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Copy of Shakespeare's First Folio worth up to £2 million to go up for auction

The book, which was printed almost 400 years ago, is one of under 20 left in private hands, according to auction house Sotheby's.

An original copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio worth up to 2.5 million dollars (£2 million) is set to go under the hammer next month.

The book, which was printed almost 400 years ago, is one of under 20 left in private hands, according to auction house Sotheby’s

Curated by the world-famous writer’s trusted colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell, the folio comprises 36 plays, half of which had never before been printed.

No contemporary manuscripts of Shakespeare’s manuscripts survive and so, without the First Folio it is possible that 18 works, including Macbeth, The Tempest and Twelfth Night, may have been lost to history.

The book, which was printed almost 400 years ago, is one of under 20 left in private hands, according to auction house Sotheby’s (Sotheby’s/PA)

Heminges and Condell’s division of the plays into categories such as “comedies”, “tragedies” and “histories” still shape modern interpretations today.

The copy will be on display in Sotheby’s London galleries until June 15, before going up for auction in New York on July 7, where it is estimated to fetch between 1.5 – 2.5 million dollars (£1.1-2 million).

Sotheby’s London will also host a talk – Hip-hop vs Shakespeare – on June 9, which invites guest speakers George the Poet and Howard Jacobson to debate which form of cultural expression best resonates with audiences.

According to Sotheby’s, the edition may be the only copy to have early Scottish provenance. If so, in addition to being an important source text, this would also make it a fascinating historical relic.

The folio is missing its famous frontispiece page with Shakespeare’s image, which may have been removed or stolen over the years to be framed as a portrait.

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