Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Shakespeare play set rakes in millions

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2016 | 12:00 AM


A set of the first four editions of William Shakespeare's plays - dubbed the 'Holy Grail of publishing' by Christie's auction house - sold on Wednesday for almost £2.5 million (US$3.68 million).

The London sale included a previously unrecorded copy of the First Folio that fetched £1.87 million (US$2.75 million), well above its pre-sale estimate of £800,000 to £1.2 million.

The First Folio, published in 1623, collected 36 plays, 18 of which had not previously appeared in print and would otherwise have been lost.

The folio and later editions published in 1632, 1664 and 1685 were sold as individual lots, but all were bought by a private American collector, who joins a handful of people who own copies of all four early editions of Shakespeare.


Anonymous buyer


Christie's head of books, Margaret Ford, said the buyer was "a very private person" who wished to remain anonymous.

"It is a buyer I've known for some time and I've worked with, and he appreciates fantastic books; and so he understood this and the importance of these volumes from the very beginning and he's the very proud owner," she said.

Prices for the later editions ranged from £47,500 for the fourth to £362,500 for the third, which added one more play, Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Ford said it was "exhilarating" to sell the four folios in the year marking the 400th anniversary of the playwright's death. Of 750 First Folios that were printed, 233 are recorded as having survived. The one being offered by Christie's is not on the official list.

Christie's said it and two of the other folios came from a "discreet and off-the-radar" private collection in Europe and have not been seen in public for 200 years.