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An extremely rare, 400-year old book of Shakespeare plays is on display in Vancouver

“This is really a gift, not just to UBC, but also to the city of Vancouver."

Vancouverites know the Bard on the Beach, but now they can see the Bard on the Table.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) library has been donated a rare and important book: a first edition version of William Shakespeare’s Comedies Histories and Tragedies. Printed in 1623, there are only 235 left in the world; this one is only the second to come to Canada.

The book contains 36 of Shakespeare's 38 known plays and was compiled and edited by his friends, fellow playwrights and actors seven years after he died. It is considered the most authoritative of the early printings of his work. It contains the earliest printings of plays like The Tempest and Twelfth Night.

“The First Folio is a cornerstone of English literature and with this donation, we are able to bring this cultural treasure into public ownership,” says Katherine Kalsbeek, head of the library's rare book collection, in a press release. “Adding a First Folio to the UBC Library collection represents a milestone in terms of our development as both a library and as a university.”

As part of UBC's mandate there will be public access to the book. Different departments at the university already are planning a digital project around the book, including a virtual reality version.

But before all that, it's on display for the public to go see.

“This is really a gift, not just to UBC, but also to the city of Vancouver and to the many people in the region who appreciate Shakespeare,” says Kalsbeek. “We thought it was very appropriate that we partner with the Vancouver Art Gallery and Bard on the Beach to present it to the Vancouver community before it ultimately comes to UBC to support research and teaching.”

Opening on Jan. 15, For All Time: The Shakespeare First Folio will display the famous book along with other pieces of Shakespeare's portfolio. It'll be there until March 20.

“This is something the whole community can get excited about and can rally around: the first printing of almost half of Shakespeare’s plays that would have been lost were it not for this book," says Dr. Gregory Mackie. "It’s important to history, culture, and literature for so many people."

"It’s a tremendous moment for Arts at UBC."