Five Rare Shakespeare Books Will Be Sold For $10.5 Million

All published in the 17th century, the highly coveted collection includes a copy of the writer’s First Folio, as well as a rare book of his poems.

William Shakespeare’s works have been a permanent fixture in the world of English literature for centuries. His legendary plays like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Midsummer Night’s Dream continue to be taught in educational institutions and adapted into countless forms of media. 

What’s more, his influence on the English language is immense, as scholars claim that he coined roughly 2,000 words and idioms through his written works—many of which are still used today. 

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It’s been 400 years since the first publication of his works, and to celebrate the occasion, five of his most valuable books will be sold by rare London book dealer, Peter Harrington. The editions are priced individually, but will also be offered as a set for an impressive $10.5 million. 

valuable collection of Shakespeare's folios
A valuable collection of Shakespeare’s folios/Photo from Peter Harrington’s official website

Interested buyers can expect to find the precious collection in this year’s New York International Antiquarian Book Fair from April 27 to 30. The annual event will bring together exhibitors from around the world, each one offering an assortment of rare books, illuminated manuscripts, historical documents, maps, and the like. 

This will be the first time in 20 years where all five of Shakespeare’s seminal volumes will be sold together since they were last offered by an auction house.

The Influential Five

The highest priced book in the collection is the First Folio, which sells for $7.5 million. Its original print run produced 750 copies, with 232 copies of the book in existence since 2012.

Published in 1623, the First Folio is considered to be one of the most important works of English literature next to the King James Bible. It contains almost all of the writer’s plays, with 36 dramatic works in total (37 being the complete number). 

Next in the line-up of books is a copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio, with a standalone price of $550,000. The Third Folio, which is also included in the collection of five, is supposed to be the rarest of the editions. Only two other copies of the folio are in private hands, as a majority of its prints were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1966. As such, it’s selling for $1.5 million at the book fair. Meanwhile, the Fourth Folio published in 1685 will be selling for $225,000. 

Third Folio from Peter Harrington's official listing/
A picture of the Third Folio from Peter Harrington’s official listing/Photo from Peter Harrington’s official website
Shakespeare's Third Folio
A look inside Shakespeare’s Third Folio/Photo from Peter Harrington’s official website

The fifth book is not one of Shakespeare’s Folios, but a collection containing 154 of his sonnets, as well as written pieces from other authors like John Milton and Francis Beaumont. Referred to as Poems, the edition was published in 1640 and is priced at $750,000. It is said that the book is actually harder to come by than the First Folio, as there are only 64 copies of it in existence (with just five in private collections). 

Poems" which contains 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets
The rare “Poems” which contains 154 of the poet’s sonnets/Photo from Peter Harrington’s official website

All five books are described to be in excellent condition. “There are a few marks left by early readers, but the French linen paper still has a wonderful crisp texture, unlike so many copies that were washed and pressed flat in the 19th century,” shared Pom Harrington, the owner of Peter Harrington, in a press statement. “Together with the Poems, possessing any of the four Folios would be the greatest prize for any significant rare book collector.”

Banner Photo from Peter Harrington’s official website.

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