THE ‘Holy Grail’ of book collections is going on sale with the auction of the first four Folio editions of Shakespeare’s collected works.
The Folios are set to tour New York and then London, where they will then be auctioned individually by Christie’s on May 25.
The auctioneers have not revealed who is selling the Folios – only that they have been hidden from public view for the past two centuries.
Christie’s estimate the First Folio – the first edition of Shakespeare’s plays – at between £800,000 to £1.2million, but say the entire collection could reach some £2million.
The First Folio contains 36 plays including Macbeth, The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew and A Comedy of Errors. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, by Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell. Without the publication of the First Folio, scholars say many of the bard’s best known plays would have been lost to history.
The auction house say the collection of all four books is regarded as the the Holy Grail of book collecting and is one of the ‘most desirable examples remaining in private hands’.
International head of books at the London-based auction house, Margaret Ford said: “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.”
The Second Folio contains an portrait of Shakespeare by Droeshout and is estimated between £180,000 to £250,000. The Third Folio is expected to reach around £150,000 more as it is rarer due to copies being lost in the Great Fire of London.
The Fourth Folio, which was published in 1685 is estimated at around £15,000 to £20,000.
Visit www.christies.com to find out more.