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William Shakespeare’s Celebrated First Folio from 1623 on Display at the University of Toronto’s Fisher Library

Thursday, September 4, 2014
Photo of Shakespeare's First Folio

The general public will have a rare opportunity this month to view the only copy in Canada of one of the foundational texts of English Literature at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

The 1623 edition of Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies: published according to the true originall copies, better known as the First Folio, will be on display through the month of September at the Fisher Library. It is the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays and considered the cornerstone of any collection of English Literature.

While half of the plays had been previously published in quarto editions, and often with defective texts, the First Folio presented in print for the first time eighteen previously unpublished plays, including MacbethAntony and CleopatraMeasure for MeasureTwelfth Night and As You Like It, among others. In total, the First Folio gathered together thirty-six of Shakespeare’s plays.

Only 232 copies of this cultural treasure remain in the world today. The volume held by the Fisher Library is the only Canadian-held copy. It was the first of four folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays published in the 17th century. All four are held at the Fisher Library.

“The First Folio’s importance can hardly be over-estimated,” said Anne Dondertman, Director of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. “Without it, we wouldn’t have some of the most vital and seminal works in the English language. We are very pleased to offer to a broader audience the chance to see this wonderful book at the Fisher.”

The First Folio will be on display in the Fisher’s main mezzanine exhibition area. It can be viewed during the Fisher’s normal operating hours: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Beginning September 18, the Fisher will be open until 8 pm on Thursday evenings through the academic year.

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library houses the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the University of Toronto, including books, manuscripts and other materials, and is the largest rare book library in the country. The University of Toronto Libraries system is the largest academic library in Canada and is ranked third among peer institutions in North America, behind just Harvard and Yale. The system consists of 44 libraries. In addition to more than 12 million print volumes in 341 languages, the library system provides access to millions of electronic resources in various forms and almost 30,000 linear metres of archival material. More than 150,000 new print volumes are acquired each year. The Libraries' data centre houses more than 200 servers with a storage capacity of 1.5 petabytes.

Media Contacts:

Anne Dondertman | Director, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library | 416-978-5332 |

John Shoesmith | Outreach Librarian, Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library | 416-946-5226 |