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30 Mar 2023

Priceless Shakespeare artefacts go on show together for first time
BY Tom Walker

The Ashburnham First Folio will be accompanied by a seal ring and hand-written notebook

The Ashburnham First Folio will be accompanied by a seal ring and hand-written notebook
photo: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Visitors to Shakespeare’s New Place in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK, are able to view three priceless artefacts together for the first time.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is displaying a copy of the Folio itself, a ring which is believed to have belonged to Shakespeare and a 17th century notebook – written by “his most obsessive fan”.

The Ashburnham First Folio going on display is comprised of 18 of his original plays (including Macbeth), as well as multiple anecdotes and his opinions on a variety of subjects.

It is the focal point of the new exhibition and holds major significance as it is one of only 233 currently known copies of the First Folio to be still intact – experts say that no two copies are exactly the same.

Alongside the First Folio, a seal ring, found by archaeologists outside the Holy Trinity Church in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford, will be displayed.

The ring is said to have belonged to Shakespeare himself, as it bears his initials and is dated to the Elizabethan era – a period of time in which the poet is proved to have lived and worked.

The third part of the display – which opened on 25 March - is a never-before seen 17th century notebook that the written who The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust describes as ‘the first Shakespeare geek’.

The miniature book is made up of 48 pages and around 12,500 words. It provides insight and analysis into many of Shakespeare’s pieces which were published in the First Folio.

That has led experts to believe it must have belonged to one of Shakespeare’s most devoted – and first – fans.

Most items in the exhibition, including the renowned First Folio, were acquired in the 19th century and have been stored by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Since then, the collection has been slowly restored over time until ready for display at a celebration marking 400 years since the First Folio was originally published in 1623 - seven years after the famed writer died.

Professor Charlotte Scott, the Director of Knowledge and Engagement at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, said: “Producing the First Folio was a labour of love and we have his friends and fellow actors to thank for publishing it.

“It was one of the most important and enduring artistic legacies of all time and this is something we are excited to explore in our upcoming exhibition.”



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