First Folio

The Shakespeare First Folio sold by Peter Harrington Rare Books with an asking price of £6.25m.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It is one of only 232 surviving copies, and contains 36 of the Bard’s plays, 18 of which might otherwise have been lost.

The present example was in late 17th or early 18th century English calf binding with the entire text of the plays complete. It was previously in the collection of Lord Hesketh in his library at Easton Neston and is believed to have last been sold at auction at Sotheby’s in 2010 (when it made £1.5m including premium).

400th anniversary

The volume was exhibited shortly after its sale at Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair, which was dedicated to Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Folio. Though boasting good condition and provenance, the asking price falls short of the auction record for a First Folio, which is $8.4m at Christie’s New York in 2020. The volume in question is one of a major group on offer from Peter Harrington also including the Second, Third and Fourth Folios as well as a first edition of Shakespeare’s Poems.

Together they were available for $10.5m (£8.76m). The Fourth Folio, published in 1685 and offered in a Regency-period diced Russia binding, had an asking price of £185,000 ($225,000), as did the 1640 volume of collected Poems. One of only 64 copies extant – only five of which remain in private hands – the book of verse was priced at £625,000 ($750,000).

At the time of writing the Third Folio (which had an asking price of £450,000/$550,000) was on reserve.