William Shakespeare’s First Folio is on display at FIU, the only site in Florida to host a first edition of his collected works.
As part of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s national traveling exhibition First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, the rare book arrived Feb. 2 and will be on display through Feb. 27 at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum.
The 500-square-foot exhibit, which includes digital content and interactive activities, tells a two-part story. The first is about the book itself. The second is about Shakespeare’s plays and their significance. In Miami, the folio’s pages are opened to the “to be or not to be” soliloquy from Hamlet — one of the most quoted selection of words ever written. The exhibit marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.
“This is a dream come true. I’ve been teaching at FIU for 20 years and have yet to meet students, from elementary school to college, who weren’t pulled in and electrified by Shakespeare,” said James Sutton, a Shakespeare and Renaissance expert who also serves as chairman of FIU’s Department of English. “These plays are 400 years old, yet they still speak to us about who we are, how we live, what it means to be human, what it means to love, what it means to struggle and what it means to die.”
The First Folio was published seven years after Shakespeare’s death by two friends hoping to preserve his work for future generations. The sentimental gesture saved 18 plays that had not previously appeared in print, including Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, and Twelfth Night. Only 750 First Folios were printed in 1623, and only 233 are known to survive today. The Folger Shakespeare Library holds the largest collection of First Folios in the world with 82 copies. The rare books are valued in the millions of dollars, with the last one selling at a London auction for more than $5 million.
The effort to bring one of the world’s most treasured books to Miami was led by Sutton, along with Gayle Williams and Shawn Tonner from FIU Libraries, and Klaudio Rodriguez from the Frost Art Museum. Robust programming around the First Folio’s arrival at FIU will take place throughout South Florida. The Folger Shakespeare Library, in partnership with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring a First Folio of Shakespeare in 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico. First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the generous support of Google.org and Vinton and Sigrid Cerf. Sponsorship opportunities of this major exhibition and the Folger’s other Wonder of Will programs commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death are available; learn more at www.folger.edu.