Dulwich College’s rare Shakespeare’s First Folio on display

Last Updated on : 20th March 2023

The First Folio is one of the great wonders of the literary world. Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, the First Folio was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays, and the Dulwich College Archive holds one of the 50 remaining copies in the UK (there are 235 in total).

From Friday 31 March until 24 September this First Folio will be on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich as part of the National Folio400 celebrations.

The display can be found in the London Gallery (entry is free) and draws out the links between the nautical in Shakespeare’s works and the city in which he wrote them, and it makes unexpected and intriguing connections.

The Dulwich College First Folio, which includes all Shakespeare’s Comedies and Histories, is believed to have been passed to the College in 1686 from the estate of the actor and bookseller William Cartwright. The handwritten notes, ink and water stains and burn holes suggest these volumes were wellused before they were acquired by Dulwich College.

Dr Joe Spence, Master of Dulwich College commented, “On the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio Dulwich College is delighted to partner with Royal Museums Greenwich to display its copy of this rare text and other contemporary treasures from its archive. Edward Alleyn, who founded Dulwich College in 1619, was the theatrical impresario of his day. His diary records journeys from Dulwich to Greenwich, so we are delighted to be keeping a South London connection alive four centuries later. Alleyn’s legacy was educational, and we are certain that sharing the Folio with as wide an audience as possible in 2023 fosters his spirit in this year of national celebration.

Lucy Dale, Curator of Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum said, “This is a unique opportunity to view Shakespeare’s works in a new context. Shakespeare arrived in London at the height of England’s ‘oceanic turn’ and his works are infused with maritime themes, poetry and a distinct early modern ambivalence towards all that the oceans represent.”

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