The Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is honored to be one of 52 sites across the United States that have been chosen to host the exhibition, First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a national traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, one of the world’s most treasured books. The Folger Shakespeare Library, in association with Cincinnati Museum Center and the American Library Association, is touring a First Folio of Shakespeare in 2016 to all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.
Many of Shakespeare’s plays were written to be performed and were not published during his lifetime. The First Folio is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays. It was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Two of Shakespeare’s fellow actors compiled 36 of his plays, hoping to preserve them for future generations. Without it, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It. All 18 appear for the first time in print in the First Folio and would otherwise have been lost. The Folger Shakespeare Library holds 82 copies of the First Folio, by far the largest collection in the world and more than a third of the 235 known copies in the world today. It is believed that 750 copies were originally printed.
When the First Folio arrives in Montgomery, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world, “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. Accompanying the rare book was a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities. During the exhibition, the MMFA coordinated educational activities and other events with our neighbor in the Blount Cultural Park, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.
Above: Photograph of the 2016 installation of the exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Without the First Folio, we would not have 18 of Shakespeare’s plays, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, and As You Like It.
The Museum is grateful to the organizers of the tour of First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library—the Cincinnati Museum Center, the American Library Association, and the Folger Shakespeare Library—for the opportunity to present this great artifact of English literature.
First Folio! has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor and by the support of Google.org; The Lord Browne of Madingley; Vinton and Sigrid Cerf; the British Council; Stuart and Mimi Rose; Albert and Shirley Small; and other generous donors. Local support was provided by sponsors Winifred and Charles Stakely, Dr. Laurie Weil, and Dr. Tommy Wool with additional support provided by co-Sponsor River Bank and Trust.