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