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Japan - Great firsts

Great firsts

De Montfort University (DMU), in partnership with the British Library, is taking a Shakespeare First Folio to Japan.


First folio

From 23–25 April 2012 De Montfort University (DMU), in partnership with the British Library, is taking a Shakespeare First Folio to Japan. The Folio will be hosted by the British Embassy in Tokyo and will provide the focus for educational activity, literary discussion and cultural celebration. This forms part of the UK Government’s GREAT! campaign|; celebrating the contribution the UK makes to cultural engagement across the globe.

Purchased in 1922 with the generous financial assistance of Charles Young, a gentleman from Oxfordshire, this is the most recently acquired of the British Library’s five First Folios.

It is a perfect copy and contains one of only four known versions of the famous Shakespeare portrait in its first state: a printing of the Martin Droeshout engraving made prior to completion to allow the artist to check on its progress. The result is a brighter portrait with light shading, presenting Shakespeare with a thinner, less broad moustache.

The first known owner of this First Folio was John Delafield Phelps, one of the original eighteen members of the Roxburghe Club, the world’s oldest society of bibliophiles. With the Olympics in London in 2012, there has never been a more important or appropriate time to demonstrate the impact that British history and legacy can have on the UK’s profile abroad. DMU is proud to play an important part in this national initiative.


First facts

William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies

  • The First Folio is one of the most valuable books in the world
  • 228, out of 700 originally produced in 1623, are still in existence today
  • It is the only reliable source of text for 20 of the plays

This will be a rare opportunity to view a pristine, complete first edition of Shakespeare’s work for people in Japan.

See more great firsts.


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