Most important book in English literature to be traded for torcs in Tour de France swap

By Culture24 Reporter | 24 February 2014

The Tour de France will see Craven Museum and Yorkshire Museum swap the Iron Age for Shakespeare

A photo of a book from the 17th century
Shakespeare's First Folio could be the most important tome in English literature© Craven District Council
While the Tour de France speeds from Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield this summer, two of the county’s finest museums will be sending two of their prize possessions on their travels.

A photo of an ancient book open on a page against darkness
At the time of Shakespeare's death, in 1616, 18 of his plays had not reached print, existing only as handwritten actors' stage notes and his own drafts© Craven District Council
The Yorkshire Museum will receive Shakespeare’s First Folio – a compendium of 36 of his then-unprinted plays published in 1623, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Tempest – on a four-month loan from Craven Museum to coincide with York Literature Festival.

Having kept the plays in existence, the volume of scribbled stage notes and writer’s drafts is considered by many to be the most important book in English literature. Around 230 of the original 750 copies still survive, with fewer than 50 in Britain.

“The Skipton First Folio is one of only four copies worldwide on permanent display to the public,” says Natalie McCaul, the Curator of Archaeology at the museum in York.

“Taking over two years to print, it is believed that no two copies of the book are the same, which makes it even more special. We hope that the public will be as excited about its arrival as we are.”

The other three visible folios reside at Shakespeare's Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, the British Library in London and the Folger Library in Washington DC. In return, the museum will send two recently-bought Iron Age gold torcs, found in a stream bed near Tadcaster, to Craven.

“We feel proud and privileged to display two of Yorkshire Museum’s latest archaeology acquisitions,” says Chris Knowles-Fitton, of Craven District Council.

“And we think this is an amazing opportunity for visitors to York to find out about our First Folio.”

An after-hours Shakespeare film night will also feature as part of a series of accompanying events planned at the Yorkshire Museum.

  • Displays take place from March 26 – July 14 2014.

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