400-year-old copy of a first edition of William Shakespeare's collected
plays has been found in a vast aristocratic house on the Isle of Bute,
off the western coast of Scotland.
in 1623, the First Folio contains Shakespeare's 36 plays, including
several that had never been published before and might have been lost
without it, such as "Macbeth", "The Tempest" and "As You Like It".
discovery at Mount Stuart, grand neo-Gothic home of the Marquesses of
Bute, brings the total of known surviving copies of the First Folio in
the world to 234. Most others are in libraries and accessible only to
It is usually a single
volume that would have to be read sitting at a desk, but the Bute copy
was split in the past for ease of reading into three leather-bound
volumes, one each for comedies, histories and tragedies."This
is something that you could take to the fireside and enjoy," Emma
Smith, a professor of Shakespeare Studies at Oxford University who
authenticated the Bute Folio, told the BBC.
"It's a book we
most likely now see ... in a glass case, and one of the things that this
copy ... shows us is a time when people just really used this book,
they enjoyed it, they scribbled on it, they spilt their wine on it,
their pet cats jumped on it."
an estimated 2 to 2.5 million pounds ($2.8 to $3.5 million) according
to Smith, the Folio is not up for sale and will be on public display at
Mount Stuart until October.
It was found in
the home's library, which houses a collection of artworks and artefacts
acquired by the Stuart family over the centuries.
"The collection's managers were in touch to say
they thought they had a Shakespeare First Folio, and I must say I
thought right, yeah, sure you do. But on much closer inspection they
turned out to be right," said Smith.