A FIRST folio copy of William Shakespeare’s plays from 1623 has sold at auction in New York for nearly $10m (£7.7m).
The sale is a new world record for any work of literature. Only six copies of the first folio are known to exist in private hands.
The book was originally published by Shakespeare’s friends and acting colleagues John Heminge and Henry Condell when they brought together the first authoritative collection of his work seven years after his death.
The first folio contains 36 plays and is thought to have saved numerous significant works from being lost – including Macbeth, Twelfth Night and Julius Caesar. It also categorised the plays into comedies, tragedies and histories for the first time.
The copy auctioned by Christie’s in New York for $9,978,000 was bought by collector Stephen Loewentheil after a six-minute battle between telephone bidders. It was sold by a private college in Oakland, California, which had owned it since the 1960s.
Mr Loewentheil said afterwards: “William Shakespeare is incomparably the greatest writer in the English language and one of most important international cultural influencers in all history. The first folio is the most important collection of plays ever published and revered throughout the world.
“It is an honour to purchase one of only a handful of complete copies of this epochal volume. It will ultimately serve as a centrepiece of a great collection of intellectual achievements of man.”
Christie’s had estimated the book’s value at between $4m and $6m. Margaret Ford, international head of books and manuscripts, said: “Christie’s is delighted to have established a new world auction record not only for a work by William Shakespeare, but for any work of literature. It is befitting that William Shakespeare’s first folio, printed in 1623, holds this remarkable record, given its tremendous significance and influence around the globe.”