21 Ultimate Gifts: Play Book

Although official records noting his baptism, his marriage, the births of his children, the death of his son, and various sales and business transactions still exist, no writings survive that reveal William Shakespeare’s frame of mind when he drafted his masterpieces. His manuscripts have long since vanished, and he left no memoirs or diaries. Shakespeare’s body of work, therefore, must speak for its author, as it does in the four folios printed during the 17th century, the first of which appeared within a decade of his death in 1616.


The folio, a book format that printers of that era usually reserved for works of distinction, is characterized by its large page size and great cost. This fourth folio, which Argosy Book Store in Manhattan is offering to Robb Report readers, measures 14 inches tall, 9.5 inches wide, and 2.5 inches thick. Copies of Shakespeare’s fourth folio originally appeared in 1685, and fewer than 80 remain in existence. This volume contains all 36 comedies, tragedies, and history plays attributed to Shakespeare, as well as seven plays that the book’s verbose title describes as “Never before Printed in Folio: Viz. Pericles Prince of Tyre. The London Prodigal. The History of Thomas Lord Cromwell. Sir John Oldcastle Lord Cobhans. The Puritan Widow. A Yorkshire Tragedy. The Tragedy of Locrine.” Most modern scholars attribute only Pericles Prince of Tyre to Shakespeare, agreeing that he likely coauthored the comedy.


The 918-page, calfskin leather–bound volume features decorative designs hammered into the leather, stamped on the edges of the covers, and incised on the edges of the pages. Argosy states that while the folio has undergone minor repairs over time, it contains all its original leaves, or pages, and that it is in very good condition.


Price: $185,000. Contact: Argosy Book Store, 212.753.4455, argosy@argosybooks.com.


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