UBC Acquires Rare Book of Shakespearean Plays

The “tangible piece of cultural heritage” gets a special display at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

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True : Vancouver Art Gallery, South Gallery Room (750 Hornby St., Vancouver)

Tickets and info : vanartgallery.bc.ca

An extremely rare first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies Histories and Tragedies, published seven years after his death in 1623, has been acquired by UBC.

Also known as the First Folio, the book contains 36 of the Bard’s well-known works, edited by a collection of his close friends, fellow writers and actors.

It is considered the most comprehensive and authoritative of all the early editions of the playwright’s plays. Only 235 copies of the First Folio have survived worldwide, mainly in the UK and US. This is only the second copy in Canada.

Previously owned by an American private collector, UBC acquired the text through Christie’s in New York. The opportunity arose to purchase the publication in early 2021 and Katherine Kalsbeek, UBC Library’s Head of Rare Books and Special Collections, accepted it. Funding came from support from the Department of Canadian Heritage and a consortium of donors in North America.

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“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation we are able to bring this cultural treasure into public possession,” Kalsbeek said in a press release. “Adding a First Folio to the UBC Library collection is a milestone in our development as a library and as a university.”

Those wishing to see the historical text can visit the For All Time: The Shakespeare First Folios exhibit, which was co-hosted by UBC and the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Gregory Mackie, Associate Professor of English, Norman Colbeck, Curator at UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections and Kalsbeek.

The exhibition also includes three other 17th-century folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays. It is the first time that all four Folios will be presented in Vancouver. Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival Founder Artistic Director Christopher Gaze will be the audio mobile guide. For All TIME: The Shakespeare First Folios will also feature a range of public programming, including readings, performances and more.



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