> TELEPHONE US 212.355.5710

To Buy, Or Not To Buy?

October 30, 2020

shakespeare's first folio, a collection of writings by shakespeare in book form

To buy, or not to buy, that was the question:  whether or not to part with a few sweet dollars to purchase a rare, complete set of William Shakespeare’s First Folio.  The book was published in 1623 by Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, to preserve the playwright’s place in history. The First Folio is a collection of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies and is considered by scholars to be one of the most important and influential books ever published. Among the masterpieces in the book were Macbeth, The Tempest, and Julius Caesar.

There were 750 copies printed, but only 235 copies are known to exist. Of those, just 56 are believed to be complete sets, and just six sets remain in private collections. This copy was consigned on behalf of Mills College in California and was accompanied by a  letter from Edmond Malone (an 18th/early 19th-century Shakespearian scholar), who had personally handled and confirmed its authenticity.

The lot was estimated to bring $4-6M, and a 3-way bidding battle erupted on the phone, of course. When the hammer fell, the result was one for the record books!  The new owner, Stephan Loewentheil, a book dealer, purchased it for $8.4M ($9.98M w/p)!