A previously unknown Shakespeare folio is headed to auction

The copies of the first four Folios of William Shakespeare's collected works for sale at Christie's London.
The copies of the first four Folios of William Shakespeare’s collected works for sale at Christie’s London.

For more than 200 years a copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, published in 1623, sat on a family’s bookshelf in England. Now they are ready to part ways with the ultimate work of literature. The collection of 36 plays hits the auction block May 25 at Christies. In 2001, a copy sold $6.16 million, however this example is expected to fetch between $1.1 million and $1.7 million.

“The family were aware of it and knew what it was, but they never crowed about it. This copy was unknown to academics until last week,” Christie’s international head of books and manuscripts Margaret Ford told Antiques Trade Gazette.

The book was last traded around 1800 when it was purchased by renowned book collector, Sir George Augustus Shuckburgh-Evelyn (1751-1804). It has not been seen in public since.

The discovery brings the number of known First Folios to 233 — the majority of which are in institutions like the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. (it has 82 copies).

The same family is also auctioning copies of the third and fourth folios. The Third Folio, published in 1664, is in “extremely good condition” and is estimated at $400,000-560,000.

The Fourth Folio, published in 1685, is estimated at $21,000-28,000.