Department of Cultural Affairs

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare

First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare
Only New Mexico venue for one of the world’s most influential and valuable books
celebrating 400 Years of Shakespeare in 2016

(SANTA FE, Jan. 14, 2016)—Fans of the Bard of Avon don’t have to wait too much longer to view the national traveling exhibition First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library opening at the New Mexico Museum of Art on February 6, 2016 and running through February 28, 2016.

It has been 400 years since Shakespeare died in Stratford-on-Avon, England, on April 23, 1616. Honoring this milestone, the esteemed Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., has created this traveling exhibition of the Shakespeare First Folio, the 17th century first edition of the volume that introduced his work to the world.

The New Mexico Museum of Art is the only venue in the state to view the First Folio. This will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for New Mexicans and other museum visitors to see an original 1623 First Folio—one of the world’s most influential and valuable books, and the original printed source for 18 of Shakespeare’s 38 plays. Had it not been for two of Shakespeare’s friends and fellow actors, John Heminge and Henry Condell, who seven years after the Bard’s death in 1616 published the first collected edition of his works, plays like Macbeth, Julius Caesar, The Tempest, and As You Like It might have been lost forever. The Folger, which owns 82 of the world’s 233 copies, is sending this rare book on a year-long tour of the United States, in association with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center.

The First Folio is roughly 900 pages long; each page is about a foot tall. When the First Folio arrives in Santa Fe, its pages will be opened to the most quoted line from Shakespeare and one of the most quoted lines in the world, “to be or not to be” from Hamlet. Accompanying the rare book will be a multi-panel exhibition exploring the significance of Shakespeare, then and now, with additional digital content and interactive activities.

“The First Folio is the book that gave us Shakespeare. Between its covers we discover his most famous characters—Hamlet, Desdemona, Cordelia, Macbeth, Romeo, Juliet and hundreds of others—speaking words that continue to move and inspire us,” said Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Shakespeare tells the human story like no one else. He connects us to each other, to our history, and to themes and ideas that touch us every day.”

The New Mexico Museum of Art has created a comprehensive First Folio web site which includes a calendar of exhibition-related programs and events.

Complementing the display of the Folio, the museum will present two companion exhibitions Stage, Setting, Mood: Theatricality in the Visual Arts, and Medieval to Metal: The Art and Evolution of the Guitar opening the same evening as First Folio! (February 5 and running through May 1, 2016).  Together, these three exhibitions look at the importance of the stage whether in life or imagination.

Museum of Art director Mary Kershaw commented on the impact that viewing the Folio will have on visitors, “We are pleased to be able to share this treasure with all the people of New Mexico. For most people to come within inches of one of the most influential books in history will foster a new, lasting appreciation of Shakespeare through personal engagement and from programming that aims to foster an appreciation of the Folio as an original, primary source.”

Michael Witmore, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said, “We still pay attention to Shakespeare because, no matter how networked our world becomes, he remains one of the ultimate connectors. In a sense, Shakespeare wrote the preamble to modern life. His stories reflect the tensions of the period in which he lived—a period that saw the rise of global trade, modern science, free speech, religious tolerance, even the media revolution that was the printed book. Shakespeare found the human heart in all of this change. Long before anyone knew what to call it, this clever man from Warwickshire was writing about the modern world. That world is still our world, and we’re inviting everyone to encounter it anew this year as we celebrate The Wonder of Will around the country.”

Also opening February 5 is The Book’s the Thing: Shakespeare from Stage to Page, a Palace Press exhibit at the New Mexico History Museum. Printers Thomas Leech and James Bourland will print facsimiles of a First Folio page on a replica Gutenberg-style press from 1:30-3:30 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. The exhibit includes Shakespeare-inspired creations from the Santa Fe Book Arts Group, samples of how Shakespeare’s works were interpreted and published over the centuries, and a marbled-paper-and-calligraphy collaboration by Leech and artist Patricia Musick. For more information, click here.

In all, the Folger exhibition will travel to 23 museums, 20 universities, five public libraries, three historical societies and a theater. Check out the scheduled First Folio display dates in each state here.

First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, is a national traveling exhibition organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 400th anniversary in 2016 of Shakespeare’s death. It is produced in association with the American Library Association and Cincinnati Museum Center. First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare, on tour from the Folger Shakespeare Library, has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, and by the support of Google.org, Vinton and Sigrid Cerf, and other generous donors. The New Mexico Humanities Council is supporting programs at the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Palace Press programs and exhibitions.

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