The 17th century book that made Shakespeare famous will tour every U.S. state

First Folio

The title page of the Shakespeare First Folio, printed in 1623.

(Folger Shakespeare Library)

William Shakespeare is making the rounds in America this year in a big way. It has been 400 years since the Bard died in Stratford-on-Avon, England, on April 23, 1616.

To honor the milestone, the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has created a traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, the 17th century first edition of the volume that introduced his work to the world.

Shakespeare’s First Folio

This First Folio traveling show will be accompanied by interpretive panels.

(Lloyd Wolf / Folger Shakespeare Library)

In California, the San Diego Central Library and Old Globe theater are co-hosting the display from June 4 to July 7 at the library’s 330 Park Blvd. location. It’s the only stop in the state for the First Folio. The Globe also will be presenting performances and public programs about Shakespeare.

At each site, the Folio will be opened to one of the most quoted lines of his work: “To be or not to be,” from “Hamlet.” There also will be digital and interactive displays to explain the importance of preserving Shakespeare’s work.

(Unrelated to this exhibition, the Huntington Library in San Marino has a copy of the First Folio that’s on display as part of its rare books collection. And Shakespeare’s Globe in London will be displaying a loaned copy from a different source starting in July.)

William Shakespeare

Portrait of William Shakespeare, who died 400 years ago this year.

First stops this month for “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare” include the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, the Sam Noble Museum in Norman, Okla., and the University of Oregon in Eugene.

The display travels to Kapi’olani Community College in Honolulu from April 25 to May 25, and the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno from Sept. 1 to 29.

In addition, “America’s Shakespeare,” an exhibition that highlights letters, books, costumes and more from the Folger library, will be on display at the L.A. Public Library in downtown L.A. from Nov. 10 through February 2017.

The Folger library owns 82 copies of the Folio; there are believed to be 233 in existence worldwide.

The Shakespeare tome was published after his death in 1623. Fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell thought it would be important to preserve the plays for future generations -- and they were right.

Without their effort, 18 plays, including “Macbeth,” “Julius Caesar” and “The Tempest,” would have been lost to history.

In all, the Folger exhibition will travel to 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies and a theater. Check out the scheduled First Folio display dates in each state here.


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