Christie’s announced that they will be presenting the auction of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, often referred to as the “First Folio,” as part of the Exceptional Sale during Classic Week at Christie’s New York on 14 October 2020 (estimate $4,000,000-6,000,000).

The First Folio, bringing together for the first time the collected plays of Shakespeare, ranks as the greatest work of the English language and, indeed, of world literature.

Already celebrated on its first publication, it has remained a highly sought-after masterpiece over four centuries. Only six complete copies are known to be in private hands.

Shakespeare’s First Folio is being sold on behalf of Mills College in Oakland, California.

The First Folio has been available for preview at Christie’s Rockefeller Galleries by appointment starting 10 October.

William Shakespeare's First Folio to be Auctioned at Christie's
The current auction record for a Shakespeare First Folio is $6,166,000, set by Christie’s on October 8, 2001 in New York

The book was published in 1623 by Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who collaborated after the writer’s death to compile this authoritative edition of his work. The First Folio contains thirty-six of Shakespeare’s plays, including eighteen that may have otherwise been lost forever — among the rescued works are Macbeth, The Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure, and Julius Caesar.

Heminge and Condell also shaped the way the world would read Shakespeare’s plays by organizing them for the first time into the categories of comedies, tragedies, and histories. The book’s large size helped elevate the cultural standing of Shakespeare and drama generally, as it assumed an imposing folio format typically reserved at the time for Bibles, theology, and law books.

This remarkable sale marks the first time in nearly 20 years that a complete copy of the First Folio has come to auction. It presents a rare opportunity for collectors to acquire a well-preserved and complete copy of this monument to world literature.

William Shakespeare's First Folio to be Auctioned at Christie's
The folio is expected to fetch between $4 000,000 and $6,000,000

Margaret Ford, International Head of Group, Books & Manuscripts, London comments, “To handle a First Folio by William Shakespeare is always a privilege and even – given its tremendous significance and influence around the globe – a humbling experience. This copy is especially exciting as one of the very few complete copies surviving in private hands and knowing that it was once in the hands of the great Shakespeare scholar Edmond Malone, who himself affirmed its completeness already 200 years ago.”

Christies

editor

Christie’s, the world's leading art business, had auction sales in the first half of 2019 that totalled £2.2 billion / $2.8 billion. Christie’s is a name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and international expertise. Christie’s offers around 350 auctions annually in over 80 categories, including all areas of fine and decorative arts, jewellery, photographs, collectables, wine, and more. Prices range from $200 to over $100 million. Christie's also has a long and successful history conducting private sales for its clients in all categories, with emphasis on Post-War & Contemporary, Impressionist & Modern, Old Masters and Jewellery.

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