First Folio Exhibit Opens in Mitchell Gallery

November 1, 2016 | By Tim Pratt

The First Folio is open for viewing in the Mitchell Gallery.
The First Folio is open for viewing at the Mitchell Gallery.

What’s 393 years old, encased in Plexiglas and sitting in the Mitchell Gallery at St. John’s College in Annapolis?

The first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, known as the “First Folio.”

Published in 1623, the Folio features Hamlet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night. Only 235 copies are known today.

The leather-bound copy on display in the Mitchell Gallery, opened to Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be,” can be viewed from November 1 through December 4.

The Folio’s appearance at the college is a result of the Folger Shakespeare Library’s “First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare” national tour. The Library launched the tour to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. A Folio is being sent to every state in the U.S. to mark the occasion.

St. John’s, in partnership with Annapolis Shakespeare Company and Maryland Humanities, was selected to be the host site for Maryland.

“We’re really pleased at the Mitchell Gallery to be the museum venue host for the First Folio in the state of Maryland,” says Mitchell Gallery Director Hydee Schaller.

Although the Folio is in a climate-controlled case and can’t be touched, people who attend the exhibition will have the opportunity to use laptop computers to flip through a digital version of it. An image of Shakespeare on the cover page is thought to be one of the most accurate representations of him.

Along with the opportunity to check out the historic works, those who attend the exhibition will have a chance to see book-making and repairing stations, printing presses and other items, including banners with information about the Folio and Shakespeare.