Rare First Folio of Shakespeare plays authenticated, to academics' delight

The three-volume folio was among books in a collection at a historic house on a Scottish island.

Story highlights

  • Academics are excited about the discovery of the rare collection of plays
  • Authenticity of the folio was confirmed by an Oxford expert on Shakespeare
  • The First Folios, collecting important Shakespeare plays, were published seven years after his death

(CNN)Imagine that a limited-edition collection of your writings was published a few years after your death.

Then someone found a copy of that book after you had been dead for 400 years, and the world -- or at least the academic community -- went into paroxysms of joy.
    You might think your writing career had been rather a success.
    So it is with the playwright William Shakespeare. A so-called First Folio in the collection of a historic house on a Scottish island has been verified as genuine, bringing the number of known surviving First Folios to 234, according to a statement from the Mount Stuart mansion, in whose collection the book was found.

    Literary discoveries 'do not come much bigger'

    "In terms of literary discoveries, they do not come much bigger than a new First Folio, and we are really excited that this has happened on Bute," said Alice Martin, the head of collections for the Mount Stuart House Trust.
    Bute is an island off western Scotland, in the Firth of Clyde.
    The authenticity of the volumes was confirmed by Emma Smith, a professor of Shakespeare studies at Oxford University. She said she hoped that more exciting discoveries would be made in the collection.
    The First Folios, the first printed collection of 36 of Shakespeare's plays, were published in 1623, seven years after his death. Had it not been for the publication of these volumes, scholars say, more than half of Shakespeare's plays would be unknown to the modern world, including works like "Macbeth" and "The Tempest."
    The folio found on the Scottish island, whose discovery was announced Thursday, was passed from hand to hand. At one point, it was bought for as little as 38 British pounds.
    The three-volume folio was rebound in goatskin in 1932.
    The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death is April 23. The 452nd anniversary of his birth also occurs this month, although the exact date is unknown.
    If Shakespeare can observe the modern world from whatever perch he now occupies, he might be doing so with a smile and a sense of bemusement.
    So happy birthday, Will. Enjoy the show.