An original edition of William Shakespeare’s First Folio from 1623 was found among thousands of manuscripts and photographs at the Mahatma Gandhi Central Library at Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, PTI reported on Tuesday. A document bearing the signature of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in three languages was also discovered.
Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, commonly referred to as the First Folio, is the first edition of a collection of 36 plays written by Shakespeare. It was published seven years after his death. A handwritten “1623” on the half torn cover page indicates the date of its publication. Around 750 copies of the First Folio were believed to have been printed, of which there are 235 known surviving copies.
In 2001, a copy of the First Folio was auctioned at Christie’s in New York for $6.16 million (Rs 44.15 crore). “We have one of the earliest prints of Shakespeare’s collected works, along with 10,000 out-of-print volumes,” said librarian C Jayakumar. “We also have a collection of rare images captured during events like convocations.”
The dilapidated copy of the First Folio was found stacked inside a cardboard box in the librarian’s office. Its pages were individually separated with tracing paper.
Another rare document at the library is a visitor’s notebook bearing the signature of Jawaharlal Nehru in Hindi, English and Urdu along with the date November 25, 1949. Jayakumar said the document was interesting because of a tiny correction that India’s first prime minister made while writing his name in Hindi.
The physical manuscripts and photographs remain stored in basic conditions at the library and several photographs are unlabelled.