LONDON - A rare first edition of William Shakespeare’s plays is to go on display in the Bard’s spiritual home, just a few hundred yards from where it was printed in 1623.
Shakespeare’s Globe says a First Folio discovered last year in a library in Saint-Omer, France, will be displayed at the London theater for two months from July 2016.
Actor Mark Rylance said Monday that he’s delighted “my favorite book in the world” is coming to the re-created Elizabethan playhouse. The theater lies across the River Thames from the site of London’s 17th-century printing houses near St. Paul’s Cathedral.
About 750 copies of Shakespeare’s collected plays were printed seven years after the playwright died. Some 230 copies are known to survive, including the book found among belongings from a now-defunct Jesuit college in Saint-Omer, near Calais.
Saint-Omer librarian Remy Cordonnier identified the folio, which was missing its title page and had been misidentified as an 18th-century printing.
He said annotations suggest it was used for student performances at the college — some of the bawdier jokes have been crossed out.
One First Folio sold at Christie’s auction house in 2006 for $6.8 million, and Saint-Omer Mayor Francois Decoster said Cordonnier had told him of the discovery by saying “I think we’ve found the second-most-precious book in the world.” He said the town already has a copy of the most valuable, the 15th-century Gutenberg Bible.
Rylance, a former Globe artistic director who is currently starring as Henry VIII’s adviser Thomas Cromwell in the BBC television series “Wolf Hall,” said that 17 Shakespeare plays were not printed in the playwright’s lifetime. Without the First Folio they would have been lost.
“This one will return and live a few hundred yards from where it was originally created,” he said, looking out across the Thames from the Globe. “Magical.”