Shakespeare’s First Folio comes to auction at Christie’s with $4-6m estimate

'Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies' by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) published in 1623. It will be offered at Christie's New York on April 24 with an estimate of $4-6m.

William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, often referred to as the ‘First Folio’, is regarded as the greatest work of the English language.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Laura Chesters

The collection of works by the playwright were published in 1623 by Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell.

It contains 36 of Shakespeare’s plays including MacbethTwelfth NightMeasure for Measure, and Julius Caesar. Heminge and Condell also shaped the way the world would read Shakespeare’s plays by organizing them for the first time into the categories of comedies, tragedies, and histories.

There are just 233 First Folios known to exist and only six complete copies are known in private hands.

This complete copy of William Shakespeare’s ‘Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies’, often referred to as the ‘First Folio’, will be offered at Christie’s New York on April 24 with an estimate of $4-6m.

This complete copy is being sold by Mills College in Oakland, California, and will be offered at Christie’s New York on April 24 as part of the Exceptional sale during Classic Week at the auction house.

It is believed to have been given to the college by former student Mary Louise O’Brien, whose English professor father had acquired it.

Margaret Ford, international head of group, books and manuscripts at Christie’s London, said: “This copy is especially exciting as one of the very few complete copies surviving in private hands and knowing that it was once in the hands of the great Shakespeare scholar Edmond Malone, who himself affirmed its completeness already 200 years ago.”

The current auction record for a Shakespeare First Folio is $6.16m (£3.73m) including premium, set by Christie’s on October 8, 2001, in New York, which was sold from the Library of collector Abel E Berland.

In 2016 Christie’s offered a previously unrecorded (but incomplete) copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio which sold for £1.6m in May 2016.