• <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> MYERS, ARTHUR B.[OWEN] R.[ICHARDS] Life with the Hamran Arabs... $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> LYELL, D. D. Nyasaland for the Hunter and Settler. $600 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> JOHNSON, ISAAC CHARLES Sport on the Blue Nile… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson: Online-Only Auction. Now through June 18</b>
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BETHELL, ALFRED J. Notes on South African Hunting and Notes on a Ride to the Victoria Falls… $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson:</b> BISHOP, B. F. Game & Visitor's Book. $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Travel & Sport in Africa from the Library of Arnold "Jake" Johnson:</b> BYRON, EDMUND What We Did in South Africa in 1873. $600 to $900
  • <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Cook, James. <i>A Voyage towards the South Pole,</i> 1st edition, 1777. Presentation copy to James Furneaux. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Mathews, Gregory M. <i>The Birds of Australia,</i> 13 volumes, 1st edition, 1910-27. A fine set, with 600 hand-coloured lithographs. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Shelley, George Ernest. <i>Monograph of the Nectariniidae,</i> 1st edition, 1876-80. With 121 hand-coloured lithographic plates by Keulemans. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Nostradamus, Michel de. <i>The True Prophecies or Prognostications,</i> 1st edition in English, 1672. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Collodi, Carlo. <i>Le Avventure di Pinocchio,</i> 1st edition, 1883. Original cloth. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Kelmscott Press. <i>The Life and Death of Jason,</i> 1895. One of 200 copies on paper. £2,000 to £3,000
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Ambler, Eric. <i>Uncommon Danger,</i> 1st edition, 1937. With the dust jacket. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Huxley, Aldous. <i>Crome Yellow,</i> 1st edition, 1921. Rare in the dust jacket. £2,000 to £3,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Isherwood, Christopher. <i>Goodbye to Berlin,</i> 1st edition, 1939. With the dust jacket, £1,000 to £1,500
    <center><b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>Printed Books, Maps & Documents, Children’s Books & Modern First Editions<br>June 19/20</b><br>
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Lewis, C. S. Autograph letter signed to Charles Jasper Sisson (1885-1966), 1937. £1,000 to £1,500
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Tolkien, J. R. R. <i>The Lord of the Rings,</i> 1956-7. Signed by Tolkien in each volume. £7,000 to £10,000
    <b>Dominic Winter Auctioneers<br>June 19/20:</b> Wells, H. G. <i>The War of the Worlds,</i> 1st edition, 1898. Inscribed by Wells with autograph self-portrait. £3,000 to £5,000
  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Very Fine. $200,000 to $300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Neill, John R. Pen-and-ink drawing from Oz, "He raised his gun, took aim and fired," $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Bonhams<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts<br>June 13 - New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Thompson, Kay. <i>Eloise at Christmastime.</i> New York: Random House, [1958]. First edition. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Taylor, Deems. <i>Walt Disney’s Fantasia.</i> New York: 1940. In custom binding by Asprey. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. $1,500 to $2,500
  • <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Ulysses.</i> Shakespeare and Company, Paris 1922, First Edition, No. 30 of 100 copies. Signed by Joyce and printed on fine Dutch handmade paper. €70,000 to €90,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b><br>A very important collection of accounts, draft statements, ledgers etc., from the archive of Domhnall Ua Conchubhair [O’Connor] [1872-1935]. €15,000 to €20,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>De Honni-Soit a Mal-y-Chance.</i> Mesures, 15 Janvier 1936. [French translation of Joyce’s essay from a banned writer to a banned signer, a tribute to John Sullivan]. €7,000 to €10,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Joyce (James). <i>Finnegans Wake,</i> 8vo L. (Faber & Faber) 1939, Signed and Limited 21 (450) Copies. €1,500 to €2,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Swift (Jonathan). <i>The Works of J.S. D.D.,</i> D.S.P.D., Vol. I – Vol. XVIII, together 18 vols. Faulkner’s Edition of Swift – Lord Orrery’s Copy. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Eyzinger (Michael). <i>Ad Leonis Belgici Topographicam atque Historicam Descriptionem,</i> 2 vols.in one, [Cologne] 1586. Excessively rare 16th century work with 162 double page engravings. €1,000 to €1,500
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Yeats (W.B.). <i>The Dublin University Review,</i> issue for June 1886, containing the first printing of Yeats’ poem “Mosada” at pp. 473-483. €800 to €1,200
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Heaney (Seamus) & O’Neill (T.) <i>Columcille The Scribe,</i> Single m/ss on vellum, R.I.A. 2004, #95 (of 100) copies. €800 to €1,000
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Bonaparte (Napoleon). A French Republic Brevet (Republique Francaise) Department of War manuscript and printed document appointing Gaspard Bourves to Captain. Signed. €600 to €700
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers: Rare Book & Collectible Sale. June 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Irish Broadsides Ballads: A folio Album containing approx. 70 Dublin printed broadside ballads, mostly by Brereton, Lr. Exchange St., and with wd. cut illus. at head. €400 to €600
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> Anon. <i>The State of Irish Affairs, For the Honourable Members of the Houses of Parliament…</i>. 4to Lond. (G. Miller) 1645. €300 to €400
    <b>Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers, June 18:</b> [Graham (Doctor James)]. <i>A Lecture on the Generation Increase and Improvement of the Human Species…</i>, 8vo L. (M. Smith) [c. 1784]. €200 to €300

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2015 Issue

An Unknown Copy of Shakepeare's First Folio Discovered in France

8a9ef022-084d-4d78-9b1f-e860ae27e01f

First page in St. Omer First Folio with penned name “Neviile” (from Bibliothèque d'Agglomération de Saint-Omer website).

They aren't making old books anymore, but once in awhile, an unknown copy of an important antiquarian text appears. That happened late last year in a small town in northern France when a long forgotten copy of the greatest book in the English language was discovered on its library shelves. Hidden in the collections of the St. Omer public library was a first edition of Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, better known simply as the First Folio. Compiled by a couple of Shakespeare's colleagues who wished to preserve his work, it was published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare died. At least 18 of the Bard's plays, including MacBeth, would have been lost forever were they not preserved in the First Folio.

 

The St. Omer copy is less than perfect. It was well-used and is missing the frontispiece and portrait of Shakespeare and some internal pages. The lack of the frontispiece is likely why the book was never recognized as a First Folio, but believed to be an 18th century edition. The book came to light when the librarian was searching for titles to display in an exhibition on links between England and the local region of northern France. Once the possibility that it was a first edition was realized, an American expert was called in to examine the copy, which he quickly recognized was an authentic first. As such, it is one of only two copies of the First Folio known to exist in France. It increases the total number of copies known to survive by one to 233. Around 800 copies are believed to have been printed.

 

How did this copy come to reside in a small library in France? The answer is that it has been there a long time. However, it has been in St. Omer the town even longer. Its roots trace back to the long gone St. Omers College, which opened three decades before the book was published in 1593. It was a Jesuit school, with the purpose of providing an education to English Catholics. What with the Protestant Reformation in England, and Queen Elizabeth less than positively inclined toward Catholicism, the teaching of the faith was outlawed in England. The Jesuits decided to provide an education for English Catholics in nearby northern France.

 

The name “Neville” written on the first surviving page of the St. Omer copy has led to two possible explanations of how it came to be a part of the Jesuit library. It may have belonged to Fr. Edmund Neville, a Jesuit priest who taught at the college in the 1630's. Another possibility is that it was brought to the college by Edward Scarisbrick, scion of an English Catholic family who attended the college in 1650 and used the pseudonym “Neville.”

 

A century later, tensions arose between the government of France and the Jesuits. In 1762, the college closed in St. Omer, moving to the Low Countries. Two years later, the Jesuits were expelled from France. The college moved again in 1794, this time to Lancashire, England, where it survives to this day as Stonyhurst College. Interestingly, they have their own First Folio, given to the college in the 19th century.

 

The old St. Omer college took much of its library with it when it moved from France, but the First Folio was left behind. It is highly annotated, along with being in somewhat rough condition. Plays were regularly performed at the college, and this was evidently a working copy, a relatively new book at the time. It would not have had historic significance yet when being used to perform plays by the English students, and such significance was obviously not appreciated when the college moved, not surprising for a rough copy missing its title page.

 

The existence of this copy in a Jesuit college has again raised the question of Shakespeare's religion. Some believe he was Catholic, though hiding his faith for political reasons. Of course, some people don't even believe Shakespeare wrote his own plays. The existence of a copy of his plays at least a decade after his death at a school for English students who liked to perform plays is hardly conclusive, even if it was a Catholic college, though it may spur more speculation.

 

You might think that this newly discovered masterpiece must be the most important book in the collection of this small town library in France. It is not. Amazingly, the St. Omer public library has a copy of the most important book of all, at least one volume of it. The St. Omer library also owns one of 48 extant copies of the Gutenberg Bible.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i> Walden: or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> BUKOWSKI, CHARLES. Archive of Correspondence Addressed to Kay "Kaja" Johnson, Los Angeles, California: July – November 1961. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> DICKENS, CHARLES, AND GEORGE CRUIKSHANK [ILLUSTRATOR]. Unpublished autograph letter signed, to Cruikshank, completed on the artist's proof, related to the publication of The Pic-Nic Papers. $7,000 to $10,000
    <center><b>Sotheby’s<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Online<br>Now through June 21</b>
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> FEYNMAN, RICHARD. <i>"Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman!" Adventures of a Curious Character.</i> As Told to Ralph Leighton. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1985. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> GERSHWIN, GEORGE. Autograph music manuscript of "Leavin’ for de Promise’ Lan’" from the opera Porgy and Bess, Act One Scene Two. $25,000 to $35,000
    <b>Sotheby’s Online, June 21:</b> LINCOLN, ABRAHAM. Document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as sixteenth president, being a military commission for Rufus H. Johnson. $8,000 to $10,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> NYC pride parade photos by Hank O’Neal, annotated on verso by Allen Ginsberg, 1970s. Pictured is Marsha P. Johnson. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> David Wojnarowicz, <i>Neon Dancer,</i> postcard signed to Jim Fouratt, 1982. $5,000 to $8,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Personal papers of Candy Darling, New York, circa 1950s-1973. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Walt Whitman, <i>Memoranda of the War,</i> Remembrance Copy, inscribed to Peter Doyle, from “the author with his love,” Camden, 1875-76. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Oscar Wilde, <i>The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People,</i> first edition, signed, London, 1899. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> James Baldwin, <i>Giovanni’s Room,</i> first edition, presentation copy, New York, 1956. $1,800 to $2,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> JEB (Joan E. Biren), <i>Ginger and Catherine,</i> silver print, 1972. $700 to $1,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Su Negrin, <i>Gay Liberation,</i> photograph by Peter Hujar, poster published by Times Change Press, 1970. $400 to $600.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Harvey Milk, Autograph Letter Signed, as acting Mayor of San Francisco, March 7, 1978. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 23:</b> Lester Beall, <i>Rural Electrification Administration,</i> 1939. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Gerda Wegener, <i>Two Women in a Window,</i> watercolor, chalk & wash, circa 1920. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Jean Cocteau, original sketchbook, <i>Le Mystère et Antigone,</i> including sketches of his lover Jean Desbordes, 1932. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries June 20:</b> Djuna Barnes, <i>Ladies Almanack . . . Written & Illustrated by A Lady of Fashion,</i> limited edition, signed & inscribed to her literary executor, 1928. $10,000 to $15,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions