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The First Folio is one of the great wonders of the literary world. 

From Friday 31 March Dulwich College’s First Folio will be on display at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich as part of the National Folio400 Celebrations. Published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author, the First Folio was the first printed edition of Shakespeare’s collected plays and the College Archive has one of the 235 remaining copies.

“This is a unique opportunity to view Shakespeare’s works in a new context. Shakespeare arrived in London at the height of England’s ‘oceanic turn’ and his works are infused with maritime themes, poetry and a distinct early modern ambivalence towards all that the oceans represent.” Lucy Dale, Curator of Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum

About the Folio

The two volumes of Comedies and Histories (sadly the Tragedies are missing) contain evidence of possible use in theatrical performances. Handwritten notes, ink and water stains and burn holes suggest these volumes were well-used before they were left to Dulwich College.

Edward Alleyn, actor, philanthropist, impresario and founder of Dulwich College in 1619, worked alongside Shakespeare on Bankside and a note on the back of an envelope reveals he bought a copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets in 1609. The Folio itself is believed to have been passed to the College in 1686 from the estate of the actor and bookseller William Cartwright. Cartwright performed with the King’s Company and is known to have played Brabantio in Othello and Falstaff in Henry IV Part I and Part II.

Greg Doran, Artistic Director Emeritus RSC, visited the Dulwich College Archive recently and in this short film talks about the First Folio.

Folio Facts

  • The First Folio was the first time most of Shakespeare’s plays were collected together
  • The collection was made by John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare’s friends
  • Printing meant that many of them were saved for future generations
  • It’s called a First Folio because it was the first time Shakespeare’s plays were gathered together (there are second and third folios) and folio refers to the size of paper used
FOLIO 400 Logo Black
The College is proud to contribute to the National Folio400 celebrations and will use its branding throughout the year. 

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