Without the First Folio, 18 of the Bard’s plays could have been lost forever.

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William Shakespeare
To mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, several of the Bard’s original 1623 First Folios are in the midst of a cross-country tour. In Massachusetts, Amherst College is the only stop for the traveling exhibition.

The First Folio is on display at the Mead Art Museum May 9–31, and the exhibition is free and open to all. Visitors can see the book itself, which is turned to Hamlet’s “To Be or Not To Be” monologue. 

One of the most influential books in the world, the First Folio includes 36 Shakespeare plays, 18 of which had never been printed before—
including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night and The Tempest—and might otherwise have been lost forever. Compiled by Shakespeare’s friends and theater colleagues, the First Folio was published after the Bard’s death.

The traveling exhibition is made possible by Amherst’s Folger Shakespeare Library, which was founded by Henry Clay Folger, Class of 1879, and his wife, Emily.

It’s fitting to bring the First Folio to Folger’s alma mater, “given the passion and curiosity for Shakespeare he cultivated during his college years and then upon graduating,” says Michael Kelly, head of Amherst’s Archives & Special Collections, which is presenting a small exhibition, through May 31, about Folger’s time at Amherst.