Eric Ras­mussen lec­tures on “The Mys­ter­ies of the Shake­speare First Fo­lio”

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO - — Jen­nifer Levin

Fo­lio low­down

Of the 750 copies of Shake­speare’s First Fo­lio printed in 1623, only 233 re­main ac­counted for — a few dozen more than could be tracked down in 1902, when the ex­is­tence of just 160 could be ver­i­fied. Four­teen of those were sub­se­quently stolen, and only two were re­cov­ered. Given that to­day, each copy can sell for mil­lions of dol­lars at auc­tion or on the black mar­ket, the First Fo­lio is con­sid­ered one of the most pre­cious and valu­able books in the world. Eric Ras­mussen, chair of the English depart­ment at the Univer­sit y of Ne­vada, has ded­i­cated a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of his aca­demic life to track­ing them all down and cat­a­loging the many vari­a­tions among them, from orig­i­nal print­ing er­rors to hand­writ­ten mar­gin notes scrib­bled by read­ers over the cen­turies. He is also fas­ci­nated by the books’ prov­i­dence and trav­els, his own search, and some of the great First Fo­lio thefts — anec­dotes he col­lected in The Shake­speare Thefts: In Search of the First Fo­lios (St. Martin’s Grif­fin). With 18 First Fo­lios from the Fol­ger Shake­speare Li­brary in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., vis­it­ing mu­se­ums across the United States in 2016, in­ter­est in th­ese sto­ries and in the mul­ti­tude of minu­tiae avail­able for scru­ti­niz­ing in Shake­speare is the high­est it ’s been out­side of academia in years. Ras­mussen shares his in­sights and ex­pe­ri­ences in “The Mys­ter­ies of the Shake­speare First Fo­lio” on Wed­nes­day, Feb. 10, 6 p.m., at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium i n the New Mex­ico Mu­seum of Art (107 W. Palace Ave., 505- 476-5072). Au­di­ence mem­bers will learn about Fo­lios that were van­dal­ized, cen­sored, marked by what might be blood, and even one that was shot with a gun, the bul­let lodged in its pages for pos­ter­ity. Free with mu­seum ad­mis­sion.

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