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Rare Shakespeare book on display at Durham

Posted at 3:20 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-22 04:45:57-04
For the next week at the Durham, Omaha can see a rare book of Shakespeare's works worth millions of dollars. 
 
How do we know William Shakespeare's plays? The answer is one book: the 1623 first folio. Without it, 18 plays, including Macbeth and the Tempest, could have been lost. When Shakespeare died in 1616, only about half of his plays had ever been printed, in small one-play editions called quartos. 
 
Another 18 plays are known today only because they are included in this book. Seven years after Shakespeare's death, his friends and colleagues in the king's men, collected almost all of his plays in a folio edition. 
 
"It took about three hours to put this book from the crate to the case," Durham curator Carrie Meyer explains. 
 
The folio is high maintenance, but that's part of the fun of seeing this artifact worth millions. The lights have to be low. The book's case is temperature controled. 
 
"{We} had to actually very carefully open it so that the pages would not separate from the spine to make sure it was very carefully opened."
 
The first folio is one of the most valuable printed books in the world today. Originally the folios sold for one british pound (20 shillings)-about $250 today. One folio copy sold for $6.2 million in 2001. 
 
As you visit the book at the Durham, the only stop it will make in Nebraska, you'll feel like you're Indiana Jones a bit. But you're also bound for a literature lesson with this piece of history.
 
"Without the folio, so you have Juluis Ceasar, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew," Meyer says. 
 
The Durham Museum and Nebraska Shakespeare to honor Shakespeare's birthday this Saturday. For more, visit durhammuseum.org