Media Releases

William Shakespeare’s celebrated First Folio from 1623 on display for a month at the University of Toronto’s Fisher Library

September 9, 2014

Rare opportunity to view one of the most important books in the English language during September

TORONTO, ON — The gen­er­al pub­lic will have a rare oppor­tu­ni­ty this month to view the only copy in Cana­da of one of the foun­da­tion­al texts of Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture at the Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library.

The 1623 edi­tion of Mr. William Shake­spear­es come­dies, his­to­ries, & tragedies: pub­lished accord­ing to the true orig­i­nall copies, bet­ter known as the First Folio, will be on dis­play through the month of Sep­tem­ber at the Fish­er Library. It is the first col­lect­ed edi­tion of Shakespeare’s plays and con­sid­ered the cor­ner­stone of any col­lec­tion of Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture.

While half of the plays had been pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished in quar­to edi­tions, and often with defec­tive texts, the First Folio pre­sent­ed in print for the first time eigh­teen pre­vi­ous­ly unpub­lished plays, includ­ing Mac­beth, Antony and Cleopa­tra, Mea­sure for Mea­sure, Twelfth Night and As You Like It, among oth­ers. In total, the First Folio gath­ered togeth­er 36 of Shakespeare’s plays.

Only 232 copies of this cul­tur­al trea­sure remain in the world today. The vol­ume held by the Fish­er Library is the only Cana­di­an-held copy. It was the first of four folio edi­tions of Shakespeare’s plays pub­lished in the 17th cen­tu­ry. All four are held at the Fish­er.

“The First Folio’s impor­tance can hard­ly be over-esti­mat­ed,” says Anne Don­dert­man, Direc­tor of the Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library. “With­out it, we wouldn’t have some of the most vital and sem­i­nal works in the Eng­lish lan­guage. We are very pleased to offer to a broad­er audi­ence the chance to see this won­der­ful book at the Fish­er.”

The First Folio will be on dis­play in the Fisher’s main mez­za­nine exhi­bi­tion area. It can be viewed dur­ing the Fisher’s nor­mal oper­at­ing hours: Mon­day to Fri­day, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Begin­ning Sep­tem­ber 18, the Fish­er will be open until 8 p.m. on Thurs­day evenings through the aca­d­e­m­ic year.

The Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library hous­es the Depart­ment of Rare Books and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, includ­ing books, man­u­scripts and oth­er mate­ri­als, and is the largest rare book library in the coun­try. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Libraries sys­tem is the largest aca­d­e­m­ic library in Cana­da and is ranked third among peer insti­tu­tions in North Amer­i­ca, behind just Har­vard and Yale. The sys­tem con­sists of 44 libraries. In addi­tion to more than 12 mil­lion print vol­umes in 341 lan­guages, the library sys­tem pro­vides access to mil­lions of elec­tron­ic resources in var­i­ous forms and almost 30,000 lin­ear metres of archival mate­r­i­al. More than 150,000 new print vol­umes are acquired each year. The Libraries’ data cen­tre hous­es more than 200 servers with a stor­age capac­i­ty of 1.5 petabytes.

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For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Anne Don­dert­man
Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library
Tel: 416–978-5332

John Shoe­smith
Out­reach Librar­i­an
Thomas Fish­er Rare Book Library
Tell: 416–946-5226