18 of his works, including Macbeth and The Tempest, might never have survived. The works were collated and edited by John Heminges and Henry Condell, two of Shakespeare’s actors and friends, and approximately 750 first folios were printed. Two hundred and thirty-three are known to survive today.

The fragment has been valued at $50,000-$100,000 (£36,000-£73,000) by Holabird Western Americana Collections, which will auction it on 29 October. Officially titled The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry Sirnamed Hot-Spurre, it consists of 13 printed antique paper pages and is one complete play in the two-part production of Henry IV.

“The possibility of owning a piece of the most important literary work extant is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity,” said the auction house’s president Fred Holabird. “We’re proud to present this original copy of a first folio fragment of Shakespeare’s The First Part of Henry the Fourth. Its new owner will possess literary history.”

The auction house might have put a price on the fragment, but it added that the pages “of the first copy ever printed by the most important figure in literary history” were “of inestimable value”.

Last year, a complete copy of the first folio sold at auction for sold for $9,978,000 (£7,253,000), setting a new world record for a work of literature. The buyer was rare book collector Stephan Loewentheil, who said at the time: “The first folio is the most important collection of plays ever published and revered throughout the world. It is an honour to purchase one of only a handful of complete copies of this epochal volume.”

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