Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

A Rare Collection of Shakespeare Folios Is on Sale for $10.5 Million

The 17th-century works will be accompanied by a first collected edition of Shakespeare’s Poems

shakespeare folios for sale Peter Harrington London

It’s been 400 years since William Shakespeare’s First Folio was published. To commemorate the anniversary, a group of his rare 17th-century editions is up for grabs. 

The five impressive volumes—which comprise four folios, plus a first edition of poems—are being offered by Peter Harrington, a leading rare bookseller based in London. In the coming weeks, the esteemed works will head to the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair which runs from April 27 to 30. The folios and collected poems can be purchased individually, although, for $10.5 million, you can get the whole package.  

shakespeare four folios
A collection of Shakespeare’s four folios is being offered by rare bookseller Peter Harrington Peter Harrington London

“We feel hugely privileged to be able to offer these landmark works for sale in the 400th anniversary year of the First Folio being published,” says Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington, in a press statement. “We cannot recall the last time in living memory that a bookseller offered all four folios and the poems for sale at the same time; the last time the works appeared as a collection was when it was offered by an auction house more than 20 years ago.”

Leading the sale at $7.5 million is the First Folio, which was published in 1623 by two of the Bard’s fellow actors. It’s considered to be one of the most important books in English literature, next to the King James Bible. The tome contains all but one of Shakespeare’s 37 plays; it’s also the first printed source for works including Macbeth and The Tempest. “The attraction of this copy is the early binding and the freshness of the contents,” Harrington explains. “There are a few marks left by early readers, but the French linen paper still has a wonderful crisp texture, unlike so many copies that were washed and pressed flat in the 19th century.” 

Also available is the Second Folio, priced at $550,000 and known for featuring the first published poem by John Milton, entitled My Shakespeare. According to Harrington, the Third Folio is the rarest of the volumes as the majority of copies were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1966. To date, there are only two other copies that remain in private hands. Naturally, it has a standalone price of $1.5 million. The Fourth Folio was published in 1685, the last of the 17th-century editions, and is listed at $225,000. “I’ve already been asked several times if we foresee a single collector buying them all,” adds Harrington. “The Four Folios have sold to a single buyer before, so I would not rule it out.”  

peter harrington shakespeare poems
The collection also includes a first edition of collected poems that the playwright penned Peter Harrington London

Considerably smaller in size but even rarer than the Folios are the Poems, on sale for $750,000. As it stands, there are a mere 64 copies in existence and only five in private hands. The volume contains all but eight of the playwright’s 154 sonnets, in addition to shorter compositions and an appendix of poems by Milton, Ben Johnson, Francis Beaumont, and Robert Herrick. “Together with the Poems, possessing any of the four Folios would be the greatest prize for any significant rare book collector,” says Harrington. “And owning them all is obviously a huge coup.”

Read More On:

More Art & Collectibles