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Rare Fourth Folio of Shakespeare's plays goes to auction

The Fourth Folio
The Fourth Folio

A rare Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s plays dating from 1685 is to go under the hammer next week when it will be sold alongside 300 valuable books.

The online auction takes place on 18th November at 1pm, and the collection is being sold by Rugby School.

The First Folio is the first printing of 36 of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623 and compiled by the playwright’s fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell after his death in 1616.The Second Folio was printed in 1632; the third Folio in 1663 (it is the rarest, many copies were believed to be lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666) and finally the Fourth Folio was published in 1685 – it’s still very valuable, and has an estimated sale price of £30,000 to £50,000.

The subjects covered in the 300 titles listed in this catalogue cover an impressively wide range of interests – horsemanship, duelling and mountaineering; botany, horticulture and ornithology; sermons and proclamations; jurisprudence and military history; psalms and poetry and maps. Don Quixote is there and so is Robinson Crusoe.

Besides the Fourth Folio, another highly prized lot is the first edition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, which would make someone a lovely Christmas present! There is even a timely sermon ‘for preserving these kingdoms from the plague’ written by Englishman Samuel Towers after the Great Plague of Marseilles which raged from 1720-22 and claimed some 100,000 lives.

Many of these splendid books come from the library of Matthew Holbeche Bloxam, who attended Rugby School from 1813 to 1821. He became an amateur historian, a genealogist, archaeologist, naturalist, antiquarian, art-collector, a noted architectural historian. He was clearly a man of huge intellectual curiosity. He was also very generous, bequeathing a large part of his collection - of paintings, ancient weaponry, armour, pottery as well as books - to Rugby School.

Peter Green, executive head master of the school, speaking of the decision to sell the books said: “The decision by Rugby School’s Governing Body to sell these rare books is twofold. They deserve to be preserved, stored – and enjoyed – in specialist conditions. Secondly, the school is committed, as a registered charity, to use its resources to benefit current and future students. Rugby School already operates a generous bursary system, with more than 40% of our students receiving some form of scholarship remission or bursary support.

“It is entirely fitting that the proceeds from the sale of this collection will go towards extending the benefit of a Rugby education, an education where boys and girls are encouraged to keep asking questions and challenging the answers.”

To see the auction catalogue click here.

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