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In 1623, after a monumental effort, a book containing 36 of Shakespeare’s plays was completed. Compiled by two of his acting colleagues, John Heminges and Henry Condell, it was printed across the river from the Globe at William Jaggard’s print-shop at the sign of the Half-eagle and Key, near to where Barbican tube station is today.
Now, in 2023, we celebrate the 400-year anniversary of the printing of this iconic and influential book, known today as the First Folio. Thanks to a private owner, Shakespeare’s Globe is delighted to be the custodian of one of the surviving copies, which is displayed in our main foyer throughout the year.
The ‘Munro’ copy of the First Folio takes its name from the family that owned it for more than 150 years. It was rebound at some point in the early nineteenth century, and its pages have beautifully gauffered gilt edges. On the inside of the front cover is a bookplate of Sir Thomas Munro (1761–1827), displaying his family coat of arms, which, above the Munro eagle, has an image and the name of the Indian hill fort ‘Badamy,’ captured by Munro in 1818 during the Third Anglo-Maratha War. In 1976, the Munro family sold the book and it has remained in private ownership since then.
Throughout 2023, there will be a number of specialist events taking place both on and off the Globe site, starting with Folio Day on Sunday 23 April. A number of institutional and private First Folio owners will make their copies available to be viewed by the public across the UK and Ireland, and here at Shakespeare’s Globe, we invite you to come and view the beautiful Munro copy in our foyer or to get involved in one of the many on-site activities during this Folio year. In the meantime, you can learn and discover more about this wonderful book through the Folio400 website.