The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios [NOOK Book]

Overview



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, 14 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 heavily ...
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The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios

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Overview



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, 14 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 heavily tattooed criminal street gangs in Tokyo, bizarre visits with eccentric, reclusive billionaires, and intense battles of wills with secretive librarians. He explores the intrigue surrounding the Earl of Pembroke, arguably Shakespeare's boyfriend, to whom the First Folio is dedicated and whose personal copy is still missing. He investigates the uncanny sequence of events in which a wealthy East Coast couple drowned in a boating accident and the next week their First Folio appeared for sale in Kansas. We hear about Folios that were censored, the pages ripped out of them, about a volume that was marked in red paint-or is it blood?-on every page; and of yet another that has a bullet lodged in its pages. Part literary detective story, part Shakespearean lore, The Shakespeare Thefts will charm the Bard's many fans.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shakespeare’s First Folio of 1623 . . . [Rasmussen] also provides a terrific appendix, which readers should not skip, that tells how Elizabethans printed books and how the First Folio came to be.” – KIRKUS Reviews

"Every book comes with a story, and great books, like comets, often carry in their wake a tail of great stories.  Eric Rasmussen, who with a team of fellow scholars is engaged in tracking and examining every known copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio, has unearthed wonderful anecdotes of theft, fraud, and the peculiar mania of passionate bibliophiles." —Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

"Shakespeare's First Folio contains thirty-six plays of wit, passion, crime, and folly.  In this brisk and amusing account, Eric Rasmussen tells us how the book itself has been the cause of wit, passion, crime, and folly in those who seek to own one of the surviving copies." —Peter Saccio, Leon D. Black Professor of Shakespearean Studies at Dartmouth College and author of Shakespeare's English Kings: History, Chronicle, and Drama

“Eric Rasmussen’s fascinating and hugely enjoyable collection of tales about the fate of individual copies and of his own experiences accumulating the data for a census of the surviving copies is a joy from first to last. Stories of thefts old and new, of copies mutilated or destroyed, and of the mania of book-collecting cover the centuries from its first purchasers to its most recent thieves. For anyone who thinks the work of scholarship is as dry as libraries, The Shakespeare Thefts will quickly convince them that it is actually a cross between CSI and big-game hunting.” – Peter Holland, McMeel Family Professor in Shakespeare Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

"An irresistible true crime story revealing the long history of the desire to own one of the world's most valuable books. Amidst his captivating tales of unscrupulous scholars, wealthy industrialists, avaricious con men, and even a Pope who wanted to own the First Folio, Rasmussen makes clear his own love for and deep knowledge about the first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays, gently sneaking in a rich bibliographic history of the book itself as he unfolds his engaging accounts of those who were willing to steal to own it." — David Scott Kastan, George M. Bodman Professor of English, Yale University, and General Editor of the Arden Shakespeare."

"A page-turner, a series of detective stories and a work of scholarship all at once - Eric Rasmussen brings to life a truly Shakespearean cast of characters as he tracks the First Folio down the centuries and around the world" — Jonathan Bate, author of Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare

"With irresistible intrigue like that of fine mystery novels, erudition and rigor characteristic of the most esteemed scholarship, and a delightful readability that only the best popular fiction boasts, this book will bring great joy to a remarkable range of people, from anyone who gives a hoot about Shakespeare to aficionados of literary history to simply lovers of good stories. It is no surprise that a team of researchers assisted Rasmussen, for it more often than otherwise takes a collaboration of brilliant minds to produce extraordinary work. And extraordinary this book is." —Bryan Reynolds, Professor of Drama at UC Irvine and author of Performing Transversally

“This is a travelogue, a thrilling detective story, an account of the world's most famous book — and a compellingly good read.” – Laurie Maguire, author of Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

Library Journal
Part literary history and part detective story, this is an engaging book about the known surviving copies of the 1623 First Folio, which published 36 of Shakespeare's plays. Of the 232 recorded surviving copies, the majority are in public institutions rather than private hands. Rasmussen (English, Univ. of Nevada; coeditor, RSC Complete Works of William Shakespeare) and his team of researchers were part of the global quest to catalog every extant copy. Rasmussen uses a lively, nonacademic style and engrossing anecdotes to tell us about one of history's most fascinating books. The original price of the First Folio was about £1, when the average worker made about £4 a year, and the price has climbed exponentially since then; in 2002, Paul Getty paid $7 million for a copy. Meisei University in Japan now owns a dozen folios, essentially as financial security. VERDICT Rasmussen is to be congratulated for an entertaining and informative book. Recommended for readers interested in literary and bibliographic history, Shakespeare, eccentric book collectors, and book theft. Serious students and specialists will prefer the formal study of the team's work, Anthony James West's The Shakespeare First Folio: The History of the Book (two volumes so far).—Susan L. Peters, Univ. of Texas, Galveston
Kirkus Reviews

A Shakespeare authority recounts his attempts to identify and document all extant copies of Shakespeare's First Folio of 1623.

Rasmussen (English/Univ. of Nevada) begins by reminding us of the rarity of the First Folio (232 known copies), of its immense cultural significance (without it, half the plays of the Bard would no longer exist—including The TempestandTwelfth Night) and of its physical aspects (its size, its £1 cost in 1623). The author then devotes some chapters to stories about the provenance of various copies—especially those with complicated, even violent histories. These chapters, distributed throughout, are interrupted occasionally with other segments—e.g., Rasmussen's discovery in 2005 of a painting he believed/hoped was a portrait of Shakespeare (it wasn't) and his story about an employee of Isaac Jaggard, printer of the First Folio, who left a hair stuck to the wet ink in one copy. The author also provides a terrific appendix, which readers should not skip, that tells how Elizabethans printed books and how the First Folio came to be. We learn, too, how Rasmussen assembled his team of Folio specialists and inspectors and how they created their massive census of the extant copies. He grieves about an inaccessible copy in the hands of a Japanese multimillionaire, and he tells how he once—during a bomb scare—walked out of a library with one of only two known copies of the 1603Hamlet. The author also tells numerous tales of thefts and attempted thefts. Sometimes, Rasmussen affects a patronizing, just-plain-folks diction, and probably employs more exclamation points than in all of his scholarly writing combined!

Indiana Jones, sans bullwhip, pursues the Bard.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780230341203
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,318,023
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author



Eric Rasmussen is department chair and professor of English at the University of Nevada. He is co-editor of the RSC Complete Works of William Shakespeare, the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama, and of the works of Christopher Marlowe in the Oxford World's Classics series as well as individual plays in the Arden Shakespeare series, the Revels Plays series, and the Malone Society series. Since 1997, he has written the annual review of editions and textual studies for Shakespeare Survey. He lives in Reno, Nevada.

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Table of Contents

Preface A Literary Detective Story

One The Most Hated Man in England: The Gondomar Copy

Two First Folio Hunters

Three A Cuban Fraud: The Durham University Copy

Four The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Five Unrecovered: The Manchester University Copy

Six The Pope's Sticky Fingers

Seven A Close Personal Relationship: The Pembroke Copies

Eight Nationalism, Bullets, and a Recovered Treasure

Nine The Bibliomaniac: The Sir Thomas Phillipps Copy

Ten Looking into Shakespeare's Eyes

Eleven Fell in the Weeping Brook: The Fiske Harris Copy

Twelve Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

Thirteen The King's Companion: Royalist Copies, Puritan Copies

Fourteen Obsessed

Fifteen A Literary Thief, a Bootlegger, a Shoe Salesman, and Hitler: The Williams College Copy

Sixteen Why Is The Whore of Babylon Well Thumbed?

Seventeen Alienated: The Hereford Cathedral Copy

Eighteen Creative Control

Nineteen 'Purloined & Embezzled': The William Beeston Copy

Twenty The World's Worst Stolen Treasure

Appendix The Making of the Shakespeare First Folio

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2011

    Join the hunt for one of the Holy Grails of Literature

    I found this book and Eric Rasmussen and his team's quest admirable and engrossing. Rasmussen and associates set about to catalog every edition of William Shakespeare's First Folio in the world. The extent to which they have cataloged this masterpiece is astounding. Every mark, tear, smudge, and misprint was noted. The search led through Universities and closed-door private collections; through time and place; in a heroic attempt to trace every known edition's history. The quest was epic and one of the most fascinating books I've read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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