It is one of the most important works in literary history: in 1623, seven years after the death of William Shakespeare, friends and companions of the English dramatist compiled (almost) all of his plays in a large anthology – the “First Folio”.

Included are classics like “Romeo and Juliet”, “Othello”, “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”. If that hadn’t happened, many pieces might not even have survived today. How popular the works of the “Bard from Avon” were even then is shown by the number of original folios that still remain today: 235 are known, most of which are in archives and libraries, where they are carefully kept and guarded.

As this year marks the 400th anniversary of the book’s creation, the Guildhall Library, a library in London, is planning an exhibition of Shakespeare’s works. This, however, causes irritation among British Shakespeare fans: the Guildhall Library does have an original folio – but literature lovers are only allowed to see it for five hours. On April 24, between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm, you can take a look at it in the library, with a short hourly lecture on how the work came about. After all, a replica will be issued for a long time.

The edition, held by the Guildhall Library, is believed to have been purchased in 1760 by then British Prime Minister William Petty Fitzmaurice, who bequeathed it to the City of London on his death. She gave it to the library in 1913, but is still the official owner of the book. Why the folio is only shown publicly for such a short time is unclear – although the Shakespeare anthologies are fragile and expensive because of their age (copies regularly fetch record prices at auction), a cautious public exhibition should not damage a volume.

It is questionable whether everyone who is interested will be able to see the book within just five hours. Corresponding criticism was raised – in Manchester, another original had previously been exhibited for about a whole month. The Guildhall Library justifies the plan by saying that viewing such an original is a “rare opportunity”.

Sources: Telegraph, City Matters London