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The Mysteries of the Shakespeare First Folio

  • New Mexico Museum of Art • St. Francis Auditorium 107 West Palace Avenue Santa Fe, NM, 87501 United States (map)

The first edition of Shakespeare's collected works, the First Folio, published in 1623, is one of the most valuable books in the world and has historically proven to be an attractive target for thieves. Of the 160 First Folios listed in a census of 1902, fourteen were subsequently stolen—and only two of these were ever recovered.  

In his efforts to catalog all these precious First Folios, renowned Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen embarked on a riveting journey around the globe, involving run-ins with eccentric, reclusive billionaires and intense battles of wills with secretive librarians. We hear about Folios that were censored, the pages ripped out, about a volume that was marked in red paint—or is it blood? And of yet another that has a bullet lodged in its pages.

Eric Rasmussen is Chair, Department of English, University of Nevada, as well as an award-winning author, editor, and scholar. Stories about his recent authentication of a newly-discovered Shakespeare First Folio in the north of France, featured in The New York Times, USA Today, The Guardian, NPR, CNN, the BBC, and other media outlets, have received 12 billion page views from 323 million unique visitors to date.

Sir, it is a mystery.
— Abhorson in Measure for Measure